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Random Facts and Observations about Raising Chickens
We’ve been raising chickens in an urban environment now for about two years. That’s certainly not a long time compared to some chicken farmers, but it is long enough to give us a perspective worth considering.
The thing you have to understand about raising chickens is that there are few ironclad rules. The best you can say is that most will do this, or most will do that, most of the time. There will always be that rebel chicken who refuses to follow the rules and has no understanding of “the norm.”
We love raising chickens, so much so that we don’t understand why more people don’t do it. When we buy our acreage in a year or so, we will increase our flock tenfold at least. My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner in life.
The purpose of today’s article is to cover some odds and ends that most people don’t think about before they start raising chickens. Hopefully this article will answer some questions and shed some light for those of you who are thinking about raising chickens but still have some doubts.
So let’s get started, shall we?
NO, YOU DO NOT NEED A ROOSTER FOR EGGS
This is probably the greatest misconception about raising chickens. If your goal is to simply have fresh eggs in the morning, you don’t need a rooster. Hens, like most females of any species, have eggs daily. A chicken’s is just outside her body rather than inside.
Most cities will not allow roosters anyway; they are a rather noisy lot, and if you aren’t planning on raising chicks on a regular basis, you just don’t need those bad boys.
DON’T PLAN ON EGGS DURING THE WINTER MONTHS
As a general rule, hens do not lay during the winter months. Notice I said a general rule. We have a Rhode Island Red who hasn’t taken time off in two years, so obviously she didn’t get the memo.
This, of course, also leaves us to wonder what is a winter month in the mind of a chicken? I’ve known some that stopped laying in October and didn’t start up again until April. We have had some that laid eggs until November and started in March. Your guess is as good as mine.
CHICKENS ARE HARDY LITTLE DEVILS
Quit worrying about the winter weather. Chickens can handle it. There are chicken farmers in Alaska, so that should tell you something.
Obviously, if your weather is consistently bad, you might have to buy more feed for your chickens. They can’t scratch for bugs on the frozen ground, or if the ground is covered by a foot of snow. The cold? A single heat lamp in their coop will get them through some very, very cold temperatures.
Rain? It would have to be a torrential downpour to bother a chicken. Usually, if it rains very hard, the chickens will find shelter and wait out the storm. Same with the wind.
So don’t worry unless you have the storm of the century bearing down on you and even then, my money is on the chickens.
CHICKEN FEED IS COSTLY BUT THERE ARE WAYS AROUND THAT PROBLEM
Chicken feed is expensive. We buy organic, of course, and a 25 pound bag costs around forty bucks….but it lasts a long time. Why?
Because we supplement their diets using red worms and mealworms that we raise. Raising worms is really a very simple thing to do, especially if you are a gardener and have a compost pile. The same is true of mealworms. Once you are established you can keep those worms growing and you have a constant supply of food for your chickens.
We live in a moderate climate, so our garden, after harvest time, is also a great source of food for the chickens.
Bottom line, in a moderate climate, raising our own worms, we might buy a 25 pound bag of organic chicken food every three months.
YES, CHICKENS HAVE BRAINS
Okay, they may not be geniuses among the animal kingdom, but they aren’t completely stupid, either. We have trained our chickens not to go on our deck, so how dumb can they really be? I’ll bet you can’t train a cat to do that!
I’ll tell you my training method, and it has not failed me at all: get a squirt gun. For whatever reason, our chickens do not like me squirting them with water, and that’s how I trained them to stay off the deck. They will stand out in a downpour, but threaten them with a Super Soaker and they run like crazy.
A chicken can hear a hawk screeching from a half-mile away and run for cover. No, chickens are not stupid.
YES, CHICKENS CAN BE MESSY
Chickens poop. There is no avoiding it. Is it messy? Yes! Is it as messy as goose poop? No way, but it is still annoying if you use your yard for other purposes.
We let our chickens roam free around the backyard, so we don’t care about it. We wear rubber boots back there and their poop doesn’t bother us. If you are not like us, then keep your chickens inside a chicken run and limit their roaming capabilities. Remember, though, that the chicken run needs some sort of ceiling on it, because despite rumors to the contrary, chickens can fly.
Is the chicken poop a good fertilizer? Not bad, but it needs to be watered down because it is quite “hot” and can burn some of your young plants.
Now, about that flying…..
CHICKENS CAN, INDEED, FLY
They won’t win any soaring contests with hawks but yes, they can fly. Our champion flyer, Minerva, can fly over a six foot fence from a standstill. It’s entertaining as hell until they fly into a neighbor’s yard and poop on their deck, at which time entertaining becomes annoying.
Clip their wings when they are chicks and your flying problems are solved.
NOT ALL CHICKENS ARE BROODERS
The lovely vision of chickens laying an egg and then patiently sitting on that egg until it hatches is, for the most part, a myth. Few hens are real brooders. They seem to have better things to do than sit on an egg for twenty-one days and quite frankly, I don’t blame them.
If you decide you want to raise chicks, and you are allowed a rooster, then you really need an incubator. It’s really the only logical option you have. Incubators will cost you around $150, so save your money if this is the route you want to take. We have one for our quail eggs, and we have a hatching success rate of about 90%, and that beats the heck out of any natural brooding program.
TO DRESS OR NOT TO DRESS?
No, I’m not talking about putting a dress on your chicken.
If you decide to raise chickens for meat, then the time will eventually come when you need to kill your chicken and prepare it for dinner. The whole process, from start to finish, takes about twenty minutes per chicken. If you have a weak stomach, don’t do it. I can do it but I do not enjoy it. This is all about personal preference, my friends. Our chickens are our pets, and they happen to lay eggs. I don’t kill something I’ve named. LOL
But if you want a fried drumstick, then slitting the throat, bleeding it out, boiling it to get rid of feathers, and gutting it can be done in under a half hour.
Yours truly with shaggy hair
And That’s All We Have Time for Today
If you have questions feel free to ask them in the comment section, or email me and I’ll help you.
We love raising chickens. I think others would as well if they just got started and tasted how delicious a farm-fresh egg is. It’s all part of the sustainable farming kick I happen to believe strongly in. It’s all part of the “getting back to our roots” thing I believe strongly in. It’s all about eating healthy foods that have not been poisoned by the processors.
I guess I could sum it up by saying it’s all about quality of life.
2015 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)