I’m concerned about my food, where it comes from and how it’s raised. My favorite, eggs, are versatile, delicious, and nutritious but they are often produced by hens raised in very different conditions. When you purchase eggs, you have a couple of choices to make: free range, organic or cage raised eggs.
Cage raised hens stay in tiny coops for their entire lifetime in extremely cramped quarters where they can barely move about. This means they can’t forage for their own food, dust bathe or night roost, all natural chicken behavior that results in more content and healthier fowl. Hens that are allowed to roam freely and forage also lay eggs that have less cholesterol, less saturated fat, more omega-3 fatty acids, more beta carotene, and are richer in vitamins A, E, and D than cage raised hens.
Armed with this information, it seemed like a no-brainer to raise my own chickens. My sister raises chickens in her garden and says it’s easy and entertaining – not to mention, have you ever seen a baby chick? How adorable is that! If you’re like me and new at this, then the Cackle Hatchery is a great place to start. They are a 3rd generation hatchery with 80 years of experience and 193 varieties of poultry available. And one of the best options for beginners (or anyone really) wanting to raise chickens in the garden is the Premium Brooder Starter Package. It includes everything you need to get started, except the chicks, which can also be purchased from Cackle Hatchery.
Baby chicks need a corral and some heat so they can stay safe and warm. The package includes a chick corral and a heat lamp with a stand, reflector and clamp along with some soft pine shavings. The chicks also need constant access to water and, of course, they need to be fed. The folks at Cackle Hatchery thought of that too, and the package includes a quart waterer and chick feeder along with information on the safe handling of poultry and how to take care of new chicks.
With only a few minutes to set up the brooder, those cute little chicks will be safe and warm. Keep in mind that baby chicks grow quickly and will soon outgrow this enclosure, so in the meantime, you may want to start building them a chicken coop with nesting boxes of straw where they can lay eggs, which usually begins between 16 and 24 weeks old. In no time, you’ll be making a soufflé with the eggs laid by those hens. Also, make sure to keep them protected as they scamper throughout the backyard. Your chickens will not only provide you with eggs, but they love scratching dirt and feeding on many insects pests. And you’ll have an endless supply of manure for the compost pile to help fertilize the garden.