Rainbow Ranch Farms

  (Pinon Hills, California)
Organic, free-range, pastured, grass-fed/finished, heritage-breeds,
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Grow Your Own Eggs

Grow Your Own Eggs

For your own taste of the good life, keep a few chickens in your garden. You'll be surprised at how easy it is, and once you’re enjoying your own 'homegrown' fresh eggs, you'll wonder why you didn't do it sooner.

Chickens have so many benefits. There are the obvious eggs, but chickens offer so much more. Believe it or not, chickens make great pets (when I was younger, my chickens, which I'd had since they were chicks, would hop up on my shoulder, so friendly were they). They can be really social creatures, and can bring your garden to life, as they strut around, pecking and clucking.

And while they're pecking around, chickens are fantastic for the organic gardener. Your chickens will make short work of all those pesky bugs and pests in your garden. And if you go round your garden at night with a torch and pick off all the slugs, snails and caterpillars, your chickens will love you forever when they get a tasty breakfast!

And there's more good news for the organic gardener, chicken manure is fantastic for your plants. Just remember that, like horse manure, it needs to be matured first, or it will burn your plants, especially young tender ones. The best thing to do is to spread the chicken manure out over your soil, leaving it to dry, before turning it in, or add it to your compost heap.

If you have children, they will love these pets, and enjoy collecting the eggs in the morning, and helping to feed them. The whole egg laying, chick hatching experience (if you decide to do this) can also be very educational.

So, there are plenty of good reasons to keep chickens, but where will you put them? There are a few things to bear in mind when choosing a hen house **
http://www.easydiychickencoop.com**. First, how many chickens do you want? For a family of four, five or six hens should be enough to keep you well supplied: if there's just the two of you, 3 or 4 may do. There's no need to have a cockerel unless you plan to breed from your hens, and if you have close neighbors, they may not appreciate his crowing at 4am in the summer!

Each chicken should have about a square foot of space for roosting, so just multiply that by the number of chickens you want to work out what size of house to go for. The chicken house should be neither too small (which will lead to an increase in diseases) nor too large (which could lead to the birds, particularly small ones such as bantams, getting too cold).

The hen house should also be well-ventilated. Not only does it make the chicken coop more pleasant for the birds, but also a lack of ventilation and high humidity can lead to respiratory diseases.

Check out the size of the nesting boxes, too. Each bird needs to be able to stand up to lay her eggs, and have room to run around. It’s also best to have fewer, bigger boxes, rather than lots of smaller ones.

The style of house will depend on your personal taste and the size of your garden. You may want a house that can be moved around, so that the ground underneath can recover, or be planning to leave the house on spot. Depending on how secure your garden is, you can allow your chickens free range, or have a run or attached compound for them to scratch around in.

Remember that bigger birds will need something more than a triangular run, as they can really only stand up properly along its highest central part. If you have any concerns about foxes, make sure your house is very secure and you may want to place it within a secure compound. Obviously, if your chickens are kept on an allotment, security will be a particular issue.

If you're planning on keeping chickens for a good long while, it's worth investing in a good-quality shed for them. Plywood may be cheap, and is light, but it won't last for long. Featheredge wood looks nice but can warp easily and can be pulled off by badgers! Shiplap or tongue and grooves are good options to go for.

Remember that the hen house will need cleaning, so a good-sized door to allow you access to do this is vital.

And if you're opting for a second-hand house, be sure to treat well to kill any red mite before you use it.

Talking of which, one thing all chicken keepers will tell you to steer clear of is roofing felt, which is just like heaven on earth for red mites!

So, with your hen house, run, and chickens you're all set to enjoy your very first, home-grown, fresh eggs. With their deep yellow yolks and full flavour, once you've collected, cooked and eaten a really fresh egg all within the hour, you'll never resort to supermarket eggs again!

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