If you are comfortable working with wood, then you can secure coop plans and do the construction and sourcing of materials yourself. Many prefer to buy a coop that is easy to assemble. It is easier, and you will be sure everything lines up correctly. There are great chicken coops available. Buying a chicken coop will secure your chickens for a long time. Ready-made coops also have better designs and should be a more cost-efficient housing for your chickens.
There are many to choose from online. If you are handy, and you have recyclable materials in your backyard restoring a Rural Backyard , you can always draft your own coop plans and construct it from scratch. Be sure to have some buffer time just in case you fail to construct a working coop for your chickens. Be mindful of predators in your area. Coyotes, bobcats, hawks, raccoons, and other predators can easily access your chickens from the top.
No matter what breed or different types of chickens you decide to keep, you must still consider how to protect them from the weather, including rain, hail, sleet, snow, cold and heat. One of the best ways to feed chickens is just to let them loose and allow them to feed off from your backyard. When you raise free range chickens, you are giving them more space and the freedom to source food on their own.
This is a good option especially if you have a sizable backyard as this can significantly reduce your food expenses for the chickens. This option, when complemented with organic feeds, also assures you with an organic chicken which should provide healthier eggs and meat. Many people give their chickens their leftover produce, including watermelon and lettuce. If a free range flock is not practical due to predators, terrain or space, chickens are easy to feed.
Another option is to give your chickens Complete Feed. You can get it at a feed store. This will help you ensure you are giving your flock a nutritionally balanced diet. You can supplement their diets with Scratch Grains. You can spread them on the ground for the chickens to forage.
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Some examples include rolled, cracked, or whole grains, such as wheat, oats, barley and corn. A hen already laying eggs demands another kind of food with a different composition. A layer feed has higher calcium content. This may prevent the chicks from getting the disease but will not offer complete immunity. This feed is used from the 6 th week of the chicks the time they leave the brooder to their 14 th week.
To make sure that the chickens are eating properly, buy and install a feeder for them. You will appreciate having a feeder, especially in the colder winter months or when you go away for a weekend. You have to consider the fact that different chicken breeds have different appetites so you need to be sure that you are not feeding them too much or too little. In the hotter months the chicken can consume less food while in the winter months, chicken tend to eat more. This will save you time from having to change out and refill the water daily.
Make sure that your chicken coop is always clean. This should prevent diseases to hit your flock. This will also ensure your chickens are always clean, should your children touch them. Sanitation is important as it can affect the overall health and mood of the chickens. Even when you clean regularly, wash your hands after any contact with the birds, coop, after feeding, etc. Remember to wear a mask when cleaning the coop and its outside spaces to prevent you from inhaling the dust and feathers of the chickens. This includes steps like clearing the coop with all the bedding and hosing down all the surfaces.
Most of the coop kits you can buy online are easy to hose down. This keeps parasites in control in the cold months. This is when the hens have to stay confined inside their coop. You have to remember that chickens will drink more water when it is clean and less when it is dirty. Managing chicken manure is all about minding the bedding. Consider that it absorbs both the manure substance and the moisture that goes along with it. This can be a huge source of problem when you are dealing with heat, moisture, and also humidity.
The solution is just to make sure there are enough pine shavings inside the coop. In the meantime, pine bedding must be stirred regularly to make sure the manure is not left on the top of the bedding. You can easily toss new pine shavings to the coop to make sure there are enough absorbent materials in there. The first thing you need to be mindful of is to make sure that the nest box in the coop is always clean. This minimizes the risk of soiling the eggs too much even before you have the chance to retrieve it.
The more hens you have inside the coop, the more nest boxes you need to have in there to prevent egg overcrowding. Too many hens sharing on the same box can force other hens to lay eggs outside the coop. Incubation for Beginners by Brinsea, Inc. Also consider your area of land and if you can consider miniature cattle breeds and a livestock guardian animal to complete your homestead. Once you plan out your space, the chicken breed, and how many chickens you will have, you can decide if keeping a rooster is for you.
This backyard chickens for beginners tip can help you get the most from your hens and their eggs. Your email address will not be published. Last Updated on May 1st, Raising backyard chickens for beginners is exciting and very rewarding. Either way, chickens can give you joy, a sense of fulfillment, and eggs. While it may be overwhelming in the beginning, there are many tips to make things go easier.
Backyard Chickens for Beginners The most common questions people ask is if chicken rearing is easy, and if it can it be done on a shoestring budget. After that, everything about raising chickens can be self taught — no special training needed. Backyard Chickens for Beginners What are backyard chickens? Comparing the Best Chicken Swings Keeping chicks is a rather trending backyard project today as people are more concerned where their food comes from. Chickens are easy to feed Backyard chickens are omnivores which makes them easy to feed.
They can eat grains, fruits, vegetables and insects. This also gives them a boost to lay more eggs. Chickens are easy to take care of You can shelter and house adult chickens in a DIY chicken coop and if you prefer to free range them, you can also integrate a chicken run with the coop. These tips can make it a lot easier for you to start and sustain your chickens. Something to consider is how many chickens you want to have and how much room they will have. Consider areas in which chickens will need to ensure long winters with cold temperatures.
Choose the chicken breed In addition to considering the climate, there are other factors to consider. Known to be a breed for laying eggs, this chicken can produce brown eggs. Wyandotte The Wyandotte is another chicken breed that is seen to be dual purpose for eggs and meat. They are known to have a good disposition and are available in different colors. Ameraucana The Ameraucana is available in many colors. It lays green eggs and can produce more for a longer period of time compared to other breeds.
This breed is easy to handle and can tolerate all kinds of climates very well. Orpington Another easy-to-raise chicken breed is the Orpington. It has many color varieties and ideal for cold places. Choose chicks or adults Decide if you want to start with chicks or adult chickens. This is your preference. Some of the key things you need to consider are the cost. Chicks you raise together may get along better than adding chickens who are already grown.
I had a small flock of free ranging barred rock hens that kept my RV free from spiders and earwigs for most of this spring, until a pair of raccoons mistook me for Colonel Sanders one night last week. The survivors ended up in the pen with the caged flock and I am attempting to acquire a real coonskin hat. Keeping livestock, and keeping them safely, can be a real challange, but it is a rewarding experience, and not simply in the food provided. Keeping livestock will teach you things. We live in Brooklyn NY. And we were as far from dealing with chickens as we are from China.
But when I was diagnosed with cancer, someone suggested that we get layers. There were several reason other then obvious to have fresh eggs why we had to have them. I am cancer free today and I think my beautiful darlings, my chicks contibuted alot. Thank you for your Guid. I think it is great. You did fantastic job putting things together. Thank you. I know a few Chicagoans who have rooftop coops, but they raise them with terrifying feed.
I am not sure if I would eat these types of chicken eggs either. I will have to keep my eye open the next time I am in town! Unfortunately, most point-of-lay hens from commercial suppliers will have been debeaked…. Another option is to talk to the egg and chicken meat sellers at the farmers market. That is where we are getting ours. Some folks looked at us like we were aliens when we asked so we just kept asking until someone was excited that we wanted some. They even came to our wedding! Good stuff. Here in Oregon, the local farm Co-Op often gives away free chicks with every bag of chicken feed in the spring.
You can get a sizeable flock started by simply buying the necessary feed. Something to check into. Check with your local farm extension office for information about opportunities in your local area. Better than feed, and greener too. Chickens are loosely livestock. Craigslist allows the selling of livestock. My dad has taken on chickens and houses them in a chicken tractor. This is incredible! I have been considering having chickens when I get a house, and its great to have this as a resource.
Thanks for putting together all of this research and including links and references. I look forward to someday owning my own chicken. Really curious about this one. And I eat 2 — 3 eggs for breakfast almost every single day, so I buy a lot of them. Can anyone tell me how that cost would compare to getting eggs from my own backyard chickens instead? Wow, I guess I am lucky! And yes they are pastured raised chicken eggs.
My bro lives in Wrigleyville…. Those of us who know want those, and the demand is extremely high for them. The yolks are indeed orange in varying shades, but nowhere near the bright yellow of conventional eggs. As for cost-effectiveness, I have 9 chickens and 4 ducks and go through about a 50 lb. It depends on the size of the eggs how much they charge. I just found a farm that says they have orange egg yolks! If you live in Michigan then buy your eggs from Crestwick Farms!!
My goodness that is a lot! Fortunately for me, the backyard-egg market in upstate SC seems to be in a supply glut lately. The flavor of those eggs makes no going back to store bought eggs again.
ALL double yolks! I am on a mission. A mission to eat an orange egg yolk. We have three backyard chickens to go with our three 6 and under boys. We get eggs per day one of the girls is not as good of a layer so, a little over a dozen per week. We have raised our own chickens for the last three years.
Raising Chickens A Beginner's Guide to Chickens | The Old Farmer's Almanac
We currently have nine and a rooster. Our kids take care of them. We keep a red light on in the winter and production drops to 2 eggs in the cold weather. They go ALL over the yard, and I advise getting a rooster as he does a great job keeping the girls in line when they get very snippy. Good luck! Still… I do not have direct experience with all aspects of chicken rearing. But my dad had a small flock when I was in high school.
It was one of those things where my four-years-younger brother and his friends brought home colored Easter chicks and ducklings from someplace or other a church? He built a coop and he set them up a little area where they could run around and do chicken and duck stuff. The ducklings turned out to be female mallards. He fed them, he watered them, he mucked things out. And of course chicks are more work than adults. To be fair, having a stationary coop is what all small farmers did.
Maybe some moved the flock from paddock to paddock a la Joel Salatin. Not the folks I knew as a kid, though, grandparents and such. So you wound up with stripped ground in the end. But wow, the eggs were still really good. Anyways, something to factor into the decision-making process. Certainly not as bad as dog or cat poop.
It just has to be handled properly. Bad smell is a sign of bad management. I use the Deep Litter Method, raked daily, and have a well-ventilated coop and the chickens are free-ranging all day , so little smell. As I type this, my hens are out there — making quite the racket. So, they can be quite loud. It may be too loud for your neighbors. I do some chicken sitting. Always thought I wanted my own, but they are a lot of work, are too noisy for neighbors and predators are a constant worry.
If you have the time and money go for it. They are delicious. I have only so far seen one humane set-up. Most people slap a wood house together and fence and call it a coop. You need to really have room and give them humane living conditions — much more than you think! If you have a dog…you can easily train it to ignore the chickens and protect them at the same time.
We keep chickens free range here in Western NC, have two yard dogs and have never had attrition from predators.. In fact, it is common to catch the chickens pecking around the sleeping dogs, while the cats nap nearby. They are all friends! Depends on the dogs.
I have kept chickens in the past but now have two lurchers. They would kill them instantly. You gotta get the dog as a puppy and train it from day one against eating chickens. Mutts are pretty much a wash. I mentioned in another comment here that my dad raised chickens when I was in high school. We also had a dog. She was the reason we had one of our chickens for dinner in the spring before I left home. It takes persistence but is probably possible for most dogs. This is my first year raising chickens, we have 15 of them.
Other than them pecking at my toes while wearing my 5 fingers or flip flops I love having chickens! Going to have to find someone to take a few off our hands. A friend of mine in a busy neighborhood of San Jose, California where I recently moved from has a pretty normal sized backyard which she converted into a little paradise. She raises chickens from chicks under a warm light in the garage. To keep them and the cherries safe, she laid a net on top of all the trees to create a huge canopy.
She used to be my egg supplier. I hope to someday start a chicken coop. I mean… free eggs on a daily basis? On a side note… my parents good friends are raising 7 chickens and they love it. Very intriguing.
Your article very well written, with loads of great resources. Chickens are highly underrated pets!! Our chickens are immensely entertaining great for stress relief and relaxation! They primarily eat bugs, kitchen scraps of all kinds and anything else they find in the yard. Their favorite treats: mealworms, ground beef and watermelon! There is virtually no odor and just a few flies that hang out around the hen house. Nothing too bad. Easy enough to snip the flight wings and problem is solved.
Not only do they provide delicious eggs, but they are incredibly amusing and entertaining. In my opinion, there are few better ways to spend the evening than with a glass of wine, sitting in the garden, watching the chickens strut about eating whatever goodies they find. Owning my own chickens is a dream of mine, along with living in a rural setting.
Friends who have their own seem to love it, and the chickens themselves, strangely enough. Just a quick comment on the legality aspect. Even if backyard chickens are allowed, be sure to check additional zoning ordinances. For example, the search tool at backyardchickens. That automatically prevents coops in my city for anyone living on a lot less than say 65 or 70 feet wide.
We have a similar restriction in my town San Diego County , however my chicken tractor is only 2X8 feet with the coop on top and it is mobile so therefore not a permanent coop structure. You can usually work around the limitations if you think creatively. I will say the chickens have taken over the yard and it is a fair amount of maintenance to keep things tidy and poop free, however they make me smile and I love that they come running when I get home and hunker down for a good scratch.
Seems to keep them happy too and they lay more eggs when I give them personal attention. I even bought them a covered turtle sandbox to bathe in, which they love. Talk about spoiled! Hey Mark, What is your source. I live in the Los Angeles area and would love to get some good chickens and eggs.
I have completely free range chickens that put themselves away at night. The coop has an electric door that opens in the morning and closes in the evening. We hatch a clutch or two a season. Keep the hens and eat the roosters after about 5 months. We lost a few babies early on to a fox and a hawk. Having an active large rooster helps protect them from predators also as he warns. Not only do they get all the bugs, grass, and organic feed, but they are happy.
Even the roosters are loved and treated with respect until its time to go. I really think the hapiness makes them even healthier for my family. If you have neighbors close by, look for breeds that are listed as quiet. By far, our loudest and noisiest hens are the Rhode Island Red and Polish. The noisy birds will chatter all throughout the day and can be loud at times.
That happened to me. Anyone out there know which breeds are quiet? It makes quite the racket. Lucky for us our neighbors are all stay-inside-with-the-AC-on types. When they were young and really gung-ho about laying, I was getting 9 eggs a day. I probably spend less than 5 minutes a day caring for them. This chart mentions how noisy each breed typically is. Add us to the list of backyard chicken farmers. I confess to feeding them less-than-optimal feed in the winter; soy-free feed is hideously expensive.
We give them scraps, freezer and refrigerator dregs, mice we catch in our kitchen, meat drippings, lots of stuff along with the feed. And God help any toad, salamander, or baby snake who gets in their way. Of course, we live in a small city in the Midwest, where we have farm supply stores, that very likely makes a difference. It is very satisfying to watch the chickens consume vast quanities of Japanese beetles this time of year. We pick hundreds off of the grape vines and dump them into the chicken pen mass chaos follows. It depends, I have a golden retriever named Bear a bird dog, no less!
The first time our golden saw the baby chicks he could not stop drooling. A bunch of them got out one day while I was at work, and I came home after dark to a very worried Bear, who paced between me and the coop. I got them back in, and started letting them free-range after that. When I brought our other dog Winston, the sheepdog home, Bear taught him the ropes, so he has never bothered the chickens. One of the kelpies had a go at new batch of pullets so I pinned her head to the ground and mr. Working dogs are quick learners.
Chickens are too much fun! Just like keeping a hamster in the house, always have bedding available for your chickens. Dry leaves, straw, weeds, lots of material goes into the coop and pen. We have no smell, no flies, and the slowly building compost hosts worms and other critters that the chickens periodically scratch down to and eat.
Obviously I could go o;, I do so love the eggs we get! Thanks Mark, and grok on! No, seriously. My husband and I have gone to large egg farms to buy chickens for our home. We live in Texas, and the warehouse chicken farmers rotate their stocks often and I have bought chickens for a nickel a piece. They are usually just your white leghorn variety. I also loved buying the exotic hens from catalogs that gave blue, green, and sometimes speckled eggs. Those are always cool to show to your friends who think eggs only come in styrofoam boxes at the grocery store. And last, but not least…always get a rooster.
Fertilized eggs just take better. I bought 2 cartons and 5 blocks of pasture Butter. Have considered raising them, but was discouraged by the disease factor I could be introducing to my backyard and the smell factor! We have four children and have never had an issue. We have also raised pigs, cattle, goats, sheep. You simply teach good handwashing. We also have a basset hound so total free range of the backyard is a no go. Tractor works perfect for us. Try to relax about germs, especially salmonella.
209 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Backyard Chickens”
Chickens that are free-ranged and small farm raised rarely have problems with this. Due to the fact that they are not confined and overwhelmed by their own waste. You will need to keep their coop litter clean and their nest boxes, too. But, I would not worry so much. This way.. And, out of the garden in the summer. During the winter, they pretty much have the run of the property…because kids are not running barefoot around and there is no risk with the garden issue.
We have less problems with pests,especially ticks.. Chickens love ticks! Actually I am plenty relaxed about germs. We are organic. I have heard that before about commercial chicken farms vs. A few birds in your backyard should absolutely not smell. I usually wash my eggs before using them. As far as landscaping, they will scratch the ground and eat some plants, so if pristine landscaping is important to you, just keep them contained. Kids and chickens are great together, I have friends with kids and nieces and nephews who visit and they love the chickens and have never gotten sick.
Not sure where you are coming from as I was raised with chickens and many other farm critters like much of the world used to live and still do. You will catch a nasty bug and smell more foul stench from your fellow humanoids than you ever will from living more naturally. As far as landscaped yards go hopefully not fertilized in order to get that way keep them in a run and do some controlled free-ranging. Fence areas where they are not allowed, not that hard. If you have ANY mulch in your landscape forget about keeping it in place. The moment you rake it back to where it belongs your chickens will kick it back out.
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO KEEPING CHICKENS IN AUSTRALIA
But if you can free range them in a separate part of your yard they are great! I come from two farming families. I was around chicken and pig poop from time to time. It weirds me out the way everyone gets nutty about salmonella but they still drive around in cars. Check the stats sometime on how many people die from car wrecks annually in the U. I believe even the flu death rate is higher. Weston Price documented that tuberculosis-exposed Swiss who were still eating their traditional diets were far less likely to contract the disease than city Swiss who ate a lot of industrial food.
Something to think about: the best way to protect your loved ones is to feed them right, not keep them in a bubble. It comes down to population density. We also wash our hands after handling our chickens, collecting eggs or handling our outside rabbit. For a healthy, functioning immune system, children need to be exposed to dirt and microbes. Trying to keep your little darlings isolated from germs is an unwinnable war. Bad smells are the result of bad management. Look into the Deep Little Method for bedding in the chicken house. You do need sufficient space and lots of ventilation for chicken health, and that will also mitigate smell.
I raised chickens in the County when I owned a home way back in the woods. I started with them in a coop, but some animal kept getting to them so I let them roam free in my yard. They had a better chance of flying a little ways …they roasted on my front porch, which I had to scrub each day. I could not kill them, but I did enjoy the eggs, of course some I did not use and I enjoyed watching them hatch…the lil yellow fuzzy things that they were ….
I am so interested in doing this next year. This year, we had a baby instead of baby chickens. Mark, for climates like ours I live in Santa Barbara I let my chicks outside in a pen at week 3, but mine always seem to be hugely independent at week 2. They get a light until week 8 at night. Also, my hen is laying on 6 eggs currently, if anyones interested in chicks, they are due to hatch in 1.
Or brooding a clutch of eggs. Fun fact: chickens sit in the nest as they prepare to lay, but when they finally get the urge, they stand up to lay the egg. A smaller number is easier to contain at night. I encourage anyone with acreage to have a flock of free-roaming hens. Dogs are a problem, and must be carefully trained to protect the flock from varmints but otherwise leave the chickens alone. I have two good dogs now, but in the past have had problems, and it can be heartbreaking to make the choice between a dog and your chickens.
Some breeds are better than others around livestock. Another caveat: Make sure you do not purchase roosters unless you love loud crowing from 3 am onward. I love my chickens. Have had them for a few years, and they offer up eggs, pest control, fertilizer, and hilarity. Once the coop is built, they really are low, low maintenance. They fit perfectly within the primal way of eating, and you can fine tune what you feed the chickens to get ideal yolks and whites.
I have plans for a couple of original coop designs and write a blog all about coop construction tips and other creative ideas. Hope you find it helpful. Nothing beats the feeling of sticking it to the industrial farming culture when we can! I have a collection of 6 hens, two roos, an australian shepherd and a four year old son. We play with our chooks a LOT, and if you raise them properly, the salmonella issue, again, yawn. Mountains from molehills. Common sense at work here, not rocket science! I have a largish lot.
My rawfed dog poop lasts longer and smells more in the yard than the birds doo-and his poo lasts all of three days tops. My neighbor actually asked to please NOT get rid of my two roos, only one crows, but she said they so enjoy hearing him in the mornings. You may be surprised at the reaction they get. We have chickens in our backyard and I love it!
Sometimes they can be really loud but so far none of our neighbors has complained. They do wake me up in the morning- and these are hens not roosters. I love my chickens, too. I adopted two Light Brahma hens two years ago on the 4th of July. They are definitely hilarious and immensely smart. My son, who is now 13, adores them.
They are friendly, comical, beautiful and their eggs are amazingly delicious! Build an insect trap into, or adjacent to, your coop, using a black light, to supply your chickens with free food. There are definitely pros and cons. Keep in mind I only have 4.
First off, once you factor in the cost of the coop, the chickens, the feed etc etc. This was worth the cost for me. Raising chickens is a commitment. Again, worth it. My chickens are rabid carnivores. They eat all my kitchen scraps but go for the meat first. Then, once every couple of days, I throw the chickens some worms. They freak out over them. Also, believe it or not, they LOVE tuna. All 4 chickens lay an egg every day when they get meat — if I only give them grain and grit, they start to get pissy. I had to build a larger pen to keep them in after that.
They also need access to greens so in went the weeds and grass clippings etc. They eat everything. I also give them flaxseed. Oh, and they eat all the black widows in my backyard. Disease is an issue—a friend of mine is trying to raise chickens locally, and has lost so many of them to illness. An article about it in the NY Times—something to be aware of.
We LOVE our girls. Some friends are using it and their ladies seem to love it. The problem for me is having to slaughter after the birds are done laying. But by this time they are cherished pets with names. Free roaming laying hens are very, very tough birds to eat by the time they are done laying! You can make soup out of them though. If you want the delight of free-roaming birds and daily eggs WITHOUT the problem of bubble-gum consistency chicken poop on your lawn and on the bottoms of your shoes then might I recommend ducks?
Duck eggs are awesome worth twice the carbs and fat of a chicken egg and duck poop is very wet which means that it hits the grass in liquid form and quickly dries to a powder and disappears or the rain gets it. Ducks have a fabulous personality and ponds are not required. Laying ducks are either Khaki Campbells or Runners and both are a hoot to get to know. Winter can be tough because they make an icy mess in a water bucket in winter! We let our ducks roam 8 of them but our yard became a layer of duck goo, so we sent them to a new home with a pond. Duck eggs are way healthier than chicken eggs AND taste better, too.
Ducks are generally more intelligent and better able to drive off small predators though you still definitely want to have safe place for them at night. Most chickens only give full yield of eggs for 1 year. They also tend to lay larger eggs. These are the ducks most laying farms typically use. I bought our 5 ducks at 9 months old, they had been laying for 2 months. You know, I had read this about ducks as well. I have a question about the mealworm option. I followed the link for raising mealworms, and they are fed with grains.
Anybody have any thoughts on alternative food for mealworms? They are shipped by mail, and I love the post office call at a. Just a little bit in their drinking water, and some diluted in a spray bottle and sprayed all over the coop once a week and there is almost zero manure smell. Now… Do you think you would be able to kill and eat the ladies afterwards…? I personally would see them as partners, pets, nothing more. Great topic! Funny this post should appear today, we just picked up 5 new chicks today. Its really cute. We get eggs per day, but will soon be geting when these girls start putting out in the fall.
Just chiming in with the chicken lovers. Currently we have about 50 birds, mostly chickens, but also ducks, geese, and turkeys. They roam our 2 acre property during the day although I do try to keep them out of the gardens , and are looked in coops at night to protect them against fox and coyotes.
We do have the occaissional hawk kill, but not too often. Homesteading and loving it in the NJ Pine Barrens. My neighbors keep three pet hens — I love the sounds.
Growing food, hanging laundry outside, and keeping a few rabbits or ducks or chickens seem to me to be basic human rights. I get my pastured eggs from a lady who raises chickens in her hilly backyard, she has about 60 of them. If anyone else wants to do this, I wish them all the luck in the world.
My parents did this when I was a kid, and it was disgusting. You have to be willing to wade through chicken crap on a daily basis to collect the eggs and to fight the chickens for them. You have to be willing to clean your chicken shed regularly, which will be covered in crap again as soon as you do. Chickens are the best pets I have ever had. I have had chickens on a double urban lot of about half an acre for a few years now. I have 20 and they wander all up and down our dead-end street visiting neighbors, many of whom are elderly and immigrants from Asia who grew up in more rural settings.
They get very nostalgic when the hens wander in their yards and hearing the roosters crow in the morning. By some miracle we have not had issues with raccoons, raptors or coyotes even though we know they are plentiful around Seattle where we live. We have a variety of breeds and get all different colors and sizes of eggs with fabulous rich deep yellow yolks. We let the occasional broody hen hatch a few eggs from time to time, and give them to friends or keep the more personable ones.
Interestingly we have some that travel in a pack of at a time and then some that dont mind being solitary, although they will occasionally hang out with the others. The roosters are fascinating to watch — they shepherd the small groups of hens around, point out food and keep watch while the ladies eat. They live in harmony with my dogs, free-ranging rabbits and cats. I feel very fortunate to be able to maintain this little farm in the city and expose my son to the joys of personally investing in some of our own food sources.
Well…this is interesting. Looks like I am now the proud owner of 2 chickens :D. The hens were another story—. But I really enjoyed reading about the roosters. The crowing started anywhere around AM, and even tho we lived smack-dab in the middle of Los Angeles, at that time the roosters were still OK to have. And we still had incinerators to burn our trash so that tells you how long ago this was! The big bonus was the eggs — our family grew vegetables and traded fresh produce for fresh eggs with our very dear friends across the street.
Those eggs were unbelievable — the yolks were a deep, dark, bright, redish orange. After our friends passed away, their kids took over the property and the hens eventually disappeared mostly because city ordinances changed. Chickens are a lot of work. I grew up on a farm. Glad you mentioned grit and oyster shells too! But I have looked into the laws here in Columbus, Ohio. Weirdly, you are not allowed to compost your chicken manure! Pine shavings as bedding is the way to go. It is not really cost effective once you add organic feed, which is times more expensive than regular feed.
I buy the regular feed, but my chickens eat lots of table scraps, bugs, worms, and even meal worms. So their conventional feed is just a little filler, and a bag lasts a long time. Paper absorbs a lot of urine and gets damp and smelly unless you add to it several times a week. Kiln-dried pine shavings are more expensive, but they last and last. There is also the down-side of shooting predators and slaughtering sick chickens. The taking-of-life comes with the territory!
Just like veggie gardening — by the time I factor in all the costs even for an organic garden, I could probably buy a heck of a lot more veggies for half the cost it took me to grow my own. We started with shavings, and then added dry sand for dust-bathing, which they looooved! We also had a few eight-foot natural branches that they used all the time, and kept them from trying to perch on one another, which they do, if they have nowhere to perch. Even with organic feed, a beautiful permanent, outdoor, insulated brooder, and overhead netting, these chickens will be much cheaper than either organic store-bought or farm-gate birds.
I grew up eating duck eggs, my parents had White Pekins and a lone Indian Runner. We lived on two acres near a pond. The ducks got let out during the day and cooped at night. We still lost a few to dogs and weasels. Duck eggs are a hair bigger and richer than chicken eggs. The ducks were very good at keeping the slugs and snakes under control. My mother-in-law has had chickens for years and aside from the orange yolks I discovered the hard way that the shells are much harder and thicker than store bought.
She has a mobile pen with netting on top and a coop. We have hawks, eagles, coyotes, weasels, skunks, dogs and oppossums that all like eggs or chickens. She has also fed them scraps in addition to the feed. Design your coop in such a way that rats cannot hide in or under it, because they like chicken food too. I raised chickens for eggs and meat in the early 80s — such fun! Much reward for very little work and almost no cost. The eggs were amazing… deep orange yokes that stood up tall in the pan with incredible flavor. I located the coup and a run right next to the garden and fed them all the over-ripe veggies they could eat.
Especially chick-weed. Brooding chicks — watch out if you do it indoors. One other note — rats really like chicken feed, too. I had rats the size of cats tunneling all around the coup. I think they went after the food when the chickens went in at night. Live and learn. Can anyone address more completely the end of useful life issue. What, exactly is required to slaughter and dress your non-productive older birds. The forum on the backyard chicken site has an area dedicated to meat chickens and how to process them or dual purpose birds aka retired egg layers. I wrote in earlier that I have 52 chickens.
I later found out that the farmer who was dealing with what she thought was the hatchery, was actually dealing with a dealer for the hatchery, so I was unwittingly very far removed from the transaction never again! A surprising issue for me has been the discovery that chickens from hatcheries are not, in general, bred to eat real, organic, nutrient-dense food.
They were eating themselves to death. One step above sawdust. We are killing our chicks by feeding them properly followed all the guidelines for protein intake for these birds, temp. The difference between how we have cared for our birds and the two other farms where the birds are not dropping off, is that we feed them organic chicken feed and they are pastured. So obviously, ours are dying. It is all well and fine to want to feed the chickens what you would want to have in your body in terms of quality we do, and will continue to do so , but if they are bred to tolerate only low-nutrient, chemicalized food, then they may not tolerate it.
In my case, I refuse to feed them crap, even if I lose half the flock. Two years ago, our two goslings ate something really thorny and one died. So dumb. Natural selection right there- but expensive for me. I am keeping two of the smarter geese to hopefully raise goslings for me next year. I gave them my geese, which is why they are not raising my goslings.
They are babies, and they have very similar needs to human babies, which I find annoying, since my mothering energy goes rightly to my five children. They are NOT smart! They need training! I am hopeful that this will be a better experience for us. I think you have more healthy chickens when they are raised by their mother. Since a few months we have a cock. We were very happy to hear him crow for the first time. And 12 more to come.
Al raised by their mommy. Very cute! Our eggs are great and we are very curious about the meat. Yes … we intent to eat some of them if we are emotionaly ready for it …;-. We also have 9 older layers. For a family of 4 that eats primal, I like to have at least 7 dozen eggs a week, so birds is perfect for us. Add in bartering, sharing with friends, and cooking for potlucks and is not out of the realm of reasonable. This is our second year raising them.
I use the deep litter method for managing bedding in the chicken coop. My father-in-law lives out in the country and has a full up coop of about 20 chickens. Eat only their eggs as I know exactly what they eat and where they eat it from. Pure bug-land! Never had an issue with sterilization and you can tell the difference between a real free-range eggs and the ones that say so at the supermarket. The real ones taste A LOT better and the yolk takes up most of the insides.
We love our chickens! The neighborhood kids love it and often peek over the fence and talk to them. They are in a pretty big run but are let out to roam the yard in the evenings and on weekends. And fresh eggs are a great hostess gift! We raise chickens, ducks, guineas and geese and have for 10 years on our hobby farm.
My remarks are based on raising chickens in a rural area, not in town so some of what I say may not be relevant. It is work and you are tied down. Raising chickens sounds very cool but the reality is that it requires work and your presence all the time. If you also plan on having a garden chickens can destroy it post haste, especially seedlings.
We feed kitchen scrapes and some grains and mealy worms to supplement the bugs, etc. However, they do scratch it to the dirt very rapidly so we supplement with fresh green cuttings and comfrey. We clean the coop out into one of garden areas that is laying fallow for the year. We have had our entire coop cleaned out at least twice by raccoon- lost everything.
Even though we thought the coop was very secure, the raccoon can climb and have very dexterous fingers. Skunks are also a problem. We have had very little luck with hen raised babies because of snakes getting in the nest boxes and eating eggs before they were hatched also skunks.