Laying Chickens, Hatching Eggs, Sexing and Raising Chickens Successfully

Learn all about chicken breeds for laying chickens, hatching eggs, sexing and raising chickens successfully. Good egg laying chicken breeds for your backyard!

Spring is here so its time to prepare for fall and next winter. Yes, if you are a serious homesteader or farmer, you are looking that far ahead. You are breeding cattle that will be born 9 months from now, planting crops that will be harvested 4-6 months from now and you are gathering chicken eggs that will fill your freezer for winter food.

I Hate Chickens!

Honestly I hate chickens. I really do. They are predator bait. If you never had a raccoon or fox on your place, buy one chicken and you will have them every night. They poop everywhere, they have lice... I hate chickens!

Raising Chickens and Some Good Laying Chickens for Eggs

That said, I have some lovely Blue Orpingtons and Bantam Partridge Cochins. I have a 4 year old granddaughter so I also have some very nice Americana in the most beautiful black you have ever seen. The chicken breeds I have won't be what someone else would choose. Let's look at why I have the chicken breeds that I do.

Over the years I have found that in my climate, in my living conditions, that the Orpingtons out-last, out-lay and out-produce any other chicken breeds I have tried. These are excellent laying chickens. I have tried everything from the very pretty Speckled Sussex to the Australorp,  Rhode Island Red, New Hampshire, and many of the Rock varieties. I do like the Barred Rock, it does seem to work very well also and the young Barred Rock roosters are the best fryers I have ever tasted.

All and all, through wet seasons and floods, bitter winters where the cows' tails, ears and hooves freeze off and summer heat that leaves the cattle and horses standing under a tree sweating like they have run for a day, the
blue orpington chickenOrpington breed is the one that has shown me the survival skills and egg laying production I personally need.

I have the very large show strain of blues simply because I prefer that variety. They are not only eye-appealing for me personally, but also have the weight I want for meat birds. 

As laying chickens they lay very well all year round although they do not lay the large eggs some desire. They also store more fat than any chicken breed I have ever butchered. This is wonderful for winter survival and for saving back for broths and so on in your cooking.

Laying Chickens and Chicken Breeds that Make Good Mothers

Partridge Cochin RoosterI keep the Bantam Partridge Cochins because I have found them to be, not only wonderful laying chickens, but the best mothers I can find.

Last year I loaned out my flock to a friend that raises many varieties as well as quail and pheasant for a living. She said that all of my birds would raise quail and she had a hard time finding a hen that would do that. I left her a few as a thank-you gift. She has since raised quail, pheasant, guinea and chickens with those hens.

Laying Chickens and Chicken Breeds that are Good Forages

If you want your laying chickens to forage and help keep the bugs down, you need a breed that can forage. The chicken breeds I have chosen forage well and grass-hoppers never take over my gardens. I also keep a few Blue standard Cochins around as setters and for yard ornaments. 

Everyone I think has that one chicken breed they don't do much with breeding-wise they just like to look at it. The Blue Cochin is that for me. Mothers yes, layers no, meat birds, no, too slow to develop. Eye candy.. for me? Yes!

Laying Chickens and Breeding

Once you pick your chicken breed, please do some research for your laying chickens. Not only on the chicken breed itself, but also on the strain you are buying. Everyone breeds for different things so one person's Barred rock my have fast gain and lay well but the next person may only breed for egg production or for meat. Ask questions before you buy.

A chicken is not just a chicken and unlike most animals pedigrees are not kept. Cross breeding is common. Most Orpington people will toss in a Cochin every now and then to keep the "skirts" and so on. So ask about what you are buying to see if that strain will suit your needs.

Buying Day Old Chicks or Hatching your own Chicken Eggs?

Day Old Chick Buying eggs vs. buying chicks. Buy chicks, plain and simple - don't buy chicken eggs.

I have been on a waiting list for 3yrs for some blue Orpington eggs and I'm happy to have them. I drove to pick them up. When you ship eggs you won't

get a good hatch. Then you don't know what you are getting.

Out of my 42 eggs only about 80% will hatch. Out of that 50% will be males in theory. They are the blue variety so in theory 25% or more will be black, or splash since the lady had a splash rooster running around in the yard and a few splash hens. That's another 25% Out of 42 eggs the chances of me getting 12 blues are average, about 6 of those will be hens. That's out of 42 eggs I will get 6 blue hens. That's if you believe in math!

You don't want to know what I paid for those chicken eggs! Maran eggs have sold for 60 and 80 US dollars a piece only to find they don't hatch or the variety are poor layers. Eggs in general are a waste of time and money unless they came from your own farm. If at all possible buy day-old chicks; you know what you are getting.

Laying Chickens and Hatching Chicken Eggs

Now that you have chicken eggs you need to hatch the eggs you are getting so next year you also have more laying chickens. I have seen many home made incubators. I have seen hatches from Styrofoam coolers to frying pans. 

If you want to guarantee your hatch spend the money on the hovabator with the egg turner. Its about 80.00 on eBay or about 150.00 -200 from a hatchery or poultry supply. I got mine on eBay. I fill it with water, plug it in and Poof! I have chicks in 21 days. When I travel I can put my eggs in ... set the temp and leave home for 3 weeks. No worry, no stress and chicks a week after I get home. I love it.

The major concern of any electric incubator is power outages. What happens when a storm comes and you have no power for hours? Your Styrofoam incubator is going to hold heat. Set it into your gas oven and the warmth of the pilot light will keep it warm. If you don't have a gas oven go for the blankets. If you have a yogatherm, use that. 

You can use a frying pan. Don't laugh! I have seen people actually go through a full hatch using a cast iron skillet and a towel to cover. Heat up the skillet to 100 degrees, put your eggs in it and cover then place in your gas oven with a high pilot light. It does work.

Gas ovens are a must with country living. If you have chicks that have grown well enough you put out and then it rains and the darn things get wet and look dead. Put them on a cookie sheet and place in the oven with out turning it on. Wait about 20-30 minutes and Poof! You pull out a cookie sheet of very dirty but alive and peeping baby chicks. 

My kids and I used to laugh because the chicks would look dead. Their legs would be sticking up in the air and they would be stiff as a board. We put them on the cookie sheet and stuck them in the oven. Then out popped the done chicks. Alive and well.

I got off track there! We need to hatch those chicken eggs before we can save the half-drowned chicks in the oven. DO NOT wash eggs you plan to hatch! You will drown them. Seriously, eggs have pores and water gets into pores. If an egg is dirty don't use it for hatching. Wash it and eat it. If you can't tell the small end from the large end of the egg, don't use it. 

If the egg is too large or too small, eat it. My granddaughter loves to sort the eggs and she is meticulous about it. There is an art to it and you will get the feel after you toss out the same rotten egg time after time.

Laying Chickens and Sexing Chickens' Eggs - An Unconventional Method that Works!

chicken eggs
A fun trick is sexing chickens when they are still in the egg. Some of us want laying chickens for eggs, some want meat birds. You can sex an egg. First you have to be someone that can. Not everyone can witch water, not everyone can sex an egg.

First get a needle on a string, or your necklace. Ask it "show me a girl" see what happens. Then "show me a boy" see what happens. If you are someone that can, then the needle or what ever you use will go in a straight line, or a circle to show you.

Hold the needle over each egg and ask "what is it" and if it moves you will know. I told a friend about this a year ago and she claims a 90% correct rate of hatch.

I did this for years on my horses to sell the foals before they were born. I was 100% correct. I also used Apple Cider vinegar to encourage female offspring but that's another story. It does work, however! Hatching Chicken Eggs

Get your eggs chosen and then make sure the air sack is tilted up. Once our chicks hatch you have 48 hours before you have to feed or water so don't panic and take them out to soon. Don't "help" them by peeling the shell off either. 

Nature has its reasons and if you help that chick how, you will be doctoring it later. If it dies now, you are better off. You only want the healthy ones. I'm not saying I haven't held many chicks in my hands as they hatched and maybe altered the shell a bit by rotating it in my hand. I'm saying don't peel it off. You can also break blood vessels that way and your chick will bleed to death.

When your eggs start to hatch the best thing for you to do is go for a long car ride. Don't look, just go away. I know its hard, but do it. I have to leave the house because I can't do it any other way. I get to excited, so, I have to banish myself.

Raising Chickens from Day Old Chicks

Now comes the hard part, keeping chickens alive and predator free for the first month. I start with a good chick growing mash. Yes, you can make your own but why bother when for $9.00 you can have it at your finger tips. If you want to make your own use corn meal, finely chopped grass or alfalfa and mix that with some beef not pork fat. Chicken fat also works. Put a bit of sorghum molasses in the water the first few days it will give them a boost. A bit of warmth from your broody hens or your RED heat lamp and you're off...

If you want Cornish Game hens feed them a lot of oatmeal and milk. Don't worry if it's a boy or girl. Most of your hens you buy in the store aren't old enough to actually be sexed yet by the average farmer. Just feed it well and never let the feed pans go empty that first month. If Cornish hens, never let them go empty. At 6-8 weeks you have your small table hens/roosters. At 8-12 weeks your fryers and at 4 months your roasters. That brings us how to caponize chickens. This will be my next entry.

By Gypsy, our resident homestead blogger from One Sky Ranch

Gypsy's Wanderings Homestead Blog


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how do you hatch eggs without an incubator? 
I would like to know how to raise chicken eggs without an incubator. I have four chicken eggs but I don't have an incubator. I just have a box with …

sexing eggs Not rated yet
I was told that you can look at the shape of the egg and that will tell you if its male or female is this true? *** Eggs come in all sorts …

When to give up on a batch of incubating eggs? Not rated yet
When do I give up on a batch? Got a dozen eggs that have been in an incubator. Yesterday was day 21, last night one egg has a crack but nothing since. …

hatching chickens Not rated yet
I am lazy when it comes to hatching chicks and so I just stick all my eggs that I want to hatch under a brooding hen and let her hatch them. Then on …

Helping Chickens When Hatching Not rated yet
Never help a chicken out of the egg if you can help it. You will end up doing harm than good, and the ultimate is that you could end up killing the chicken …

chickens hatching  Not rated yet
i have a question i have a chick that is deformed and cant get out of is shell what do i do? help please

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