(This article contains affiliate links which means if you click on them and buy something, I may earn a little bit of money from it. This helps support this website and our farm so if you do purchase something through one of the links, I thank you for your support!)
I started with just 4 hens and it’s grown upwards of 300 at one point! So over the last few years I’ve had some pretty in depth experience raising laying hens. After all, selling eggs is what got us started making some income with the farm and is our main product still. Chickens are fairly simple to care for but once you start getting past 40 hens or so, it can get to be a decent amount of work especially in the winter when things are muddy and mucky.
Here I will list some tools, supplies and resources for raising egg layers.
Of course if you are going to have chickens you will also need to purchase feed. Even a free range flock will need to be supplemented with a layer feed that will fill in any nutritional gaps. There are several brands of feed. I have tried a couple of the more expensive brands compared with my normal more cost effective brand and haven’t noticed any difference in health and egg production.
For new chicks, you will want to purchase chick starter. Just go ahead and purchase a 40 or 50lb bag because it is so much cheaper than buying the smaller bags. Even if you only have a few chicks, they will eventually go through the bag of feed since you’ll be feeding them chick starter for the first 4 months or so until they begin to lay eggs.
Once your young hens begin to lay, you’ll switch to a layer feed. I personally like the pellets instead of the crumbles because I feel there is less waste with the pellets. Crumbles are…well…crumbly and there’s a lot more tiny pieces that can just get mixed in to the ground when they spill it.
My favorite brand in my area that is the most cost effective is Payback. No affiliate links on this one at the moment as it’s definitely going to be cheaper buying locally 😉
You’ll want to get an egg collection basket for collecting your precious eggs. A feed bucket will work too, but egg baskets are really nice because any loose shavings or straw are easier to clean out or they just fall out since it’s not a solid thing bucket. Make sure the basket is well made. The first larger baskets I bought at the feed store ended up breaking some of the welds on the wire bottoms which isn’t good when it gets heavy with lots of eggs! So choose a good sturdy basket. Keep in mind too that you want something that has a little give so the eggs don’t break too easily. (probably why this basket is thin wired). I’m thinking a good wicker basket may be something I will try. You can browse Amazon or check out your local farm store, or a store that carries wicker baskets.
DIY nesting box liners
Nesting box liners…I love having these because it’s so easy to just take the liner out, dump it and put new shavings in when cleaning out nesting boxes. You can also easily wash them out when needed. For our nesting boxes that we built, I just went and bought small rectangular plastic baskets (about 12×14) from Dollar Tree for $1 each. They have held up really well!
I don’t normally use supplements but when I do there are a couple go to ones. Nutridrench is one I use when I have sick birds or times when they might be stressed. You can feed some individually with a dropper or you can give it to the whole flock by adding it to their water. I generally try to take sick birds out and separate them, giving them a steady supply of nutridrench in their water until they are feeling better and then also add some to the rest of the flocks water to give them an immune boost and hopefully prevent more illness or at least keep it mild.
The other supplement I’ve tried and find that it seems to help, is Layer Boost. This is a powder that you add to the drinking water to help the hens with egg production. I don’t need this during the late Spring-Mid Fall but during the winter I figure they probably aren’t getting as much nutrition from the pasture and it seems to help up their production a bit.
One more that I have used, especially for chicks is an electrolyte mix. This has helped with chicks that don’t seem to be doing well shortly after bringing them home. I think it’s just always good to have electrolytes around for any of the animals.
If you are buying chicks, you’ll need heat lamps. There are those that frown on heat lamps because they can be dangerous if not used properly. I suggest having a metal tub/trough for your chicks and then hang the heat lamp above that. I hang mine with metal wire from something very sturdy and away from anything flamable and above the chicken wire top that I have on the chick trough. That way if it does fall somehow, it won’t fall down into the chicks, just onto the chicken wire top. One of these days I will probably fork over some money for a brooder plate, but until then I don’t mind using heat lamps as long as all the precautions are taken.
If you’re interested in brooder/heating plates:
There are a few types of feeders you can use. I suggest trying a couple different ones to see what you like best for your situation. You can do trough style or gravity feeders. Trough style will allow more chickens to eat at a time since they can line up on either side. Gravity feeders are circular and can only fit several hens around it to feed at a time so you may need a few of them depending on how many hens you have. The trough style can tend to waste more feed, plus you can’t fit as much feed in it as the gravity ones. I like the gravity hanging feeders since I can fill them with more feed without it getting knocked out onto the ground by the hens. There are lots of different feeders though, so I suggest checking out the different ones and their reviews on Amazon and go from there. I think the main thing you’ll want to look for is less wasted feed.
You’ll also want to buy smaller feeders for your chicks. For very small chicks, I would stay away from the feeders with the individual holes that they stick their heads in to eat until they get bigger. Chicks can get their bodies in there and get stuck. I had that happen once after someone telling me about that, and after that incident I’ve used a small trough style feeder with the top off for the chicks until they are big enough that they can’t get into the holes. Anything they can get stuck in is best to stay away from until they are bigger.
Just as with feeders, there are also a few different types of waterers you can get. There are these poultry drinkers. You can purchase these on Amazon (affiliate link below) or you can find something similar at your local farm store. I have a couple metal versions of these. My problem with the galvanized metal drinkers is that they do start to rust after awhile. I’m not a fan of that. A plastic one like this would probably last longer (this one has better reviews than the metal ones too!)
You can also buy the bucket drinkers with the nipples or drinking cups. This type you can also easily make yourself and save some money. I haven’t tried the drinking cups yet, but that is my next project as I love the idea of them and have heard good things. The main reason I might want the cups over the nipples is that during the summer if it gets really hot, they may not be able to get enough water at a time from the nipples. With the cups, they can dip their beaks in the water as they drink and cool off a bit more that way too.
I bought just the cups and plan on installing them either on a bucket or on a long pvc pipe that I would hook a hose up to so they have continuous auto water.
I have also made a bucket waterer with the nipples that the hens push up to drink from. I use these for my cornish cross meat birds and it works well. There are also horizontal nipples that you put on the side of the bucket instead of the very bottom. I haven’t used those yet, but I’ve heard they work well too.
The one drawback is that eventually some of the nipples may start to leak but they are so cheap to buy, you could easily replace any that start to give out. These are really nice though in that the water stays cleaner as the chickens can’t push shavings into it or poop in it. Just make sure you hang it where they can’t fly up and sit on the bucket, or put something on the top of the bucket so they can’t sit on it. My cornish cross meat birds don’t have that issue since they are too heavy to fly much lol.
You can definitely find these at your local farm store, but I’ve found it is much cheaper to buy them in larger amounts online. (amazon affiliate links below) And yes, I have bought mine on Amazon and they work just fine. I actually haven’t had any totally give out. I think a couple of them just need to be cleaned so the nipple doesn’t stick but I’ve had them for 2 years now.
You can use a few different types of bedding. The main ones are straw, pellets or shavings. My favorite bedding and for the nesting boxes is pine shavings. Shavings are nice and clean, easy to spread and pretty easy to clean out, and I love the smell!
If you have chickens, especially a lot of them, you will more than likely eventually encounter mites and/or lice. I just had an issue with red mites last year. A bad issue! We found out because when we would go collect eggs, suddenly there were little red mites crawling all over our hands/arms, etc. It was bad. I tried diatamacious earth, and I really believe in using that stuff, but I think it’s more for lighter infestations and best just for prevention.
When I went into the chicken stall (we used a 12×14 stall for their coop since there were around 160 at that time) at night with a flashlight, you could see those little buggers climbing all over. Thankfully red mites don’t stay on the chickens during the day. They nest in crevices and on their roosts, nesting boxes, etc… and come out at night to feed on the chickens blood while they roost. That made it pretty easy for me to lock the chickens out during the day and spray with Permethrin. And I sprayed everything!! Walls, inside the stall and outside, in crevices, soaked nesting boxes and roosts, and even sprayed the floor. It worked like a charm and so far (crossing my fingers) I haven’t had any more issues with mites.
I have read that only Elector PSP works really well at getting rid of mites and lice but it is so expensive! Maybe it works best for other types of mites and for lice, but I found that for the red mites we had, the Permethrin worked great and it is way cheaper and pretty much any farm store has it in stock.
You may or may not want to clip your hens wings. I don’t do all of mine, just the ones that tend to fly out of their pasture. However, even after clipping a wing, some hens will still figure out how to get enough air time to get out lol! All you need is a good pair of sharp scissors.