Raising Chickens for Eggs - Starting with Week-old White Leghorn Chicks
White Leghorn chicks - 1 week old
Are you good with animals and love pets? Do you love going to the County Fair? Does your family eat a lot of eggs? Are you trying to live GREENER? Want free fertilizer for your home garden? Ever thought of raising chickens?
Yes, that's right. Chickens. Even if you don't have the stomach to raise your own chickens for meat, you can successfully raise chickens primarily used for egg production. Most white eggs from the grocery store are from white leghorn hens. The breed is readily available (especially in spring) from local agricultural stores (like Tractor Supply Co.) or farms. In order to successfully raise your chickens you need to be dedicated to their health and growth. Chicks are cute, but they do not stay that way long. So, think twice if you just want them for the "cute baby chick" phase. This is a pet that lives 4-6 years and requires dedication and adequate shelter and feed.
Prior to your purchase you should check that your city does not have any ordinance against having chickens or farm animals. Some cities have no laws against it, some do, and some just have restrictions regarding how far the shelters must be from the property lines. You will also want to check into the cost or labor of buying or building your own chicken coop and outdoor run area. (Be sure to keep your local predators and climate in mind).
Our baby chicks were approximately one week old when purchased (about $1.99 each). Initially they start out in a small cage (like a guinea pig cage) indoors with pine bedding. Baby chicks must be kept from draft and need to remain safely contained and with access to a red light heat lamp at least until they have their first feathers. Our store required a minimum purchase of 6 chicks (these are flocking birds, they like to be social and stick together). Be sure to ask if they have separated the males and females (especially if you cannot have or do not want a rooster).
Chicks start out eating "Chick Starter" food for the first 8-10 weeks (sold in bags at your local agricultural store). Be sure to offer plenty of feed available ALL DAY as well as clean water at all times. I have found that our chicks generally require some form of cage cleaning every day in this small starter cage. Within weeks they will be too large for this cage and will be ready to move out to the coop. Around 19 weeks they should start to lay eggs.
Follow my blogs to keep posted on the growth of our leghorn hens as well as additional information, trials and tribulations!