Guest post written by: Chris Lesley
Eggs can be a staple of a Paleo diet; they’re healthy, tasty, and easy to cook, which makes them a great option for many people.
When making a Paleo diet plan, raising chickens at home is an idea to consider, especially for those who plan to eat a lot of eggs. There are many amazing benefits to raising chickens for eggs at home, but it’s easy to make mistakes and lose some of the benefits as a result.
This guide will help beginners select the correct breed, set up their coop, develop proper feeding habits, and avoid common mistakes.
Breed Selection for Eggs
Not all eggs are equal, and the best eggs for a Paleo diet are free-range, pasteurized, and high in Omega-3. Eggs will also vary greatly depending on the breed selected, both in the number and appearance of the eggs.
According to Chris from chickensandmore.com, here are the best egg laying chickens around:
|Rhode Island Reds||5-6||Brown|
|Hybrids||5-6||Depends on Strain|
|New Hamshires||3 (Large)||Brown|
Eggs can also come in different colors: from the standard white or brown, to blue, green, or even pink.
The color of the egg is determined by genetics and generally is not an indicator as to the quality or nutrition level of the egg, which means that any color egg is suitable for a Paleo diet.
There are a number of important attributes and features a coop must have for healthy egg production, including…
- Room to Range: As mentioned before, Paleo eggs require that the chickens are free range. This means that the coop must have a run or pen of at least 8-10 square feet. The run can be closed in with fencing that is at least 2-3 feet high; making the fence higher can help keep predators out, but is not necessary to keep the chickens in. Chicken breeds like Hamburgs, Jaerhons, Leghorns, and Plymouth Rocks all love to free range, so if one of these birds is selected for egg production there should be no problem with a free range coop setup.
- A Feeder: Having free range chickens does not mean scattering feed all over the ground for the chickens to pick at. Putting the feed in a feeder keeps the food clean, and the chickens can still eat whatever they want, whenever they want. Don’t worry, chickens are great at managing their diets so they do not tend to overeat pellets and supplements – however treats can be problematic (more later on).
- Nesting Boxes: The coop should have enough nesting boxes so that three hens (and no more) share one nesting box. The boxes can be made of wood or other materials, and the dimensions should be 12×12 inches or bigger. Make sure they are also a safe distance from the ground so the hens are not at risk of falling.
- Adequate Lighting: All areas of the coop should be properly lit during daylight hours. For a hen to produce eggs, they must receive at least 14 hours of light per day, but will yield higher production in summer months when they receive 16 hours of daylight. Letting the chickens bask in the sun may suffice in the summer, but when winter hits artificial light will be needed or else production will cease. When using an artificial light source to reach the 14 hour minimum, it is best to turn it on earlier in the day (before sunrise) rather than later, and to use a warm wavelength bulb, rather than a cool wavelength bulb like LEDs.
- Appropriate Temperatures: While more durable breeds will produce regardless of temperature, others have specific needs. Generally, the coop should be kept between approximately 50 and 80 degrees Farhenheit. For those who live in colder climates, this will definitely mean investing in a heater for the chicken coop, or else egg production will be diminished.
Proper nutrition is essential for healthy chickens, from eggshell production to digestion. For starters, hens should be fed 16% layer feed. Supplements are also a wise option to ensure healthy laying.
Vitamin or electrolyte supplements can be provided once a month. Calcium can be provided daily with oyster shells, however it should not be mixed into the feed. Insoluble grit is another great supplement, however free range chickens generally do not need as much store-bought grit because they can get an adequate amount from rocks or pebbles they pick up from the ground.
Common Beginner Mistakes
Whether raising chickens for Paleo eggs or normal eggs, there are a number of mistakes that beginners can make. A few to avoid are:
- Overfeeding: can simply mean giving the hens too many treats and scraps. Whilst they will self-regulate feed they tend to indulge with snacks and this can cause problems. Overfeeding will stop egg production and in extreme cases will require a trip to the vet. Allow free range chickens to moderate their own diets, and don’t give them too many treats!
- Dirty Feeders or Waterers: Depending on the setup of the coop, dirt, bedding, and even feces can get into the food and water supplies–gross! Make sure to check and clean the feeders and waterers regularly, and consider changing the setup if they seem to constantly cause problems. For instance, raise them higher off the floor, or place them away from congested areas of the coop.
- Raising for the Wrong Reasons:Producing multitudes of fresh Paleo eggs from home is an awesome perk of owning chickens, but it is not the only consideration when buying. Owners should ask, how noisy is this breed? Do they require extra space? Will they only produce for a couple years, or many? Jumping into the egg production game based solely on the number of eggs produced per week could cause unforeseen problems, so doing thorough research prior to purchase is essential.
Raising chickens for eggs is not too hard!
As long as the hens are free range, have a proper coop setup, and receive enough feed, the eggs produced will fit into a whole foods Paleo diet.
If you want to learn more about raising chickens at home, check out our friends at chickensandmore.com,