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The big advantage to having your own hens is the fact that the eggs taste so much better than store bought eggs, we now only use store bought when they have stopped laying due to the weather getting too hot, or if we need to make a bunch of hard boiled eggs (for deviled eggs usually).

As a general rule you do not want to start with less than 3 birds, chickens are very social animals and they can get a bit strange if they are alone for too long, with 3 birds if 1 dies the other 2 can keep each other company and help bring any new birds into the pecking order with less fuss.

We use old milk crates for our laying boxes, but then again we had an empty block shed when we bought the house, so our birds live in Fort Knox (block construction, metal door, fairly heavy welded wire fencing in the run, run covered with shade cloth and chicken wire to keep hawks out). Most of the material we have used for the chickens was re-purposed, scrounged, or given to us, so we were able to start really cheap.

For a brooder we use an old collapsible dog kennel with 1/4 inch hardware cloth about 6″ high around the sides to keep them in the brooder until they can look after them selves a bit better, although at the moment it is housing 2 pet rabbits until the baby rabbits go to their new homes in a couple weeks and they can be moved back into the normal hutch. We just use a heat lamp bulb in a cheap reflector lamp mount, temperature is adjusted by moving where the lamp is clipped on. As much as possible we do not use an artificial brooder, we just order day old chicks when a hen goes broody, and put a half dozen chicks that look alike under her the night the chicks arrive while removing the eggs at the same time, they don’t need much care after they have been adopted by a hen.