Let’s talk basic chicken raising tips. Obviously we’re not delving into any type of a commercial aspect of raising chickens, we’re delving into “I like fresh chicken eggs” and “I like fresh fried chicken.” type of endeavor. Besides, any self respecting long term Prepper or survivalist should know the basics of keeping chickens as they would be an integral part of maintaining a survival family farm plot.
The first tip I’ll give you is … as with all things nothing is as simple as it sounds. I’m sure if you’ve ever driven down a gravel country road you’ve seen the Norman Rockwell scene of a small farm house, with tin roof, wash hanging on a clothes line tied between two trees, and a dozen or so chickens wandering around the front yard pecking and ridding the homestead of pesky critters. It’s a tranquil scene and enticing for anyone that may want to have an on-call pest controller, breakfast and/or Sunday supper food source. However, where do these chickens go when they pick the front yard clean or it gets dark?
Reality Check Number One:
Chickens need a place to roost, that’s where they lay their eggs, sleep and socialize with one another. For that you’ll need to build a chicken hotel known as a chicken coop. You can find diagrams, blueprints and fully assembled chicken coops on the internet or probably at your MFA dealer.
A chicken coop is not an easy thing to build. A lot of thought and planning need to be considered before you begin hammering nails. For instance:
It must be large enough to hold a feeder and a water container
It must be large enough to build a nesting box for every three hens
It must be tall enough for you to be able to stand up in as you’ll have to gather eggs, refill food and water containers, etc etc
There will always be an ample supply of chicken manure that must be shoveled out
Do you want or need heat
Do you want or need lighting
As you can tell it’s not rocket science, but make a critical error in calculation, like no easy way to remove the manure, and you’re in a world of hurt. Chickens are sociable, so you’ll need at least 4 to 6 birds and at least 2 square feet of space for each. Cramped chickens become angry chickens and will peck and pull feathers from one another, which contributes to disease.
Realty Check Number Two:
Chickens are not what you’d call self-sufficient. Yes they capture their daily snacks of insects and what not, but they still require being fed and watered daily.
A 50 lb bag of feed costs @ $20. How long a bag lasts depends on the number and health of the chickens. Cost of feed is also market driven.
As long as hens have 12 to 14 hours of sunlight per day they will lay eggs, sometimes twice a day, which require gathering. In other words essentially from Spring into Fall
Shoveling manure is a year round en-devour
Taking a vacation is problematic unless you have a chicken sitter who can take care of the flock while you are gone.
Basic Chicken Raising Tip:
Building a prison is not cheap. What? What are you talking about? A good comparison to raising chickens is maintaining a prison of violent criminals.
They must be fed and watered daily … check
They must have a coop (jail cell) … check
They must have an exercise yard … Say what?
Chickens, healthy ones, must have room to exercise, strut their stuff, take a dust bath and catch a few rays. Unfortunately the Norman Rockwell setting of chickens feeding in the front yard is not realistic. Does it happen? Sure. Are chickens killed and carried off by predators who have unrestricted access to the front yard? Yes!
A chicken enclosure, known as a chicken run, is required and it must be protected by fencing of some sort, normally chicken wire (thus the name). You have to keep the chickens in and the predators out, which includes the family dog. The size of the outside exercise area depends on how many chickens to have and how spacious you want to build it. A good faith estimate at today’s prices is a 20’ x 5’ run will be @ $300 – $400. That’s material only. Add labor if you can’t perform the work yourself and the price may double. That’s a whole lot of store bought eggs.
*** Caveat *** I’m sure this is explained somewhere, but I haven’t seen it, so I’ll give you the tip. They don’t tell you, but your chicken run, exercise yard, whatever you want to call it … must have netting draped over the entire top of the opening. This net cover is not to keep the chickens in, but the predators out. My son learned this the hard way.
We built a chicken coop, a rather massive structure I designed and built, my eyes are always bigger than my stomach as the saying goes. The yard was rather large and very well fenced in and protected. It actually looked like a professional job when we finished.
The next week I visited and saw his flock was half the size it had been just 7 days ago. “What happened?” I asked.
“Hawks, turkey buzzards, owls and whatever other kind of birds of prey we have in these woods.” he said.
*** Caveat *** Here’s another tad bit of info that the rookie won’t know. When a rooster(s) is introduced to the flock he will turn into a sex crazed maniac. If there are enough hens that’s alright, but if the hen to rooster ratio is not right, the rooster will literally kill the hens with too much sex.
Basic Chicken Raising Tip: Win … Win situation:
Gardening and chickens go hand in hand, not only because they both will exist in a farm like setting, but because they also compliment each others existence. When the bounty has been harvested and the gardening season is finished until next year, unleash your chickens into the garden patch and watch them go. You’ll swear they’ve never eaten before.
They will uproot the stems and stalks of weeds and inhale any damaged or overripe vegetables that remain on the ground. They’ll eat any weed seeds or insect they find in the soil, pecking apart and digesting any vegetable remains, such as carrot tops, kale, chard, broccoli stems and will scratch out any hidden worms or insects. In other words, they will clean your garden of negative issues that could be next years problems with the enthusiasm and work ethic of the employee of the year.
The chickens have joined in the garden harvest bounty, now they will repay it. Chickens if nothing else, are supreme manure creators, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, they never stop pooping. Fortunately this chicken manure is excellent compost and after aging, will greatly enhance the soil quality of the garden.
Simply collect the manure and used bedding materials, 2 parts manure to 1 part bedding, and add to the compost pile along with grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, leaves, twigs and shredded paper. Stir it regularly to mix the decomposing materials.
Like the heading states, this is basic chicken raising, but if you read this, the pros and cons and are still interested in raising chickens, go for it. There’s nothing better than a good fresh egg for breakfast, plus you can make a little extra cash selling your excess. All in all a win, win, win situation.