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Making Chickens Work for YOU.

Scott Roy


Joined: Apr 15, 2012
Posts: 7
Hi all, I'm new to this forum, but what I see so far, I really like! My introductory post will be this one.

I wanted to share my method of keeping chickens, free of the burden that comes with moving tractor coops and all. I am lucky enough to have a decent sized garden, measuring 40ft by 25ft. Along the shadiest side, I installed a chicken run, burying the fence 18 inches all along the perimeter to keep the coyotes and foxes out, (so far, so good,). They have a coop that they may enter or leave at will, sort of an open door policy, if you will. The waterer and food bucket are at one end, and all along the furthest end, plenty of naturally occurring, (read as: weeds and grass,) flora grow. The run is 40ft long by 5ft wide, plenty of room for the eight Black Star hens I have. Since I don't keep a rooster, (the hybrids I have wouldn't breed true anyway,) and the season's young birds end up as supper anyway, I don't have to worry too much about broiler pens, etc. They use the nesting boxes and give plenty of fresh eggs, and all of them get eaten before they reach a year old.

I buy my chickens from a local farm that raises them for egg production, where they run around inside a barn for their laying lives. Now... it's not what I'd call optimum for the life of a bird, but it's better than some giant agricorp egg factory, it's locally owned and operated, and the birds are fed well. I've seen no signs of unhealthy birds there, ever. They're $14 each for hens that have just begun laying. Pricier than buying chicks, but without the fuss of acclimating chicks to ambient temps and having to wait for eggs. I just about break even, cost-wise... but it serves my purposes well.

The birds eat, lay, are allowed to roam the garden two at a time, (supervised while I weed, of course, they poop a lot and get eaten eventually. In the fall, when the last one is ready for the fryer or roaster, I flip the top of the run back and shovel the topsoil to the growing side. That soil has been given not only poop, but weeds from the garden and all rubbish aside from avocados, onions and garlic waste. The avocados are poisonous to birds, and the onions and garlic ruin eggs taste. I then till the poop/compost soil in and let it sit until spring, when it is tilled over again, the top of the run set back up and a new flock for the summer is once again brought in. Rinse, lather, repeat. I even plant pole beans and cucumbers along the garden side of the run, and even though I lose some of the low-hanging stuff to the birds, bugs get snatch up through the wire and my bocks get some extra shade that they LOVE. It's a pretty good system.

I have family members rotate out their own egg cartons, one empty and one full so that we always have fresh eggs. We routinely take a chicken and fry it up or roast it on a Sunday, fresh and great tasting! I've stopped buying chicken from the store during months where I don't have any, (unless I REALLY get a hankering and then I buy organic and locally grown chicken,) and could never go back to eating factory-raised chickens.

Here is a pic from this season, after Spring tilling and the new hens go in. I don't have any from the years previous, (been doing this for four now,) but you can see the set-up. I can post more pics as the garden gets rolling if you guys like.



I'm proud to say I've created a very viable egg-chicken-veggie producing area of my property, and wish more people did the same. My daughter, age 8.) is also quite involved with he whole process, from yearly inspection and reinforcing of the run to planting/weeding/harvesting. She loves eggs and chickens, and "growing salad" as she says.

When it's time to cull a bird from the flock, we select the biggest one and use a cone to bleed it out. That's a method I only heard of recently, and am glad I did. I used to just give them a chop and fling them, like I was shown as a boy. The cone method is so much more controlled and meat doesn't get bruised. They bleed out. wiggle a bit and that's that -ready for a bath and plucking!



Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Scott Roy wrote:We routinely take a chicken and fry it up or roast it on a Sunday, fresh and great tasting! I've stopped buying chicken from the store during months where I don't have any,




I'm a little confused about how many chickens you have, total. If you have only eight, that's not much chicken to eat during the year!


Idle dreamer

Scott Roy


Joined: Apr 15, 2012
Posts: 7
I'm from another planet where our "year" is only 8 months.


J/K, I only keep eight because they're
A: sort of pricey,
and
B: I just don't want to keep more then that in that sized pen.


I'm sure I could fit a few more in there, but that's more poop and eggs than I need. Plus, by the time you get to the final four, they're stringy. Stew is good, but it gets old. A bird only keeps so long in the freezer.

Still, you have me thinking now; maybe I should get some more young ones at the very end of summer...
R Scott


Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 2448
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
    
  28
Scott Roy wrote:Still, you have me thinking now; maybe I should get some more young ones at the very end of summer...


The "trick" is to buy the stragglers from the farm store--the ones that grew too big to be cute and they want gone. Meat birds that have spent $5 to feed to half-grown and they sell for a buck a piece.


"You must be the change you want to see in the world." "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." --Mahatma Gandhi
"Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words." --Francis of Assisi. "Family farms work when the whole family works the farm." -- Adam Klaus
Brandis Roush


Joined: Apr 16, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: Central Minnesota
It wouldn't be a terrible idea to get some late season chicks. I don't know about where you live, but here they clearance the last batch they get by about the second week of June. I got six red star chicks for $3 last year- I would have gotten more but I didn't have enough space. Chicks are really much easier than you think- it's nothing to get them acclimated. You just back the lamp off a little each week. Plus, when I got my red star chicks they were 2 weeks old already (which was why they were on clearance!) and it was June, so I only kept a heat lamp on them at night for the first week (off during the day). Easy peasy. The only slightly complicated part is integrating them with your existing chickens. There are different ways to do that, but it's really not that hard. It mostly just requires watching.
Scott Roy


Joined: Apr 15, 2012
Posts: 7
I may try that this year!

The run is certainly long enough to separate a few stragglers... maybe some straight up meat birds. I'd have to have a coop for those though...

Thanks for the great ideas!
I've never had to incorporate new chicks to a flock, any tips? I'v e seen the later birds going for a buck each... and wondered.
Burra Maluca
Mother Tree

Joined: Apr 03, 2010
Posts: 4841
Location: Portugal Zone 9 Mediterranean Climate
    
181
Looks like you're enjoying having chickens as part of your set-up, Scott!

Have you read Paul's article on raising chickens? It has lots of food for thought about various ways to keep them.


What is a Mother Tree ?
R Scott


Joined: Apr 13, 2012
Posts: 2448
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
    
  28
Scott Roy wrote:I may try that this year!

The run is certainly long enough to separate a few stragglers... maybe some straight up meat birds. I'd have to have a coop for those though...

Thanks for the great ideas!
I've never had to incorporate new chicks to a flock, any tips? I'v e seen the later birds going for a buck each... and wondered.


Meat bird coops don't have to be fancy. Old doghouse, $2 on a garage sale. Garden coldframe with a tarp over the glass, you aren't using it in the garden anymore. Three hay/straw bales and a scrap of plywood.

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Here in my locale runs and/or coops have to be predator proof, which complicates them a bit.

Jami McBride
volunteer

Joined: Aug 29, 2009
Posts: 1779
    
  10
We cull all but the keepers in the fall and freeze for winter/spring/summer eating (then repeat). This last year we culled 12 in the fall and kept 6 over winter, added new chicks in the spring.

I've never had to incorporate new chicks to a flock, any tips?


The older girls will kill the younger ones so having a system for their introduction is important. Your 'system' will have to depend on your coop set up, but here's what I do . . .

I added a heavy square piece of wielded wire wire-tied over one section of chicken wire of my coop, at the ground level, opposite the end where the bigger birds roost and lay.
Next, I cut a hole in the stabilized wire just small enough that the grown birds could not fit through, this is plenty large enough for the smaller birds. On the inside I fenced off this section of the coop with 1' high wire (yup that's all). Added a second source for food and water plus a lower temporary roost.

Then I add in the two month old chicks. They soon learn where the small door 'safe zone' is and venture out when the coast is clear. If they get chased they easily out run the heavier birds and make it to the small entrance and their safe zone. The big chickens come in the house and watch 'em for a bit, but they soon just ignore them and move on. A new pecking order is established between them all.

The magic of this system is that the older birds see, smell and hear the new additions 24/7, but can't get to them to hurt them. The original chickens become accustom to the chicks presence and learn to accept them, at the bottom of the pecking order. Long before the new birds are to big for the special door they are accepted enough and I remove the inside divider fencing, lower roost and second food/water source. These are March chicks and by the time the temps get cold they are all sleeping together on one roost. I have a swing door for the small entrance and simply close it off until it's needed again.

I hope this helps....
 
 
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