…..On keeping chickens

 

Raising poultry is new to me. I remembered many older skills from my parents day and refined what I recalled from them. Keeping chickens was not one of those things.

The only reason I write this is to show how incredibly easy it is. With a minimum of research you can be having farm fresh eggs for your breakfast.

 

Since moving to the country, Tractor Supply Co. has become my new mall. It is the source for many of the things that I now need here in the sticks. On one of my prowls they had a couple pens with live chicks of various breeds. Hmmm I said.

 

I went home to research chicken breeds on the web. The first thing I learned was: did I want meat chickens or layers and that would determine if I needed a rooster. I decided on layers, Rhode Island Reds have a reputation as good year round layers. I liked eggs and could always sell or trade the excess or as has happened give them to my neighbors.

chicken 

I went back to TSC and bought a hutch and small wired run, $99 each. A bit expensive but quick and easily assembled. I also bought a small feeder and water dispenser.

how to bug in

Two days later I had my chicken house set up near the back door by the deck. I wanted to be able to keep an easy eye on them as I have many feral cats and other predators here. I closed in the sides with cardboard and added a lamp hood with a thermal flood bulb to keep the chicks warm as the temps were low at that time. A thermometer monitored the hutch temps.

 

Back to TSC for chicks. I had planned to only get two, until I had some idea what I was doing. Nope, sold only by the six-pack. OK, I bought six, a fifty pound bag of chick feed, some Pro-biotic to mix into their water and the FFA agricultural education book “How to raise chickens” by Chrstine Heindrichs. TSC has a nice down on the farm book shelf available.

 

Back home with my Box-O-Chicks and to read up a bit. I was a bit obsessive with the pro-biotic, feed, water, and heat lamp, certain that I was going to lose some of them.

 

As they grew bigger, I moved the hutch and run out to the sheds, but within sight. I was still afraid of predators so I moved Deogee the dog out there with them, nearby.

We have a lot of large predatory birds here so I was hesitant to free range them, but we all have to leave the nest sometime. They stayed under the trees for sometime near the hutch in the day and back in the hutch at night. They eventually ranged the entire fenced property. They have neatly edged the fence line and cleared out the ticks and other bugs. They now only return to the hutch to eat and lay, having found roosts in the water tower cross braces and atop the aquaponics tanks.

 

As Deogee is also red, they think he is the head chicken, much to his confusion. He leads the flock run to feed from the door to the run every morning, where I refill the now larger feed and water dispensers. They have been on Layer feed for some time now and are giving me 6 good sized brown eggs a day, dependent on stress and weather.

 

Its been over a year. My fridge always has a couple dozen eggs, I have become friends with some neighbors because of the eggs, and Deogee is in analysis.

 

Chickens are an amusement and really funny. More than that they are easy to keep given the many rewards and a constant food source for grid down. Maybe this year a rooster and meat breed.

 

Regards, D.


 

The above article was an entry into the ModernSurvivalOnline Survival & Preparedness Guest Post Contest.


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11 Comments

  1. I recently found that there are no zoning laws prohibiting me from keeping chickens. However, I doubt I could keep a rooster, as there are ‘nuisance’ laws. I am interested in chickens for both eggs and meat. I just ordered Raising Chickens for Dummies, which was recommended by The Chicken Chick on FB. I intend to move forward, but want to learn more before we dive in. We have a very territorial beagle, and I don’t want to stress the chickens more, so I’m not sure how we will proceed. We live on a small lot, so the yard will need to be shared. I am considering a ‘train’ so I can move them about the yard, but will need to acclimate the dog as well. Any hints you can share on that would be well appreciated!

  2. I believe that you are referring to a chicken “Tractor” not a train. I started mine off in a small tractor, they wanted the run of the yard with the other animals.
    All of my animals get along, The dog is actually a bit afraid of the chickens.
    My neighbors also have chickens and a couple roosters (the noise is not that bad) they also have a pack of dogs (that are a noise nuisance) but the chickens/dogs all get along.
    A friend of mines Shepard gave one of my chickens a run for its life. The chicken won.
    They are fast little buggers and know how to take care of themselves, on the ground. Get a tractor (make sure that it has a screen floor and is staked in place to prevent predators from breaking in)and see if everyone acclimates. Chickens are much easier than you think.
    regards, D.

  3. Be very wary of the security at night. I lost several full grown hens to raccoons and fishers which somehow squeezed themselves into the pen/house and dragged out the carcass. The feathers around the pen showed the fight they put up.

  4. After we were married, retired, and back at the ranch, my highland clan wife tried her hand at chickens. Lot of work I told her. We are cattlemen. Someone will have to kill and clean.

    One day she went out to the pen and discovered many headless birds and no heads. Mad she was for someone had shot off the heads of her birds and left the carcasses. I laughed and we went to look for tracks in the dust. It was hard to convince her that Mr. Raccoon was the culprit. She had to speak with the county agent (I think he’s now the AgLIve agent or some such new folderol) before believing that an animal would only eat the heads.

    There are predators and prey out there.

    PR

  5. Chickens are fun. My daughter in Atlanta has two layers and they keep her garden clean and I have actually watched the chase squirrels out of the yard. Keep your fresh eggs on the counter – they last longer.

  6. An UPDATE:
    I wrote this a few months back and since that time the neighbors rooster has gotten to my hens. One of them went incommunicado for awhile and recently showed up with 6 little chicks. They have assimilated well. Another has gone into roost in some plastic on the back table and had 2 still born chicks, but she is still trying. I am not happy about the rooster visiting my yard, but the egg production went way up and I will have another generation of layers. So my attempts to chase him off are half-hearted…he does not eat much and seems to look out for the chicks. I have about six dozen eggs in the fridge, can’t give them away or eat them fast enough. I am looking at a deal to trade for produce at a local stand.
    D.

  7. I can’t have chickens here do to zoning issues, I am 1 foot shy of minimum spacing between dwellings, shoot. Oh well, more reason to look for a homestead. Back home on the farm we must had a dozen or so. If you wanted chicken for dinner, well grandma would go out with her hooked wire from a hanger and wrestle up a few in quick time, processing them in time for dinner. It was considered women’s work back then, leaving the bigger animals and heavier stuff to the guys. When I think of women folk back then, i have to say they worked every bit as hard as the fellas, just in different tasks. They all came together to make the farm or ranch work.

  8. Check with you insurance company to see if they allow you to have farm animals, yes mine cancelled me for having 6 chickens.

  9. Update 2:
    I recently lost two chicks. I don’t know if it was hawks, cats or the suspicious kids next door. There were no carcasses. Up side, my still born hen finally hatched a healthy chick today.

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