Wednesday, June 25, 2014

19 Chickens and Counting!

Actually we did have 20. We decided to use Chris' rotisserie to get rid of a rooster that was being meddlesome. But that's besides the point!

WE HAVE 19 CHICKENS AND ONE OF OUR HENS IS SITTING ON A CLUTCH OF EGGS!


I'm so excited to see if we actually get some little chicks. It looks like our hen Millie is sitting on about 10 eggs. It would be cool if we got just one little chick! But we will have to wait and see.

All in all we have 4 Ameraucanas, 4 Red Fryer, and 5 Australorp chicks that we bought from our local feed store on the 11th of April. We have what looks like a Rhode Island Red Rooster and a couple of interestingly colored hens of unknown breed that were given to us shortly before that. Plus we have a rooster 
That we bought to butcher for Chris' class that didn't get butchered.

We let them free range and we love everything about it. Well, everything except the poop and getting into the garden! That's why we have fences...


Just in case you are looking for a little education on how to keep chickens, let me 'esplain a few things:

Here are some reasons to keep chickens:
1.) They produce eggs! If you do it right, raising hens to produce your own eggs can be cheaper and more rewarding than picking up a dozen from the grocery store... IF YOU DO IT RIGHT!
2.) They make great compost! When you manage your chickens properly, you can produce all of the compost you will ever need for your garden and yard.
3.) They can keep your lawn mowed, aerated, and fertilized!
4.) They make great pets... Not necessarily the kind you keep on a leash, but it has been done!

Really the list goes on.

As far as how to keep chickens, it's really simple. Here are some things that your flock will need in order to be happy:

1.) Feed. This can come in the way of food waste in a compost pile and be supplemented with the proper grains, insects from your garden and yard, forage from plants that you planted for them, etc. You'll have to wait for another post from me about feeding chicken's for free or check out this video from Geoff Lawton, or read this book. Both are awesome.

2.)Hen House. The Chickens need some sort of house that will contain the nesting boxes and roosts. This can come in so many different forms and can be anywhere from permanent to movable. There are lots of options here!

3.) Roosts. Chickens like to roost at night on sticks, trees, anywhere that is up high and protected. We have a hen house that is currently under construction, but when it's done I'll post photos. Roosting is instinctual for chickens. They'll find some place to roost no matter what so it's important that you give them a specific place to do it or else you'll have to deal with the consequences of birds pooping where you don't want them too!

4.) Nesting Boxes. These boxes provide a designated spot where your chickens can lay their eggs. If you don't have nesting boxes, be prepared to go on egg hunts and find rotten eggs all over your property!

5.) Fencing, and the like. Chickens will go where they want to go. If you need to keep them contained, or restricted from certain areas, then you will need to invest in some sort of fencing, plant borders, and more.

6.) Grit. Chickens don't have teeth. They have a really cool organ called a gullet and   they need grit like sand or oyster shell to "chew" their food. Mostly chickens find their own grit but you can also provide them with it in a dish separate from their food.

If you can have chickens, I highly recommend it. It is one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences for me as a city-turned-farm-girl.

AND if you want help designing a system for keeping chickens, give us a call! Chris is starting his Permaculture Design Consulting business and needs some clients! Chicken systems are one of the many things he can do for you.