What are the Best Chicken Breeds for Backyards?

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chickens

I get a lot of emails asking me about the best breeds for backyard chickens, and with baby chick season right around the corner, I thought I would just answer the question in a tidy little post.  BUT, before I jump into answering the question, I want to mention that it really depends on what you want backyard chickens for.

Obviously, you want the eggs, but does temperament trump production {say, if you have little kids that want chickens to be more like pets}?  Maybe you live in a climate that they will need to be really cold hardy?  I am just throwing those nuggets of thought out there as things to keep in mind as you read my personal suggestions.

5 Rhode Island Red chicken chick

First up, the Rhode Island Red.  Rhode Island Reds are really cold hardy.  They are great layers {brown eggs}.  Their temperament really depends on the individual bird.  Some are really docile and sweet, while others can be a bit bratty.

boy with chicken barred rock rooster

Next, the Plymouth Rock.  In my opinion, the barred variety wins for the prettiest backyard chicken.  They are solid layers and pretty cold hardy {again, brown eggs}.  They typically have great temperaments, but again, individual birds may throw you for a loop.

The Leghorn is another great layer.  They typically lay large white eggs.  They also are known for being the best layers, where quantity is concerned.  Their only downside is their temperament.  They can be a little loud–and sometimes flighty.

bantam chickens

The White Bantam Brahma is a great choice if space is an issue.  They are smaller {hence the bantam}, but still solid little layers.  They are known for their docile personalities too.

Buff Orpington

Orpingtons are classic looking birds.  They are pretty good producers, cold hardy, and pretty docile.  They are a great “starter” chicken.

Ameraucana chicken 20 weeksAmeraucanas are a great choice if you want more unique eggs {they lay blue eggs}.  They don’t lay a ton of eggs, but they do really well in the winter.  In super hot climates, they will need quite a bit of shade in the summer.

black australorp chicken

Finally, Australorps are another popular choice.  They are unique because they lay nearly year round.  They get along well with other breeds, so you can mix your flock.  They typically have very friendly dispositions and lay for a lot longer duration than other popular breeds.

So, there you have it.  Obviously, there are TONS of choices, each with unique characteristics, and after you have cut your teeth on the more popular breeds, I think it is fun to try some of the more unique ones out.

In the past I’ve always ordered my chicks on mypetchicken.com.  I’ve always get healthy chicks, and have been happy with the selection.

I hope that helps.  If you are starting a flock this spring, let me know in the comments what breeds you go with.

~Mavis

Once you decide on a breed, make sure to check out How to Care for Baby Chicks.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.



California Implements New Standards for Egg Production

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green eggs

Have  you noticed that the price of eggs went up recently?  I thought at first it was a holiday thing–grocery stores looking to cash in on holiday baking.  Turns out, it is largely in part due to a new Californian standard set into effect on January 1st.  Eggs sold in California will now have to come from chickens that have at least 116 square inches of floor/cage space.  And while that still doesn’t sound like much to me, it is apparently double what chickens have previously had.

So why are we seeing the higher costs?  Well, long story long, it breaks down like this:  As the result of the new standards, egg producers in California have decreased their flock size, as increasing their space would be too costly.  Sooooo, egg production IN California has gone down by about 23% over the past two years {other factors contribute as well}.  The lowered production has increased demand, and farmers all over the country have found that they can comply with California’s new standards and then charge Californian grocers a premium for the eggs.  The result is that the shortage drives prices up for all of us.  According to the article I read, prices have increased between 35-70% in California.

So, while eggs are still a fairly inexpensive source of protein, it looks like egg prices will be on the rise for the foreseeable future.  Meanwhile, the ladies will be able to stretch their legs a little more, so I guess, while still a small step, it might be a step in the direction of more humane and natural food production processes.

Have egg prices gone up in your neck of the woods?

~Mavis

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Heather’s Winter Chicken Coop Tour

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I’ve been missing my backyard chickens terribly so I asked my friend Heather in Massachusetts to share some photos of her chicken coop for all of us to see. Here’s what she has to say:

rustic chicken coop

Since Mavis’ move she is chicken-less and has asked me to give a chicken-coop tour.

It all started when I built my coop from pallets. Did you know pallets are not even, straight, or any other sort of plum that some type A person would adore? I didn’t.  In case you missed it, you can read the whole story here.

Coops designs vary {a lot!} depending on your climate. Here is MA the summer can be 95* and plunge to 5* in the winter. That 90* swing requires a few adjustments. I built my coop around the idea that I wanted a lot of natural light, especially since my coop was tucked back on the edge of the woods. I used two storm doors I got for free from a friend.

chicken coop filled with hay

Second, I stuff my coop with hay {which stays nicely in between the pallets}. I also added lighting to increase egg production through our VERY dark winter. I plug it in at 5am and unplug it when we all get home..

old banister

We keep the food inside in a self feeder I created from a dog bowl and PVC pipe.

feeding tube for chickens

This keeps critters out of it and I can fill it without going in the coop. As aside benefit – it’s spill proof!

Water stays outside on a heated base. I buried the cord with big rocks. We all know chickens like to dig and I didn’t want them to peck at the cord, dig it up or generally damage the heater. It’s not cheap but lugging frozen poop-covered water containers into your kitchen sink is no fun either *blech*!

backyard chickens

A regular bird feeder holds their oyster shells and egg shells, keeps water and dirt out of it, and holds enough grit for a week or two.  This is Agnus posturing- she is such a beast and rules the pen.

storing chicken feed in garbage cans

We have many, many tenacious raccoons. They’ve scratched 1/4″ into our town rubber garbage cans, scratched 1/4″ into the pvc pipe feeder and attacked our dogs… So it was a no-brainer to staple fencing to the bottom of the coop, all openings {vents or windows}, and all the way around the border of the pen.

Although we consider our chickens “working chickens” and not “pet chickens” I just couldn’t resist the curtains. They were bargain basement place mats that I cut and stapled to the roost :)

small galvanized trash cans

The back of our pen is all business. Three tins filled with food (with the strap), shavings, and diatrematreous earth. The rake is pinned up off the ground and snow and the extension cords are weaved through the garden and under the coop.

That stump is new, the entire 100′ tree snapped off and landed 2′ on the other side of the tins.

netting over chicken coop

This is where I store my homemade chicken tractor. Storing it up on the blocks keeps it dry and easy to use when needed.

bags of fall leaves

GOLD! Sure they look like giant bags of leaves – but come rain and snow the leaves will keep the mud under control and entertain the chickens.

How are YOUR chickens doing this winter? Do you do anything special to your coop during the winter months?

~Heather

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Caring for Chickens in the Winter

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Caring for Your Chickens in the Winter

I thought I’d repost this article today as a friendly little reminder to those of you with feathered friends. We may not be able to have chickens in our new neighborhood, but I hope to have them again someday.  ~Mavis

**********************

Now that it is getting colder outside, it’s time to change the way I take care of the backyard ladies.

Some of my chickens are a little more cold-tolerant than others, but since they all provide me eggs and hours of entertainment, I like to make sure they are comfortable.

How to Collect, Clean and Store Chicken Eggs

As the days grow shorter, you can expect egg production to drop way off.

Chickens need 12-14 hours of light each day to be on top of their egg-laying game.  If you want them to lay steadily through the winter, you’ll need to add light.  You can combine the light with a heat lamp function and kill two birds with one stone {it feels wrong to use that phrase in light of the topic, but you get what I mean}.  You can also put the light on a timer, so you won’t waste electricity if you forget to go turn it off.

omlet eglu

November is a good time to make sure that your coop is free from drafts too.  Your chickens basically have a premium down coat on, but wind can chill them to the bone.  Don’t confuse a coop with drafts with an airtight coop, though.  The heat from multiple roosting chickens and steamy chicken manure can create humidity, which needs some level of ventilation.  So, free from drafts, but still provide ventilation.  Got it?

Chickens need plenty of fresh water to survive the cold winter {and continue laying}, so unless you want to schlep out to the coop several times a day, I recommend a heated waterer.

how to trap racoons

If you live in an area where predators are a concern, winter is the worst.  Predators are hungry, cold, and see your little chickens as an easy meal, so sure up the perimeter of your coop, making it harder for the critters to get in and nab your birds. A live animal trap might not be a bad idea either.

pine shavings chicken bedding

As for daily maintenance, changing bedding or laying out fresh bedding more regularly is essential.  I like to use natural pine shavings.

Their bedding can harbor moisture, which can lead to frostbite.  Frostbitten feet is a really good way to lose a chicken pretty fast.  In general, checking on your chickens a little more regularly, to ensure that they aren’t wet, cold, sick, etc. will guide you on how often you need to change bedding.

flock block

Also, if your ground is truly frozen solid, it may be a good idea to lay out some scratch grains or a flock block periodically.  They will not be able to scratch as easily as they can when the ground is frozen solid, so the scratch grains will not only provide a little additional nutrients, but also satisfy their primal need to scratch.  Happy chickens = more eggs.

I think that about covers it.  Did I miss anything?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Ginger From Mississippi Sends in Her Garden and Chicken Pictures

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mississippi1A big THANK YOU to everyone who has sent in their photographs and stories. I hope by sharing other peoples pictures and stories here on One Hundred Dollars a Month we can all have a rock star garden this summer. Keep them coming!

~Mavis

Check out reader Ginger’s fun little piece of land!

mississippi6Hey Mavis ~

Thought I’d send you some pics from my little place in the country.

mississippi7The sweltering heat has taken it’s toll on what the little garden is producing, but thought I’d share pics of my “girls” & fruit trees. My peach tree is producing many small peaches. mississippi9This is the first year for the thorn-less black berries & they have been delicious!

mississippi5My granddaughters, Kylie & Abby (both aged 6) love the chickens, and thought up wonderful names for each of them, photo shows them holding Goldie, but others are named Rainbow SnoCone, Nemo, Lulu Snowflake, Golden Mustache, Ringer & Lemon Drop.

mississippi4My chickens include brown egg layers & Easter eggers. They love to hang out on the deck of my vintage travel trailer that I am renovating. The laying box was a piece that had belonged to my mother.

mississippi2The custom art work of Abby’s hangs across from Grandma’s laying box to inspire good egg production, an idea that came from Vicky, on your blog back in Feb. I just LOVE it! mississippi8A cast iron urinal, reclaimed from military barracks destroyed during Hurricane Camille in the late sixties makes a perfect water trough. Carpenter bees are a real problem here. You can see two homemade bee traps hanging beside the hen house. mississippiiAn antique bathtub is the home for my fish & various water plants.

I enjoy your blog & I hope you enjoy these pics.
Ginger
Saucier, MS

mississippiIf you would like to have your garden, chicken coop or something you’ve made featured on One Hundred Dollars a Month, here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Your Garden Pictures and Tips – I’d especially like to see your garden set ups, growing areas, and know if you are starting seeds indoors this year. If so,  show me some picture of how you are going about it.
  • Your Chicken and Chicken Related Stories – Coops, Chicks, Hen’s, Roosters, Eggs, you name it. If it clucks, send us some pictures to share with the world.
  • Cool Arts & Crafts - Made from your very own hands with detailed {and well photographed} pictures and instructions.
  • Your pictures and stories about your pets. The more pictures and details the better.
  • Garage Sale, Thrift Store and Dumpster Diving pictures and the stories behind the treasures you found including how much you paid for them.

If I feature your pictures and the stories behind them on One Hundred Dollars a Month, I will send you a $20.00 gift card to the greatest store in the world: Amazon.com.

Go  HERE for the official rules.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Seattle Chicken Coop and Urban Farm Tour 2014

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Seattle Chicken Coop and Urban Farm Tour

If you live in the Seattle  and LOVE chickens and gardens, then you’ll want to stop by the Seattle Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour  this coming Saturday, July 12th between 10 am – 4 pm.

pablo picasso

The Girl Who Thinks She’s a Bird and I have been touring local farms and chicken coops since 2009 and every year we have a blast seeing all the creative and unique designs people come up with. We have already purchased our tickets for this years events and plan on taking oodles of photos for all of you that cannot make it.

The tour is self guided so you can go at your own pace {my favorite part}. We typically pack a cooler and make a day of it.  Don’t be afraid to embrace your inner-nerd and do the same.  :)

seattle tilth

Seattle Tilth’s Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour

Individuals = $12

Seattle Tilth members or bicyclists = $10
Youth {ages 4-15} = $5
Groups/Family {3-6 people} = $35
Groups/Family, Seattle Tilth members or group of bicyclists = $30
Ages 3 and under = Free

If you are in the area and you have some extra time this Saturday, GO! You won’t be disappointed.  Oh, and if inspiration strikes as a result, make sure to send me your pictures of your new chicken coop masterpieces.

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Help Mavis! Is my Hen a Rooster?

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 rooster or hen 3

Recently One Hundred Dollar a Month Reader, Heidi from Darrington, WA sent in pictures of her hen, in a desperate plea to find out if she actually is dealing with a rooster.  She wrote,

Is my girl Wynonna actually a Willy!!?!!…..  I can’t tell, but she is awful bossy an starting to make some horrible racket in the morning!!  This is my first batch of chicks…  :).

rooster or hen 2

I’ve been in this dilemma myself before.  To be honest, I am not entirely sure I can tell the difference at first either.  I even did a little research when we got a batch of chicks last fall on how to tell which chicks are roosters, and for awhile, I’ll admit, for me at least, it’s a crap shoot on knowing for sure.

rooster or hen 1

I figured, why not ask YOU what you think.  Check out the pictures and weigh in, does Heidi have a “Wynonna or a Willy?”

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Help! I Have Scaredy Chickens!

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chicken chickens
One Hundred Dollars a Month reader, Justine, recently sent me a question asking about her chickens.  She wrote,
We have backyard chickens and they’re very wary of us…the don’t like us to pet them or even get very close and it makes me saaaaad cause I want to hug them! will this get better with time or is there a trick to making them less scared of humans?

Blue Laced Red Wyandotte chicken chicks

My first question is whether or not you have raised the chickens from chicks.  I think chickens that you have raised from chicks are much, much more likely to let you hold them in adulthood, especially if you held and pet them quite a bit as chicks.  If you got them when they were older, you may be out of luck.

You can try sitting in the grass and offering them tasty treats to gain their trust, but it will be a crap shoot as to whether it sticks or not.  If they do seem to get close when you give them treats, try to work up to them eating out of your hand.  Talk the entire time–just to ensure they get familiar with your voice.

broody-chicken

Some people swear that their chickens get friendlier once they start laying.  It mellows them out or something, but I wouldn’t hang your hat on that {if it is even the case that your chickens haven’t started laying yet}.   Still, it might be a last-ditch hope if getting them to warm up to you isn’t working.

grey chicken

If you did get them as chicks and still they won’t allow you to hold them, you may just have gotten unlucky as far as their personalities go.  Some chickens flat out don’t want to be touched/held.  I have a couple myself.  It’s just their temperament.  Chickens aren’t really like cats and dogs, they don’t always bond with humans in the pet-like way that we want them to.  And, as far as I am concerned, they have a right to be suspicious, word on the block is that humans eat chickens from time to time. :)

How about YOU, any tips for Justine on getting her chickens to warm up to her a bit more?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How Can I Tell If My Chicken Eggs Are Fertilized Without Cracking Them?

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How Can I Tell If My Chicken Eggs Are Fertilized Without Cracking Them

I recently got a question from a reader who wanted to hatch some of his chickens eggs.  He has 8 chickens and 1 rooster.  He currently has collected about 20 eggs and is wanting to know if they are fertile, so that he can put them in an incubator.

While I am not allowed to have roosters due to my neighborhood covenants, I have always kind of wondered if I would get a fertilized egg before I get rid of them.  {We order chicks and usually get a rooster or two out of the bunch–we get rid of the rooster pretty soon after we know that it is in fact a rooster, though.}

silver laced wyandotte rooster

So, first a little talk about the birds and the bees {only, in this case, it really only involves two birds}.  In order for an egg to become fertilized, the rooster and the hen have to have mated prior to the formation of the egg.  If this happens, the hen will lay a fertilized egg.  This probably goes without saying, but if you don’t have a rooster, you will not have any fertilized eggs…ever.  A hen can lay fertilized eggs from anywhere to 2 days after mating up to 3 weeks after mating with the rooster.

The oldest and easiest way to tell if an egg is fertilized is called candling the egg.  It is literally holding the egg up to a lit candle {not to warm it, but in order to see inside of the egg}.  You can also use a very bright small flashlight.  If the egg appears opaque, it is probably a fertilized egg.  {By opaque, I mean, you can’t really see through the egg or it is much cloudier than all of the other eggs.}

eggs in nest

As a side note, just because an egg is fertile, does not mean it will become a chick.  It must be properly incubated by the hen or under an incubator in order to develop into a chick.  After 3-4 days of incubation, you can candle the egg again.  You will see that it has started to form–it will look kind of like red veins spreading throughout the egg.

white cochin chicken

A fertile egg layed by a hen that is not incubated is perfectly safe to eat, and unless you are paying super close attention, you will never know the difference.  Once you collect the eggs and put them in the fridge, the development completely stops.

I hope that helps, and if you do get some baby chicks, send some pictures!

~Mavis

 

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Care for Baby Chicks

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How to Care for Baby Chicks

I was at the feed store yesterday when I noticed several bins full of adorable baby chicks. If you have been thinking about getting chickens, I highly recommend it.  I love my little ladies–they make great pets, plus they provide uh-mazingly tasty eggs.

baby chick

I won’t be getting any new chicks this spring because we have 12 hens right now!?! but I’m telling you, it makes my day when I see them running toward me to say hello and nose around in whatever I am doing–plus their run is still so funny to me, I don’t know if that will ever wear off, but I hope not.

chick feeder

The first step in backyard chickening {that’s a verb, right?} is to decide what type of chicken you would like and order them online {I recommend mypetchicken.com or purchase them from your local feed store. .  Next, prepare their home.  While they are chicks {the first 4-5 weeks anyway}, they will need a super warm place to grow.

how to care for baby chicks

Here is what you will need:

  • A brooder {a place to keep the chicks}.  This can be a simple as a cardboard box, a Rubbermaid container, a stock tank {that’s my favorite thing to use}, or an old children’s swimming pool.  Just make sure whatever it is, it doesn’t allow too much of a draft and the sides are nice and high.
  • A warming light and thermometer
  • Absorbent bedding {chicks are pooping machines, so you will want to change this frequently}
  • A feeder
  • Waterer
  • Feed
  • Grit
  • Netting or chicken wire for the top to prevent escapees

4-5 weeks flies by, so have their outdoor home ready too.  It will make your life easier in the long run.

baby chicks under heat lamp

To prepare your brooder, line whatever container you decided on with newspaper.  Then place bedding material over the top {typically pine shavings or pellets}.  Turn on warming light, new chicks will need a temperature of 95 degrees to start, and you can drop it by 5 degrees for each week of age, until you get to 70 degrees, then you can keep it constant.  Sprinkle some feed {a chick-starter feed is best for the first several weeks} on the ground to encourage scratching.

how to care for baby chicks

When your baby chicks first arrive, they may be worn out–depending on how long they had to travel to get to you.  Make a sugar-water mixture and dip their little beaks into it.  This is like baby chick Gatorade–it will give them a little much-needed energy while they adjust to their new digs.  Then, put the remaining mixture into their waterer.

Make sure to put the water on the opposite side of the brooder as the warming light.  From here on out, food and fresh water is CRUCIAL to baby chicks.  They will self-regulate their hunger and thirst, so make sure they have access 24/7 to both food and water. Also, be prepared for them to eat a ton–seriously, they will put a teenage boy to shame.

After 4 weeks, begin transitioning your chicks to the outdoors.  Start by opening windows, or placing their brooder in a doorway where they may get a breeze or at least be subject to fluctuating weather.

broody-chicken

Depending on your climate, you can begin allowing the birds to be outside in the day around 5 weeks, by 8 weeks {again, as long as the weather is warm enough} they should be big and strong enough to live in their outside coop full-time.

Hens typically start to lay around eggs  around 20 weeks. :)

If you are thinking about getting a flock of your own, check out the book Homemade Living: Keeping Chickens with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock. Amazon currently has the book in stock and ready to ship.

Will YOU be getting baby chicks this spring?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

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