Backyard Chickens

Grow Your Own Eggs

The ISA Brown chicken is a hybrid being a cross between Rhode Island Whites and Rhode Island Reds. The ISA Brown is actually of French origin with 'ISA' standing for 'Institut de Selection Animale'. This breed has gained popularity as a friendly backyard chicken which will most likely lay close to 300 eggs in its first year. It has an excellent temperament and will quickly become accepting of children picking it up for a cuddle. It has a single comb.

Because of the hybrid vigour of these birds, they are generally hardy and do not normally go broody. They continue to lay through most of the year and are quite economical to keep. An average-sized family probably needs only 3 to 5 chickens to supply its household eggs.

ISA Brown Chicken

Credit: Wikimedia

If you decide to keep ISA Browns, you will need a coop or pen. As a general rule, a chicken coop needs to be large enough to allow around 0.37 square metres per bird. Your chickens will need a shelter of some sort for protection from the elements and from predators. If your chickens can live under free range conditions so much the better but letting them out for a scratch and pick around will keep them happy and contented. Place some roosts in the shed so they have somewhere to sleep.

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Nest boxes can be placed in the shed and lined with straw. Some hens will lay wherever the mood takes them but one box for every five hens is a good rule of thumb. Replace the bedding occasionally. It will make wonderful compost. Care should be taken if spreading the bedding directly onto garden beds as fowl manure is very strong and can burn plants if placed too close to stems.

There are plenty of commercial feed mixes available specifically for laying hens or you can mix a mash with bran or pollard and water. Your hens will also appreciate vegetable scraps, weeds and grass from the garden. They should not be given meat scraps. Grain or pellets can be placed in a self-feeder if it is difficult to feed by hand each day. 'Feeding the chickens' is an easy job for children and will help teach them responsibility for other living creatures. They can also collect the eggs from these easy-going hens.

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Fresh water should be available at all times and water containers should be scoured regularly. An occasional handful of shell grit will provide calcium and help prevent problems with soft-shelled eggs. You can make your own shell-grit by collecting egg-shells when you cook. Once you have a reasonable number, place them on a tray in a warm oven. After twenty minutes turn off the heat and leave overnight. You can grind the shells and feed in a mash or just place them in a bowl in the yard. It is best not to feed the shells whole as this may encourage the chickens to eat their own eggs.

The first few eggs from pullets (first year hens) may be small in size and your flock will stop laying while they moult. A second year hen will lay between 190 and 200 eggs per year. Production drops off as the hens age. Chickens should be wormed about four times a year and, if you have problems with lice, the shed can be sprayed. If kept under as natural conditions as possible with attention paid to basic hygiene, your chickens should stay healthy and productive for some years.

If you're looking for productive, low maintenance, friendly chickens, ISA Browns are worth investigation.


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