When homesteaders go to start their livestock collection, chickens are commonly the first animal to make an appearance. They’re relatively easy to care for; they’re low maintenance; and they provide a steady supply of highly nutritious eggs. Not to mention, they can be pretty darn cute too.
Of all the reasons why people start keeping chickens, egg production is almost always near the top of the list. Just a few healthy hens can supply a small family with all the eggs they need, and that’s a huge return on investment for the minuscule time, effort, and feed chickens require to produce.
However, sometimes people have issues getting the best eggs out of their chickens. Maybe the yolks are a bit pale, or you just know your eggs aren’t as nutritious as they could be.
Well, these few tips can address your concern and help your hens start laying the best eggs they’re capable of. Try them out and see the results for yourself.
Be mindful of the rooster
Some people don’t like to keep roosters because of their sometimes aggressive demeanor, and others have to comply with local laws that prohibit you from keeping roosters altogether, which is a real shame.
See, hens are biologically programmed to live with a rooster, and roosters serve several important purposes for the flock. They help the hens forage; they keep the flock safe from threats (and they make the hens feel safe which reduces stress); they establish and enforce a pecking order to avoid conflicts between the hens; and they generally make the flock happier overall.
If you’re wondering how many roosters to keep, however, the answer is very few. Experienced chicken owners say you shouldn’t have more than one rooster per dozen or so hens. You’ll be surprised what a difference just one rooster can make!
Encourage your birds to roam
Your birds might be safest when they’re confined to their coop and run, but they need to venture outside of that confined area to maximize their egg laying potential. According to a study done by Mother Earth News back in 2007, eggs from chickens with plenty of space to wander freely produce eggs with much greater nutrient content. Here’s more from the study summary:
Most of the eggs currently sold in supermarkets are nutritionally inferior to eggs produced by hens raised on pasture. That’s the conclusion we have reached following completion of the 2007 Mother Earth News egg testing project. Our testing has found that, compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:
• 1/3 less cholesterol • 1/4 less saturated fat • 2/3 more vitamin A • 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids • 3 times more vitamin E • 7 times more beta carotene
These amazing results come from 14 flocks around the country that range freely on pasture or are housed in moveable pens that are rotated frequently to maximize access to fresh pasture and protect the birds from predators. We had six eggs from each of the 14 pastured flocks tested by an accredited laboratory in Portland, Ore. The chart at the end of this article shows the average nutrient content of the samples, compared with the official egg nutrient data from the USDA for “conventional” (i.e. from confined hens) eggs. The chart lists the individual results from each flock.
Give your birds plenty of greens
Those not familiar with chickens probably don’t think of them as the kind of animal that likes to or needs to eat a lot of leafy greens, but in fact chickens need healthy greens as much as we do.
A mixture of leafy greens and herbs will give your chickens a wide range of nutrients that they might be struggling to find in their feed or around your property where they forage. Plus, you can add in things like oregano, which is a natural anti-biotic, to boost the therapeutic value of your greens mixture.
How do you help your chickens lay their best?
Is there anything else we should know about the best ways to help our chickens lay phenomenal eggs? They’re complex creatures, and there are bound to be other tips. Tell us your thoughts in the comments!