The Complete Happy Hen GuidePosted on Tuesday, February 02, 2016 | By Alycia Lang |
It's that time of year again when in a flurry of excitement over spring chickens, we start to plan for the arrival of new our feathered friends.
Between your chickens’ health and building them a happy home, there’s a lot to consider in chicken ownership. Luckily, over the years we’ve collected a slew of resources for first time chicken owners and seasoned coop keepers alike.
Here is our all-inclusive list of necessities and resources to ensure that you start your chickens off on the right foot!
The amount of families keeping backyard chickens is growing rapidly with the US Department of Agriculture predicting that 3.9% of families will have their own flock within the next five years! With so many people planning to get started it’s only right that we give you some advice on how to build your flock a safe and happy home.
There are a few important things to consider when you’re building a chicken coop. It should be warm enough, secure enough, and well equipped with things like nesting materials, food and water.
Below is an infographic from Gardenholic.com that lists all the basic components that you need to remember to include in your coop. Check out their article on DIY chicken coops for more information on building your own.
If you’re looking for some architectural inspiration for your coop, check out our earlier blog post which includes some of our favorite design styles, as well as important factors to consider for your own chicken coop.
For those of you with a love for modern design, you’ll love the book Reinventing the Chicken Coop by Matthew Wolpe and Kevin McElroy, which brings coop design to the next level with sleek and creative ideas for stunning chicken homes.
For even more step-by-step coop plans, check out chickencoopguides.com.
Choosing a Chicken:
Once you’ve finished your coop and you get into chicken breed research, you’ll find that there are seemingly endless breed options... Whether you’re looking for good egg layers or friendly and adorable pets, here is our official blog post on choosing the right chicken for you.
It covers eggs, meat, gardening benefits, companionship, egg output, temperament, aesthetics, and more. If you’re looking for a quick chart to quickly understand the characteristics of each breed, check out our handy chart.
Chicken Health and Happiness:
Having a quick reference for chicken health is about as essential as having a doctor to call for your own health.
Our pick for the best book on chicken health to keep on hand is The Chicken Health Handbook. It's chock full of relevant information for all breeds and ages, and covers nutrition, disease, immunity, and anatomy.
Another great way to ensure that your flock stays happy is to give them sufficient space to roam and forage. Even if you have a small backyard, letting your girls roam free doesn't have to come at the expense of your beautiful garden.
In her book Free Range Chicken Gardens, author Jessi Bloom teaches you how to make a beautiful, chicken-friendly garden.
Just like humans, chickens love their treats! One way to add variety to their diet is to feed them food scraps from your own table. We recommend starting a “Chicken Compost” bin that includes everything but citrus, dairy and meat (which can be hard for them to digest).
Another easy way to add variety to your flock’s diet (not to mention increase the nutritional value of their eggs!) is to feed them fresh greens. Avoid trampled and dirty produce by serving up fresh green leafy treats in a treat ball!
Stress Management and Laying Aids for Hens:
Help your chickens stress less (and lay more) with these organic nesting herbs which are specially formulated to help sooth "ruffled feathers" as well as support hens' laying and reproductive systems. Beautiful red raspberry, red clover, and nettle are natural helpers, and added lemon balm and chamomile also help calm and de-stress.
Remember, a calm chicken is a happy chicken!
Enjoying the bounty!
Not that you need any pointers on how to enjoy a farm-fresh egg, but here are a few useful tips and resources for what to do with your new abundance...
For a little-known way to peel a farm fresh egg, try this trick:
- Cook the eggs to your liking: My preferred method of preparing soft boiled eggs is to add the eggs to cold water in the pan. Hell, add a little baking soda if you're a believer. Turn on the heat and keep an eye on the eggs. Once the water just begins to simmer, turn off the heat and cover the pan. Set a timer for 8 minutes (or more or less time based on your preference). When the eight minutes is up, the eggs should be cooked perfectly (to my taste anyway) - completely cooked white with a dark orange creamy, not runny, center.
- Transfer the cooked eggs immediately to ice water to cool them completely. If you skip this step, the eggs will continue to cook and be overdone. Reserve the cooking water.
- While the eggs are cooling, turn the heat back on under your original cooking pan and bring the cooking water to a boil. Once the eggs in the ice bath are completely cool, use a ladle or spoon of some sort to transfer them one at a time to the boiling water. Immerse each egg individually in the boiling water and count to 10 then remove it and peel it immediately. The shell should come right off! Continue doing this with each egg one-by-one until the entire batch is cooled. It helps to have a buddy who can heat eggs while you peel, then switch off to peel while you heat.
- Because you cooled the egg completely, the molecules are contracted tightly. When you transfer the egg to the boiling water for just 10 seconds, it's enough time for the shell to expand but not enough time for the inner egg to heat up and expand with it. Expanding the shell creates airspace between the shell and the white, mimicking the air pockets in the older store egg - MAGIC!! (Well, science, actually.)
Now you can make those beautiful deviled eggs you've been dreaming of. Eat your heart out, Aunt Martha!
Egg Wipes are quick and easy way to prep your eggs for eating.
You put a lot of work into that lovely egg basket- keep your eggers clean and shiny looking with these handy towelettes.
Made of plant-derived ingredients, they're biodegradable and compost-safe and can clean up to 12 eggs per wipe.
Two of our favorite egg holders to display and store fresh eggs:
Our Favorite Egg Cookbook
The Fresh Egg Cookbook by Jennifer Trainer Thompson serves up 101 creative recipes for enjoying and celebrating the versatility of eggs.
In addition to putting new twists on beloved classics, she'll also show you how to take Caesar salad, spaghetti carbonara, eggnog, and homemade mayonnaise to new heights with the addition of farm-fresh eggs. Yum!
Showing your chicken keeper pride!
Show your chicken pride to the world with these fun, chicken-themed kitchen items:
We’ve tried to cover some often overlooked basics of chicken keeping here. As we all know, learning from peers is also a great way to ensure success. Let us know if you have any chicken-tips of your own to share in the comments below!