ISO Chickens are Truly Superchicks
Some people call them ISA brown chickens and others call them ISO Chickens – but by either name, they are indeed ISO chickens – the Egg-Laying Superchick! This chicken is not actually a breed – but one that was developed for high egg production. You can easily get lots of eggs – about 300-350 eggs a year from this prolific Superchick. They will start laying at about 5 months of age and continue until they are several years old.
They’re pretty ordinary looking – but, boy can they lay those nice brown eggs. Not only that, but they have a nice temperament and like being around us humans. They’re a great choice if you have kids that like to play with them.
This winning chicken is hardy and can live almost anyplace, and need very little care. The care they require is much like any other hens, and the rest of this article will be about chickens in general.
Want to know how to preserve and store all those beautiful brown eggs? Check out my Food Preservation guide!
Chickens that Lay Dark Brown Eggs
Here are 10 more backyard chicken breeds that are prolific egg -layers. When I started my chicken-raising adventure, I chose from these breeds and they have done wonderfully. I get almost the total number of eggs that I have chickens on a daily basis. Choose from any of these breeds (or mix them) and you will not be disappointed.
Rhode Island Red These girls can be raised for either egg production and/or meat. They are tough, so cold weather doesn’t seem to bother them. They typically lay about 250 brown eggs a year.
Golden Comets – Another great choice. They require a bit less food than some of the others, so they’re a little easier on the pocketbook. They will lay around 280 brown eggs per year. Golden Comets look very similar to the Isa Browns.
A favorite of mine. They have a speckled dark gray/white feather pattern and are very friendly. Expect these girls to give you about 200 brown eggs a year.
Sussex – This bird varies in color and lays brown to creamy white eggs. The most common color is white with back neck/tail feathers. She is very easy going.
Also a great egg layer, coming in at a little over 200 brown eggs a year. You’ll find these girls in silver laced or a brown/black color. One of these seems to follow me around and peck at my heels like she wants attention. She’s a sweetheart.
Maran – A dual-purpose chick that will give you about 200 dark brown eggs a year. Their appearance is similar to the Plymouth Rock, and they are also very gentle. Don’t expect to make a pet out of this girl, though. She’s not very tame.
Brahma – A large gorgeous bird that is white with and black markings. She will give you about 250 brown eggs a year. They are hardy and easy to care for.
Barnevelder – A predominantly black chicken with brownish-red tipped feathers. This one gives you brown speckled eggs – about 200 of them a year.
A great egg-laying girl that will provide about 180 eggs a year. She is very tame and has a nice golden yellow color.
Delaware – Last but not least – this girl is predominantly white with black markings. She will give you about 250 brown eggs every year.
What is a Chicken Run
A chicken run is simply a place for the chickens to get out the coop for fresh air and exercise. Many people like to free-range their chickens and I would like to as well. But, I’ve lost too many girls to predators, and in a SHTF situation, you can’t take the chance of losing those life-saving chickens.
I built my chicken coop with a small door that I can open and close by pulling a wire to either close them in for the night or run outside during the day. You absolutely, positively have to protect them from predators. Don’t you know that the whole world loves a chicken dinner – and the predators are no exceptions.
There are so many sizes and shapes of chicken coops, but I built my coop about the size of a portable storage building, I wanted to be able to walk inside to clean and care for them. In this building I also have a wall of rabbit cages. This keeps the rabbits from getting wet in rain and bad weather, and they get along great.
So, this building is completely enclosed to keep predators out. You’ll need plenty of ventilation and I’ve found that openings about 6” by the length of the wall will work well. You need as much ventilation as you can get in there – but remember to cover it with wire and nail it down. I keep metal trash cans with lids inside to store feed to keep me out of the weather. We also put a linoleum floor covering in the coop because it makes it so much easier to clean up.
BUILDING THE CHICKEN RUN
You’ll have to decide how much space you can use for the chicken run, and also how much money you want to put into it. I bought 1”x 1” hardware cloth for my run. We started by installing 4×4 posts and then dug out a ditch around the perimeter about 12” down. We put the hardware cloth into the ditch as far as it would go and attached it around the posts. Then we poured concrete into the ditch. This will insure the safety of the girls and everyone will be happy.
It’s a good thing because here in the Ozarks, we have all kinds of critters. We’ve even have a cougar hanging around the coop. After the concrete set up, we then finished attaching the hardware cloth all the way to the top. We used the corrugated plastic strips to cover the run to keep rain, snow, and predators out. It also gives them plenty of shade. Be sure to add a door to this enclosure, because you’ll want to be able to get in there for maintenance.
WHAT’S INSIDE THE RUN?
First and foremost, they need a roost. That’s where they sleep and they really love to climb to the top. Hint: If you put a heavy layer of wood chips under the roost, it will be much easier to clean up because they poop a lot at night.
Inside the coop is a good place to keep plastic bins with chicken feed or scratch. I also hang up a fly catcher that helps with those pesky little flies. It’s good to put their waterer inside the coop. For better health, you can add a small amount of apple cider vinegar to their drinking water.
Because we wanted to make it a play yard for the girls, we built a perch with several places they could hop up to. We also took an old tire and filled it for their dust bath. Don’t underestimate the need for this dust bath. It’s essentially their bathtub, and they get in there and dust themselves to get rid of fleas and mites. It’s fun to watch the dust fly when the iso chickens, the egg-laying superchick get finished.
To make the dust bath – mix equal amounts of wood ash, sand, and Diatomaceous earth. The Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring rock from fossilized remains that have been ground into a powder. Even though it feels like a powder to us, it actually has sharp edges that kill the mites and fleas…which keeps the girls happy. CAUTION! CAUTION! Handle this very carefully and don’t stir it up to where you are breathing it. DO NOT GET THIS IN YOUR EYES, NOSE OR THROAT. It isn’t poison or anything, but it will sure sting and itch you to death. It doesn’t seem to bother the chickens though.
You can actually put diatomaceous earth in water and drink it yourself – and many people do – they use it for parasites. Just wear gloves when you are handling it and whatever you do, don’t breathe it. FYI – You can also sprinkle it on your plants to keep pests away.
We also hung a 2nd waterer inside the run in case they get thirsty and are too lazy to go inside to get a drink.
We also built a garden box inside the run, planted grass and covered it with hardware cloth. This allows grass to grow but the chickens can’t get to the roots to destroy them. It keeps them busy pecking at it, and also gives them live green nutrition.
Wood Chips for Chicken Run?
Yes, wood chips are great for the chicken run as long as they are not treated with any chemicals. If you can have a tree service bring you a load (or several loads) of wood chips, they will come in handy for many things in the garden. And the tree service people love to have a place to get rid of them. The chickens love to scratch around in the chips and look for bugs.
What do Chickens Eat Naturally?
Free-range chickens eat a ton of bugs and worms. If you have a tick problem, just turn a few chickens loose in the yard for a while. They will consider it a bug picnic. The girls will also eat most anything in your garden, so don’t let them get in there if you want to save your crops. They love to find seeds, plants and I’ve even seen them fight over a mouse.
I feed the chickens a 16% layer mix. It has the nutrients needed for good egg production. This should be started when they are about 18 weeks old. They love all to eat all my kitchen vegetable scraps, and also anything out of the garden. My girls love spaghetti squash, and I usually give them half of one in the mornings for a breakfast treat. They also love broccoli and cauliflower – but most any vegetable.
I don’t give them meat or cooked food, but I do make an exception for one thing. Whenever I make spaghetti, I cook a little extra for the girls. They love spaghetti – guess they think it’s worms?? It’s fun to see the fight start when I take spaghetti out to the run. It’s good to add a handful of crushed oyster shells into their mix for some additional calcium. And, to keep them healthy, I add some apple cider vinegar into their water occasionally.
Keeping the Coop Clean
I really like my girls, but they are not the best housekeepers in the world. It’s a dusty and dirty job, but it’s important to keep the coop as clean as possible. I put wood shavings on the floor and also under their roost, which makes clean-up so much easier. The wood shavings are great because they make it easy to clean up and also they can be scooped into the chicken manure bin for your garden fertilizer. And I keep their waterer up on concrete blocks to keep them from crapping on it and in the water. This waterer is placed about head-high for them and it’s easy for them to get a drink of water when they need it.
I can’t really say I’ve had a lot of health problems. If you practice cleanliness and give them good food, they are pretty easy to care for without problems. And again, for good health, don’t forget to add a small amount of apple cider vinegar to their water.