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The Frugal Homemaker - Organic Eggs & Raising Chickens
Organic Eggs - Raising Chickens
Raising chicken for Organic Eggs is a good way to supplement your diet and can be a rewarding hobby. If you have enough birds and surplus eggs, you can create enough income to feed and house your birds. and possibly some left over to renovate the coup.
I keep Chanteclers. If you live in a cold climate, consider Chantecler Chickens, they are the true Canadian breed. If you haven't surmised from previous Hubs I've written, I'm vegetarian and almost everyone else in the family is vegetarian too. We don't eat our birds so I don't have a lot to offer in terms of growing chickens for meat, although I have read that Chanteclers are a dual purpose bird.
Chantecler chickens originated in Oka, Quebec in the early in the 20th century. A trappist monk and a Doctor of Agronomy named Brother Wilfred Chantelain at the.Abbey of Notre-Dame du Lac realized that all the chickens at Oka were American or European breeds. He began his quest to create a truly Canadian bird in 1908, his dream was realized in 1917 after crossing several breeds to create a bird that would be suited to Canada's cold climate. Chanteclers are very hardy with small combs and wattles which minimizes the risk of frostbite. These are gentle birds who are for the most part friendly and quiet. We do hear them laying eggs as though they are calling out “I'm working on it”
Unfortunately living in a rural area does not guarantee your right to raise hens. This is very unfortunate as urban flocks are on the rise as cities relax their bylaws to allow small flock of chickens without roosters into the neighbourhood. It's important to check your local bylaws before you begin.
Chickens are easy to raise, they are not demanding and don't require the kind of vet care an average household pet would require. Chickens earn their keep; they make awesome fertilizer for your garden and if free range or controlled outside of their coup, they are great for weed and pest control. Chickens make nutritious tasty eggs! My sister calls eggs liquid chickens..eww
Planning a coup is the first step to building your flock. Make sure you give your chickens at lease 2-3 square feet per bird, if possible go for three feet as Chanteclers are a larger breed. For the outside run plan on 5 square feet per bird. We have a small coup on the back of our property we are not using at this time because we expanded our flock this spring. We recycled wooden skid that we got for free, into board and batten for the coup. I have a 10' x 10' shed that offers ample space, remember more is not always better because your birds will huddle together at night for warmth and safety. If the coup is large it's a lot more difficult to warm up the space in the winter months. We have a heat lamp hanging in the centre of the ceiling in the coup for the real cold -30c evenings. I doubt they need it, but the kids and I see them as pets and worry someone might be getting cold out there. We also have a nesting bar made from 2 x 4 which the girl's use to perch on when the sun starts going down.
We use the Deep Litter Method for the flooring of our coup. The shed floor is plywood for strength and longevity. We allow the litter, which consists of pine shavings to build up through the summer months in order to create an insulated floor. The pine litter and bird droppings compost, producing free heat for the coup! Because the bedding gets quit thick, I added a pine board in front of the door to make sure the bedding doesn't fall out when the birds leave the coup or someone goes in to feed them.
We purchase an organic lay mash from our local farmers co-op, and can also buy it direct with some planning to bring the cost down. I know some folks who make their own mash, but for now it requires too much thought for me to balance all the required nutrients. It's in the plans for next spring though. You can make homemade chicken feeder and wateres, or purchase them at your local farm supply store. I've gone to Princess Auto when they chicken supplies on clearance and get them for next to nothing.
You'll need nesting boxes! One for every 3 hens. Nesting boxes need to be tall enough for your hen to stand up, Chanteclers need about 18” x 18”. We use pine shavings as nest bedding, change when necessary. Across the front of your nesting box you should put a narrow piece of wood to help prevent eggs from rolling out when the hen leaves the box or another hen enters.
Chickens make great composters, they love kitchen scrapes! Most veggies and bread, cracked corn, wheat and oats are a go.
Once you have your coup all set up, it's time to bring the birds home. Depending on your breeder you may have to order in advance, and long before you think you might want them. Because Chanteclers are a rare breed they are not always easily found. One of the reasons we choose to go with Chanteclers, besides all the wonderful traits I mentioned above, was because of their statue listed as critical according to Rare Breeds Canada and by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. Raising backyard flocks of Chanteclers can help increase the population if you opt to breed, making it easier to share birds with other Rural and Urban chicken farmers.
Chickens on a small scale are not a nuisance to your neighbours, they are not stinky vermin that carry disease. I bet many people have stories to tell about the local cat or dog that roams freely around the neighbourhood leaving it's poop all over the place, not the best fertilizer. I can also wager that a neighbour or two in your neck of the woods has a dog that likes to bark into the wee hours of the night and early morning. Chicken are quiet, social, clean and very giving creatures!