There is nothing as satisfying as a basket of colorful fresh eggs from your chickens. Chicken eggs come in an array of colors and shades. There are brilliant whites, creams and pinks, multiple shades of brown varying from light to dark chocolate, and blue and green eggs always elicit interest from children and adults alike. This article is all about raising chickens for eggs, whether you are a novice or an experienced chicken keeper this article covers all aspects of egg production. So what are you waiting for? Go get yourself some chickens and enjoy those fresh eggs!
Even though chickens were not domesticated for their eggs, the majority of backyard chicken keepers raise their chickens for eggs. It is said that farm fresh chicken eggs have a better taste than store bought eggs. I can't speak to this as it has been years since I've eaten a plain store bought egg. Fresh eggs from your chickens do not require refrigeration if you don't wash them. Eggs have a natural barrier, called a bloom, that covers the eggshell and keeps the contents within clean. Once the bloom is washed off, you need to refrigerate the egg because bacteria can enter through the shell and contaminate it. Eggs from your chickens usually have darker colored yolks than eggs from the store. This is because your chickens will be eating bugs and grasses. Freshly laid eggs will also have firmer yolks and whites. I love to use plastic egg trays for storing my eggs on the counter. The stackable design, the ability to rotate the trays as they empty, and ease of cleaning mean that these will always be a product I have around.
When it comes to the best breeds for eggs, there are a few chicken breeds that stand out. The White Leghorn and the Brown Leghorn lay large white eggs in prolific numbers. With a superior feed-to-egg conversion ratio, heat tolerance, all-weather tolerance, and disease resistance, every flock should have a Leghorn. Dominiques lay large brown eggs, have great feed-to-egg conversion ratio, and are all-season hardy. Rhode Island Reds, Red Sex Links, and Buff Orpingtons are also very popular choices for brown egg layers. Marans and Penedesencas lay some of the darkest brown eggs. True Ameraucanas and Crested Cream Legbars lay beautiful blue eggs, while Easter Eggers lay eggs in shades of blue, green, and sometimes brown. Some other great egg-laying breeds are Anconas, Australorps, Jersey Giants, Minorcas, Plymouth Rocks, Sussex, Welsummers, and Wyandottes.
In order for chickens to lay eggs prolifically you need to provide them with the proper diet and 16 hours of light. A formulated chicken layer feed can be found at your local farm store or mill. Hanging feeders are great for discouraging feed waste and they keep the chickens from scratching dirt into them. When choosing a waterer, I like to purchase one that is clear so that I can see the water level without having to enter my coop. Remember that water is the most important thing that your chickens need for egg production. Failure to provide them with fresh water at all times will decrease egg production. Chickens also need a place to lay their eggs. One nest box should be provided for every 3-4 chickens in your flock. I like my nest boxes at either floor level or up to one foot off the ground. Any higher and the hens are likely to roost inside or on top of the nest boxes. If this is a problem in your flock look into roll out nest boxes.
Besides for light and diet, breed, genetics, age, and environment can affect egg production. Pullets usually start to lay as early as 16 weeks of age, but depending on the time of year and the breed can start laying at 22 weeks of age. Almost all female chickens will lay well their first laying season, after the first laying season egg production starts to decline. In their second laying season the ornamental breeds won't lay as well. Your dual purpose and egg laying breeds should lay well into their third laying season. As your hens age they will start laying later in the spring and stop laying earlier in the fall. If your bird doesn't have good egg laying genetics then they won't lay well no matter the diet or amount of light. Lastly, if your chickens are in the correct age bracket and they should be laying prolifically, but you're still short eggs it is best to see if they are laying their eggs outside of the nest boxes. Also check to make sure that no predators are stealing your eggs and that your birds aren't eating the eggs themselves. Don't forget to get yourself an egg basket for all the eggs your chickens are sure to lay!