Chicken Coop Stories From Around the World

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Hey everyone! If you’ve ever emailed us with questions about building your chicken coop from the plans you purchased from us or general poultry raising questions you know we’re always happy to help.

We are so blessed to get the nicest people contacting us and we wanted to share some of the interesting notes we’ve recently received from our community. Our community ranges far and wide…

…like Emmie, who wrote to us from Australia, where she has a flock of Australorps:

“In addition to the wonderful eggs and entertainment benefit, I consider my chickens (“chooks” in Oz) an important part of home security.  I live on the edge of swampland and deal  with snakes every summer.  I discovered years ago that movement in and around the yard, animal or human, discourages them from coming too close.”

ByTeneche(, via Wikimedia Commons
ByTeneche(, via Wikimedia Commonsdiscourages them from coming too close.”

I think that’s an interesting observation she’s made.

Emmie goes on to say:

“Early in 2000 my chickens had a 4 ft tiger snake bailed up at the back door.  They were all pecking at it (must have thought they hit the worm jackpot!) and my husband dispatched it quickly.  It would have died from infection of the peck wounds, anyway. Go chooks!”

I can certainly imagine this (although I may have some nightmares from it).

More Readers From Afar

Continuing on with our customers from outside the U.S., Jill wrote us from Bermuda, excited to get her book of chicken coop plans:

“Yippee!!! So geeked right now, my family ran a dairy farm and when I was younger we used to supply the island with eggs. Government took back the land and there’s only one on island chicken farmer now… but it’s a new start!” We’re really hoping she’ll share more with us on how that goes.

Courtesy of Dawn Nurse
Courtesy of Dawn Nurse

Closer to home, and dealing with another pest issue (smaller than Emmie’s snakes), Dawn wrote and asked “I want to know if my hens can eat these caterpillars which are all over my cauliflower plants, I don’t want to give them as food if they may harm them but if I can would be a great source of food, hope you can help”. Our reply: Those are the caterpillars of the cabbage butterfly and they can be very destructive. Let the chickens eat as many as possible and good luck!

Courtesy of cskk via Flickr
Courtesy of cskk via Flickr

We also get a lot of questions about breeds. ModicaFarm asked us if Silkies and Rhode Island Reds were a good mix. Our response: “They should be. Both breeds have pretty docile personalities. There will be a good size difference between the two though which may cause some pecking order issues but if they’re all raised together from the start (and you don’t have roosters) you should have a pretty peaceful group.”

RI Reds seem to be pretty popular with our readers. Brian and his wife are raising chickens in the Detroit area:

“Read your article on RI Reds, very interesting and I’m glad we made the choice we did. I started reading through your site and I really enjoyed it. My wife and I have been looking for a home on some acreage to start a small ‘organic farm’. It’s been a little tough finding something but that’s our ultimate goal. Your site is right up our alley! “

Courtesy of Oregon Department of Agriculture via Flickr
Courtesy of Oregon Department of Agriculture via Flickr

Questions About Chicken Breeds

Toni is a frequent writer. She and her husband have some land in Virginia. They’ve raised cattle, Boer goats and hay. They’ve now got a good size flock of chickens, a horse Toni trained herself and rides, an orchard of fruit and nut trees and they sell their excess eggs. Although Toni claims to be “slowing down” due to her age (she’s 70; her husband is 79), we find it hard to believe! She wanted to know about frizzled cochins. We told her:

“It’s pretty interesting – on the Frizzles, their feathers curl forward instead of laying flat so they look curled! But their feathers don’t keep them as warm as other breeds. People say they’re a good choice if you are concerned about your birds flying over fences, since their feathers make flying difficult. Because they can’t fly though, it may be hard for them to roost. They have feathered legs and don’t lay a lot of eggs (only about 3 per week) but they make good mothers. Being banties, they’re going to stay small (males will weigh 30 oz and the females 26 ounces). According to the My Pet Chicken website, “Like Silkies, Frizzles are favorites of children and all others who are young at heart.”. 

You’re Never Too Old

Toni’s not our only reader who inspires us: Billie, age 83, had some questions about her flock: “I was thinking about increasing my flock of 5 to maybe 10 but I think I will remain happy with 5. My chicks were purchased in April and were old enough to already be getting little feathers. One out of 5 is now laying perfect but small brown eggs. The weather has been 100 + . They get the best food and I feed them twice a day and keep a good supply of fresh water. Any suggestions? If I turn them loose in my gardens, won’t they eat the plants?   I am also afraid they will fly over the 4 ft. fence and at 83, I can not chase chickens in the neighbor’s yard.”

We replied, “If the weather’s been over 100 degrees that would affect their laying. When it gets that hot, they’re gonna slow down. You could try giving them some cold pieces of melon (or even overgrown squashes) to peck at and see if that helps a bit. Do anything you can to cool down the coop. The breed you have will determine the size of the egg. As far as flying over the fence, that also depends on the breed. Plenty of mine wouldn’t even think of it (for a 3 foot garden fence) but my Dominiques and Rhode Island Reds sure would, if there was enough to tempt them”.

Some Sad News…

We get questions about other types of poultry as well. Sadly, Nanci wrote, asking about an issue with her Rouen duck, Squeeky. “About 6 days ago Squeeky started going off by himself. We were told he was depressed because mating season was over. Two days ago he started having problems walking. We were told to give him electrolytes which we give him thru a syringe. He is about 1 1/2 years old and when the girls come back to see him, he’s very alert. My ducks are free range.”

Courtesy of mikenan1 via Flickr
Courtesy of mikenan1 via Flickr

The most heartbreaking thing was not being able to help her or Squeeky, who died a few days later. If there’s anyone out there with experience with ducks who’s gone through something similar and can offer advice, please let us know. Meanwhile, we empathized with their family and their loss.

…And Some Good News

Steve wrote and told us, “My house is sort of like the old TV show Green Acres. My wife went to the feed store for pig food (we have a mini pot belly pig as a pet) and came home with the feed, and the chicks.  We have 5.  I am not sure if they are hens or roosters, but we will figure it out when they don’t lay eggs! I will send pictures when we are done with the coop!”

One Heart Wild is a nonprofit sanctuary in Washington that rescues hens and horses. They used our coop plans (The Mul-T Coop) to build a coop to house up to 20 hens and allow their clients (at risk kids) to visit with them, bringing healing and teaching empathy. According to Drea Bowen, the director, “the chickens are a huge hit with everyone”.

And Melissa made our day with her note: “I recently decided to start raising chickens in my yard so that my family always has access to fresh eggs (as a baker I go through a ton). My kids are super excited and have been helping me with research on raising chickens. We thought your page, had some really great info and we wanted to pass along a thank you. A big thanks from future chicken owners. Have a wonderful day!”

And we hope you all do too! Email us with your news, updates and questions – as you can tell, we enjoy hearing from everyone!

Helpful Resources

If you’re not familiar with what we have available for resources, please take a look here:

To find examples of customers’ coops built, using our plans: Success Stories

And, as always, never hesitate to contact us at

Wild Chickens In Hawaii Part II

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We did a story about the wild chickens in Hawaii a little while back. We decided to see what new developments have happened since then.

chickens-hawaiiAt the end of July, an army barracks decided to offer the 150 wild chickens living in their parking lot to anyone interested in adopting them. They offered several caveats, though: chickens may have lice, mites, fleas and other parasites; chicken droppings can cause respiratory diseases. In spite of those dire warnings, Jennifer Alexander, an entomologist at the U.S. Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks, urged people “They can be raised to become loving and affectionate just like any other pet, and the hens produce eggs. They’re fun to watch and good at keeping bugs and pests out…Actually, they can be pretty awesome – just not at a health clinic.”

They noticed the population began growing since the beginning of the year. They’ve now put into place a program to trap the chickens using baited cages or nets. Any not adopted will be euthanized by lethal injection.

Meanwhile, in Honolulu, the mayor has hired a private pest control company to begin what they call an “Integrated Feral Chicken Management Program”. Targeting city properties, including golf courses, they’re trying to trap 1,500 wild chickens. The birds will be euthanized with carbon dioxide. Animal rights advocates have countered, saying the chickens should instead be given a bird contraceptive called Ovocontrol. Either way, private property owners are on their own in figuring out how to deal with the chickens.

Wild Chickens in Hawaii

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We recently received an email from a listener in Hawaii who mentioned that where he lives – on the main island – there are thousands of wild chickens. He said they have eight hens and ten roosters who drop by daily for food!

This intrigued us so much we had to find out more!Chicken on the Beach

In May, Hawaiian TV station KHON reported Honolulu was trying to find a solution because the problem had become so widespread people were complaining. This is in an urban and suburban area.

But where did this exploding population of wild chickens come from? Some people theorize that many of the chickens are descendants of birds that escaped when hurricanes hit and destroyed chicken coops. Annual bird counts done by the Audubon Society confirm the numbers jumped after the hurricanes. Others speculate the birds are wild ancestors of the original chickens brought to Hawaii from the Polynesians and relatives of the Red Junglefowl.

Eben Gering, an evolutionary biologist at Michigan State University has been studying these birds, specifically the chickens on Kauai Island,an island even more overrun with the birds than the big island, maybe due to the lack of mongooses, a natural predator, on that island. He published his findings in April. Analysis of the birds’ DNA reveals lineages from both our domesticated chickens and wild Red Junglefowl from Asia.

Dr. Gering and his researchers are hoping the interbreeding might help us improve our domestic breeds. They hope that by studying these chickens they can find out how and why an invasive species establishes itself somewhere new and at the same time what happens when a domesticated species goes feral.

Most of the wild chickens look like Red Junglefowl, with striking red, black, and green plumage. Others are speckled with white and reddish-brown, more like most of our domestic breeds. Their feather patterns match their calls: the ones who look like red junglefowl crow like wild birds, while the ones birds with more chicken-like feathers sound like domestic chickens.

But what about the residents of the islands who are complaining about crowing roosters at all hours of the day and night? Legally speaking, the chickens are protected by state law and residents can trap them but can’t kill them.

Apparently the chicken problem has been growing since the early 2000’s. In 2005, the Honolulu Advertiser reported volunteer trappers had captured more than 700 feral chickens around the island. A city contract was granted to The Hawaii Game Breeders Association, paying them $40,000 a year to catch the chickens. Birds that were healthy were given to people interested in eating them. In 2007, there were an estimated 20,000 chickens running loose on Oahu (the “big island” in Hawaii). Then in 2013, the city budget was cut and the program ended.

Meanwhile it’s been suggested that the Game Breeders Association had connections to cockfighting and routinely shipped birds all over the world for both legal and illegal forms of cockfighting.

Since 2013, the problem has gotten worse. This year, Honolulu has $80,000 budgeted to take care of the problem but the city so far can’t find someone to take on the job. In the past few weeks, owners from two condo complexes and an elementary school got together and hired a private exterminator to take care of the problem in their neighborhood.

And as for our listener in Hawaii, he’s planning to build a coop to protect the chickens from the main predators there, mongooses and rats. Apparently, despite all of the wild chickens roaming around, the price of grocery store eggs is six to seven dollars a dozen!


This post was written by Kim Torchy, for those of you who haven’t been in touch with Kim yet here are a few words from her:

“Hi everyone – my name is Kim and I’m lucky enough to be working with John. I’m very excited that’s he’s asked me to write a post! Let me tell you a little about myself: My husband and I moved from NJ to 15 acres in the mountains of NC and decided we needed chickens. We started with a flock of 8 laying hens and, well, one thing led to another (as it so often does). We ended up getting eighteen more plus raising enough meat birds yearly that we completely stopped buying chicken and eggs. I’m also Mom to two daughters, ages 24 and 8, and two beautiful grandchildren, Rylan and Sophia.”


A Guide to Feeding Chickens

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In order for them to live up to their full potential, your backyard chickens must eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet.  Layers need the right kind and amount of feed to lay quality eggs. Broilers need the right kind and amount of feed to gain weight in a healthy way.  This is slightly more complicated than merely picking up a bag of feed at your local farm supply store.  Chickens can benefit greatly from foraging as well as from some table scraps. Other table scraps are toxic to chickens and if your birds are given these common items with their daily meal, it’ll ruin your day. How can you know just what to feed your flock?

Type and Amount of Feed Changes Over Time

Chick starter feed, with a protein level of 20 to 22%, is required for chicks from hatching until they are 6 weeks old. After that, pullet grower feed is the way to go. This has 14-16% protein and you feed this to your layers until they are about 20 weeks old. After 20 weeks and for the duration of your chicken’s life, feed them layer feed. Grains like corn or barley can be substituted for part of your layer feed.

How much should you feed your birds? Resist the urge to feed too much. While some backyard farmers prefer to leave out a constant supply of food, this is really not the healthiest choice for your birds. Feed several times a day and not in between. This will also reduce the risk of attracting pests like rats and mice. Young chicks will eat about 2 to 2.9 lbs of chick starter feed for their first six weeks. For the entire pullet phase, your growing chicks will eat a total of 12-13 lbs of feed. Layers then consume 1.8 to 2.4 lbs of feed each week for the remainder of their lives. Like people, there will naturally be periods when your birds want to eat a bit more or a bit less.

Broilers are different. From hatching to six weeks, a growing broiler can be expected to consumer 30-50 lbs of broiler starter feed. Then, from six weeks until slaughter, they’ll consume another 16-20 lbs of broiler finish feed. Talk to knowledgeable staff at your local farm supply store to find just the right feed for your flock and for advice on feeding should you have any questions.

Scraps—To Feed or Not to Feed

Table scraps alone are not a well balanced diet for your chickens, but they can be a wonderful treat if fed in moderation. Many sources suggest waiting until your birds are 3-4 months old before you begin feeding them table scraps because before that they desperately need the high protein levels found in chicken feed in order to grow and develop properly. Most vegetables, both cooked or raw, are perfectly safe to feed your chickens and offer some great nutritional value too. Bread, grains, oatmeal, cooked meats, and most fruits are safe too. Chickens love table scraps!

Don’t throw your flock every single kitchen scrap you have, though. Raw potato skins are toxic to chickens. Avocado skins and pits can be fatal too, as can chocolate.  Garlic and onions won’t hurt your birds but can seriously affect the taste of your eggs. As a rule avoid giving your chickens processed foods, greasy foods, spoiled or rotten foods, or raw meat. Got it?

Foraging for Healthier Eggs and Meat

One great benefit that free-range chickens reap is the ability to forage for plants, insects, and worms. This means added nutrients. Birds allowed to forage are believed to produce healthier, better quality eggs and meat. Still, these birds require a healthy diet of chicken feed and can also benefit from scraps.  Foraging will probably have more benefits for your backyard than for your chickens, but it is still highly beneficial.

The Hidden Dangers of Backyard Chickens

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From the wide news coverage and booming backyard chicken magazine and book market, one might think that backyard chickens were accepted in all corners of the United States with open arms and open-minded hearts. While raising chickens is indeed legal in the United States as a whole, it is far from legal in many cities and towns across this great nation. People who don’t follow their local rules and regulations or who set up a backyard coop in a restrictive city face some pretty serious consequences.

Criminal Consequences in Virginia

Natural News brought the story public in March 2013: the Virginia government is prosecuting a Virginia Beach homeowner with criminal charges because she raises backyard chickens for organic eggs. The homeowner kept a healthy flock of chickens with full blessings from her neighbors, but local officials had a big problem with her backyard birds. They claim she broke zoning ordinances. Despite support from neighbors and an appellate fight, she was strictly warned that chickens are not allowed within the city. She now faces serious criminal charges. To read more, check out:

A Woman’s Livelihood in Jeopardy in Connecticut

Amanda Kettle makes her living selling high-quality eggs and meat from her small farm in Connecticut. Her livelihood is in jeopardy because her 100-chicken-flock breaks town regulations limiting people to 2 chickens. Kettle farms on two acres, but town regulations require three acres per every two grazing animals. Kettle is required to relinquish many of her birds. A hearing is scheduled in the near future. To read more, check out:

Backyards, Not Barnyards in DC

Arlington is a hen-free county and they are adamant to keep it that way, even launching a new “Backyards, Not Barnyards” initiative strictly for the purpose of keeping back-yard chicken-keeping illegal within county lines. Why? The group sites the smell, waste, exposure to salmonella, and a likely increase in the rat and mouse population, just to name a few issues. The Arlington Egg Project works for the opposite goal, fighting for DC residents to have the right to raise backyard birds. As of now, raising chickens is still illegal in DC. To read more, check out:


No matter where you live, carefully check with your local guidelines and conform to them carefully. Keep up to date on changes. There’s not much worse than legal troubles to detract from the beauty of raising backyard chickens.

Best States for Raising Chickens

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Raising backyard chickens is an increasingly popular and mainstream hobby, yet it is not legal in every town and city across the United States. Some states are friendlier toward urban chickens than others. Finding out which state is the best is more challenging than one might imagine. Many states claim to be the most chicken-friendly state in the Union. While raising chickens is legal in all 50 states, rules and regulations vary widely within individual states.

The American South

Many large-scale chicken farms are located in the southern states and there’s no shortage of websites claiming Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas are each the “best” place for chickens. A temperate climate and abundant land seem to be prime reasons to choose the South. What are regulations like in these individual states?

Arkansas seems to be a pretty lenient state for keeping chickens. Fayetteville allows four or fewer chickens, no closer than 25 feet to residences. Each bird must have at least 4 square feet of coop space and an adequate chicken run. Little Rock requires that chickens be at least 5 feet from the owner’s residence and 25 feet from other residences. No more than 4 birds.

South Carolina is another southern state known for its chickens. Yet if you live in Summerville, SC, you are out of luck. Local regulations declare it unlawful for anyone to have poultry of any kind running at large. Aiken, SC, allows chickens so long as they are penned and at least 40 feet from neighboring residences. Rules differ dramatically from one city to the next.

The West Coast

What about America’s West Coast? California is a pretty great place to keep backyard chickens. Many Californian cities permit backyard fowl. The specific numbers and space requirements vary. Irvine allows two hens per household while Albany allows up to 6 (with a permit). In Los Angeles, the number of chickens one can keep on their property is unlimited so long as they are kept at least 30 feet from your residence and 35 feet from other dwellings.

Up the coast in Washington, raising backyard chickens is generally allowed. Up to 8 chickens may be kept on any size lot in Seattle. Olympia allows up to 3 birds while Battle Ground has no restrictions on raising poultry at all.

America’s East Coast

In New York City, one can keep an unlimited number of hens so long as the area is kept clean. Roosters are prohibited. Albany, NY, strictly prohibits farm animals of any kind within city limits and fines violators. Oswego, NY, also prohibits chickens. It appears that quite a few New York cities prohibit poultry, so if you live in that state you must be very careful! New York is certainly not the most chicken-friendly state in the Union.

Boston, Massachusetts, prohibits raising chickens within the city. In Lynn, Massachusetts, one must have a petition signed by their neighbors stating they don’t mind you raising chickens and you can be fined if people complain about your birds. Plymouth, Ma, doesn’t appear to have regulations regarding chickens, nor does Somerville. Northhampton allows up to three hens and no roosters.

No matter where you live, do your research before setting your heart on backyard chickens. The United States can seem like the most—or least—restrictive place to raise chickens all depending on where you live. Good luck!

Common Problems With Backyard Chickens

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Raising backyard chickens is a fun and rewarding pastime. Not only are chickens amusing to watch, but they are natural fertilizers for your garden and lawn and offer fresh, organic eggs. Yet raising chickens can also come at a price. Lack of knowledge and consistent care can lead to destroyed yards, foul smells, and sick or dead birds.

Can you tell the difference between a healthy chicken and a sick one? Sometimes it’s not as obvious as one would think. Sometimes, the first clue that something is wrong is a dead chicken. Yet there are some signs you can keep a lookout for. Sick chickens may have drooping wings or tail or paralysis of one or both of their legs or wings. Blood in droppings, loss of appetite, discharge from nostrils and eyes, labored breathing, or breathing with their beaks open (unless it is particularly hot) are all trouble signs. A healthy chicken should be active and alert. Its eyes and nostrils should be clean and it should hold its head high. Its droppings should be white, its breathing should be unnoticeable and silent, its legs should be clean, and its feathers should be smooth. Your chicken’s comb should not be black or dark blue. The birds should eat frequently and be social with the other chickens. If you observe your flock regularly, it should be fairly easy to pick up the signals that something is wrong.

What causes disease or sickness among a flock of chickens? According to Roy Butler of the Government of Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food, inadequate shelter, feed, and water as well as too much stress are common reasons for ill chickens ( assets/content/aap/gn_diseases_of_backyard_chickens.pdf). Infectious diseases can also be caught, just as humans catch and transmit diseases. Even mosquitoes can carry diseases harmful to chickens.

Birds can be infected with a variety of different parasites. Chickens can be infested by poultry lice, which cause irritation and stress and often cause a bird to stop laying eggs. Fleas are another common problem. Mites, ticks, and worms also can take a toll on your flock. There are plenty of diseases and infections chickens can get too, including fowl pox (from mosquitoes) and bronchitis.

Diseases and bloodsuckers aren’t the only problems you may face with your backyard flock. Rodents are frequently attracted to leftover chicken feed. No one wants a rat or mouse infestation. Not only are they disgusting, but they carry diseases and can eat young chickens. Remove debris piles and keep your chicken feed in well-sealed containers. Take care to provide secure fencing as well to keep out predators. From birds to cats, dogs, weasels, or coyotes, there are dozens of neighborhood creatures who would love to make a meal out of your chickens.

What’s the best thing you can do to keep your chickens healthy and safe? Check your flock frequently for signs of trouble. Feed your birds plenty of high quality feed and remove feed from the container that has molded. Provide a consistent supply of clean water and clean out your coop several times a month. Check your birds for fleas, ticks, and mites and don’t be afraid to ask your local veterinarian questions if you suspect trouble or if you want advice in making your chicken’s living area healthier. Regularly check your chicken coop and run to make sure they are secure enough to keep out predators. Diligence is a necessary trait in a backyard farmer. No one, after all, knows your chickens better than you.


My Top 5 Reasons for Raising My Own Chickens…

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Today I thought I’d list some of the top reasons I personally think just about anyone should consider raising their own chickens…

(after reading the article, please share your own reasons for raising chickens by posting a comment at the bottom of this page! 😉 )

1. The eggs are healthier!

healthy eggs











Photo by artbystevejohnson

Eggs from properly raised “backyard chickens” are sooo much healthier than store-bought ones.

Chicken factory farms has one single goal: to make the chickens produce eggs as quickly and cheaply as possible. This results in an unvaried and unnatural diet and in many cases they will be given various hormones and antibiotics.

On the other hand, chickens that are allowed to forage freely, peck for insects and engage in their natural behavior will provide you with considerably healthier eggs, free from hormones or other unnatural substances and are brimming with nutrition!

2. The Taste!

Chickens eating a varied, nutritious diet will result in more flavorful eggs.

Many people who eat an egg from a properly raised “backyard chicken” will be surprised by the the strong flavors as well as the intense, almost orange color of the yolk compared to their store counterparts.

3. Garden Benefits!

plants in garden











Photo by celesteh

Chicken droppings enrich your compost. Chicken droppings are high in nitrogen. Added to the compost bin they add more nitrogen and improve your compost.

Chickens provide natural insect control. As they hunt and peck around the yard, chickens gobble up grubs, earwigs and other bugs, treating our garden pests as tasty, nutritious treats.

Even their scratching for bugs will benefit your garden by aerating the soil and breaking down larger pieces resulting in an accelerated decomposition process!

4. Chickens Are Fun & Educational

Chickens are extremely easy to raise. Essentially, all they need is space, food and shelter.

Believe it or not, raising chickens can also be a lot of FUN! Just like dogs or cats, every chicken has its own personality traits and just sitting down on your lawn watching them can provide a lot of entertainment 🙂

Lastly, raising chickens provides a great learning experience, for children and adults alike! You’ll also quickly notice how your values towards animals and the value of the quality of food and where it comes from change.

5. Freedom From the Industrial Food Industry

grocery shopping cart











Photo by qmnonic

In these uncertain times, moving towards self-sufficiency is a great goal and producing your own eggs is a great step in the right direction. If you’re into gardening, that can take care of a lot of your fruit and vegetables needs. Cows, sheep, and goats are too big and cumbersome for most yards, while chickens are small, relatively quiet, willing to eat just about anything, and they can produce a steady stream of eggs.

These are my own personal top reasons I love keeping my own chickens…

All the best,
John White

PS. Do you have your own top list? Share it here below by leaving a comment!