Raising chickens in your own backyard can be a wonderful experience, and even urban dwellers can try this small act of self-sustenance. Imagine eggs in the morning and a fresh chicken on the table for dinner.
If you want eggs to eat, and not to hatch, you should hold off on buying a rooster. You will want to collect the eggs several times a day and refridgerate them immediately. Don't worry about the color of the eggs, they are exactly the same on the inside.
If you come across a nest and are unsure of the freshness, the best way to determine if it is safe to eat is by looking at it. Carla Emery says the egg will be "hard to crack because the membrane inside the shell has become tough. It may smell bad, and if you just start to crack the shell, yucky stuff may come oozing out." Or, try placing it in a pan of water: "Fresh eggs will lay on their sides on the bottom of the pan. If the egg's a few days old, one end will tip upwards. If stale, an egg will stand on end. If plumb rotten, it will float."
Fresh chicken meat is another satisfying and delicious perk of owning chickens, but comes at a price - you will have to kill the chicken. Assuredly, one would want to do this in the most humane way possible, with the least amount of distress for the chicken. Much more information on this matter can be found in the Encyclopedia of Country Living. Here are a two of the simplest ways it can be done:
Buy a killing cone: "You can mail-order a commercially produced killing cone from a poultry supplier or from a local farmsupply store or make your own."
To make a homemade killing cone
* Cut off the bottom of a 1-gal. plastic bottle.
* Cut about 2 inches from the top and handle.
Or, opt to hire out: Lots of communities have backyard chicken butchering entrepreneurs. You bring them live birds in the evening and pick up dressed, bagged, chilled chicken the next morning.