Ten Commandments for Raising Chickens, Part I

Tips from MOTHER EARTH NEWS' veterinarian for raising chickens at your homestead, small farm, or even back yard.

| January/February 1981

Chickens are, in my opinion, ideal livestock critters for the beginning homesteader or backyard farmer. More and more folks are discovering that raising their own poultry can provide them with all the fresh eggs they could ever want —and lots of tasty fried, roasted, or stewed chicken as well—frequently for a fraction of the commercial variety's cost!

What's more, the homegrown cluckers won't reach your dinner table filled with growth stimulators, hormones, antibiotics, and whatever else goes into storebought poultry these days. And their eggs will actually be fresh with rich yellow yolks that stand right up in the frying pan.

In addition, a backyard flock can provide a good supply of manure for the compost pile or garden, and you can even use your friendly fowl for pest control (especially in the fruit orchard).

And, perhaps most important of all, raising chickens is really pretty easy. In order to establish your own flock, you'll just have to set aside a bit of space, build a small coop, obtain a few birds, and follow my ten commandments of poultry care ... five of which are given in the following paragraphs.

I. Recognize Your Market

The kind of chickens you select will depend upon your purpose in raising them. Today—thanks to the ingenuity and selective breeding efforts of scientists and poultry fanciers—the birds are available in all sizes, shapes, colors, and feather patterns (there's a total of 350 different combinations). But generally speaking, chickens can be divided into four main classifications: the egg-layers, the meat makers (broilers), the dual-purpose birds (meat and egg producers), and the exotic or exhibition breeds.

Each general type of fowl is represented by various breeds, which in turn comprise several varieties apiece. Breed is a term used to categorize a group of individuals whose characteristics can be passed on to future generations. A va riety—on the other hand—is a class of birds, within one breed, that differ from other varieties of that breed ... usually by only one characteristic. For example, the Buff Orpington and the Black Orpington are of the same breed (Orpington), but are different varieties within that breed (the differing characteristic in this case is color: one variety is black, the other is buff).

11/19/2007 12:53:25 PM

I have a problem with an egg pecker. I had only rhode island reds when the problem started and I thought I'd removed the problem chicken. Now I have acquired some game hens and a couple of dominique hens. I should be getting around 6-7 eggs per day but am not getting any. I've tried fake eggs, moving the nests, separating hens, oyster shell supplements, etc. Nothing works. They are "free range" and have access to greens and forage all day along with being fed scratch grains and laying pellets daily. I've heard of a box plan that allowed the egg to drop immediately into a box below the hen and out of her reach. I cannot find this plan anywhere online and was wandering if someone has any ideas. Please email me any links or advise to

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: August 4-5, 2018
Albany, OR

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard