Today’s preppers are taking a real interest in raising animals and my family is no exception. I love the goats and the rabbits and the chickens. They all make wonderful pets and they are excellent companions. But they are also a great source of protein. While we do not have enough land to raise cattle and hogs we do have enough room to raise these smaller animals. Having a great source of protein and eggs is a prepper’s dream.
When friends and family come to me for advice about raising chickens, the first question they always ask is how to ensure that hens lay a good number of eggs. The simple truth is that there is a lot that goes into this equation. A lot has to do with the breed of the hen and the time of year as well. However there are a few things that you can control that could help improve the number of eggs you are getting from your coop.
Let Them Move Around
One of the worst things you could do to a hen is to keep her locked up tight. It is easy to think that chickens really won’t care whether they are locked up or free to roam, but don’t forget that these are birds. While we might place them in a coop, this is not their native habitat. The best way to improve the number of eggs you have is to make sure your hens are happy and doing well. This means they need to be able to roam around and they need to have the chance to spread their wings and flap a little bit.
Don’t leave your chickens in their coop all the time. Allow them to run. If this is not possible in your location then you need to make sure you have a coop that is big enough for them to move around in. Adequate space can go a long way in keeping your hens happy and your egg supply steady.
Share Your Scraps
Chickens need something to do. Just like people, chickens get bored easily. A great option is to throw some old vegetables in the coop. Tossing in these vegetables is good for the birds because they will peck and scratch the vegetables until they are gone. Sharing scraps is not really about offering nourishment. It’s more about giving them activity and a reason to stay busy. It might seem mindless but this is something that the birds need if they are going to be happy enough to lay a lot of eggs.
Try Hand Feeding
Some people hate it and others swear by it. Chickens like to roam and they love to forage for food. In a lot of farms the chickens are allowed to roam and the feed is simply thrown out on the ground for them to eat. This is a very natural thing for them and they typically do well. However, giving your hens some extra attention by hand feeding might be just what they need to lay more eggs. Try feeding your chickens by hand everyday in the late afternoon. As the sun sets, the chickens will look forward to your visit and then go back to their coop with full bellies for the night.
Give Them Plenty Of Room
You would prefer to live in a large house instead of a cramped box and so would your chickens. Make sure that you take the time to either build a large enough coop or purchase a large enough coop. The more room they have the happier they will be. It is also a good idea that you provide the birds with a place to take a dirt bath.
Chickens love to flop and roll in the dirt. It actually helps them stay clean and it keeps the mites and lice away. Give them a place in the coop where they can do their thing in the dirt. It needs to be at least a foot deep and two feet wide.
Hens need a good quality feed to stay healthy. Don’t skimp here because it can make a big difference in how well your hens lay. They also need sunlight. Hens need to be given scratch. In most cases a happy hen will have plenty of fresh drinking water, plenty of oyster shells for pecking, and they will have 12-14 hours of sunlight per day. This means that in the winter time you might need to provide some artificial light or heat.
Above all, remember that a happy hen is a well laying hen. Just like you work better when you are appreciated and taken care of, your hens feel the same way. Give them a little extra TLC and it will pay off in a big way when you go out in the mornings to collect your eggs.