Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: East Central Illinois
You guys can free range, if you want to, but why do you do this? I was on backyardchickens.com for about 2 years to really learn about chickens. (>100,000 members, btw.) When you free range, your chickens will lay where ever they feel like laying. You'll find missing eggs bc they will be rotten--THAT's not fun! I don't want to find THAT in my barn bc I barely have enough time to clean the cobwebs in my loft, much LESS find and clean up rotten eggs amongst my hay bales!
My friend who thought that free-ranging would cut down on feed costs and make his hens happy, came home to find the flock ripped up by raccoons. NOT a good death, Precious. I have a serious coyote problem, too.
You need about 3 nests in the coop for a flock of ~10 hens. They will probably prefer one of them and hardly use the other 2, but you should be building a coop that allow you easy access to the eggs. Unless a hen goes broody, they drop the eggs and forget about them, and don't mind you taking them. It will irritate your hens if you move them to get eggs while they are in the middle of laying, and they'll relocate where they lay if you do this routinely. I don't.
RIR's are probably the easiest breed to find that lay a lot of eggs. Generally they will lay 5-6 eggs/week in the summer, less in the winter. I replace my layers every year. I incubated eggs with 3 roosters this year, and we eat/freeze all of the young roosters. I have ~ 40 young birds right now, and will have more baby chicks next week. I intend to sell of some of my young layers to pay for feed this winter bc I'm going to have a lot. My 1st batch of chicks had more pullets than roosters.
Hope this helps.