Theresa Loe is the multimedia powerhouse behind the Living Homegrown website. Not only is she an award-winning garden writer and veteran of print and video, she’s also the Co-Executive Producer for the popular Public Television series Growing a Greener World. Did I mention that she’s a home canning and food preservation expert?
With all of that going on, it’s amazing that she found the time to talk to me about the chickens she raises in her home garden, but I’m sure glad she did! (It helps that she’s a longtime friend and die hard multitasker.)
Theresa told me about the 5 beautiful chickens she has at home. During the day, they are allowed full run of her backyard garden on about 1/10th of an acre. As we talked, we started to recognize a common theme in some of the topics we discussed, and that led to Theresa Loe’s Top 5 Myths About Raising Chickens:
MYTH #1: You Need A Rooster to Get Eggs
Don’t laugh! This is one of the most common questions I get. The answer is no, you do not need a rooster to get eggs. You only need a rooster to get baby chicks.
Chickens are extremely easy! They just need food, water and a safe place to live that is protected from predators. What’s more, they are one of the only pets that make you breakfast! Who could ask for more?
MYTH #3: You Get Eggs All Year
Many people don’t know that chickens will slow down and then stop laying eggs in the winter when the days get shorter. They need about 12-14 hours of daylight per day to stimulate ovulation of their eggs. Commercial operations counter this by putting lights in the coops so that it simulates daylight. And some backyard chicken owners do this too.
Personally, I let my girls have a rest and I just buy eggs for about 2 months a year.
A chicken will be a great layer for the first few years of their life. Then their egg production slows down. Eventually, they stop laying altogether but they will continue to live for 2-4 years after that – sometimes longer! Some people consider their chickens livestock and so they have no problem eating them when they stop laying eggs. Others keep their chickens as pets and could never eat them. So this is something you need to consider if you choose to keep chickens.
Are they pets or not? There will come a point when they are no longer producing and so you will need to add to your flock every few years to keep a steady supply of eggs.
MYTH #5: You Can Have As Many Chickens As You Want
First, you need to check with your city ordinances to see if you can have chickens and if so, how many are you allowed to have. But beyond that, you should only keep the number of chickens that you can accommodate in a healthy manner. Too many chickens are not only destructive to your backyard, but they can get sick and eventually they start pecking on each other. It is just not good to over crowd them.
You should plan on each chicken having about 4 square feet within their coop if they free range all day (and are only using the coop to sleep and lay) or at least 10 square feet per chicken within their run if they are confined 24/7.
All photos provided by and used with the permission of Theresa Loe.