Chickens eating with chicks.
What kind of chicken feed are you going to buy? Will it be organic?
Deciding what you are going to get, and where you are going to get it from is good to have figured out from the start!
Also, are you planning on keeping your flock on bought feed... or do you want to switch over to doing it all yourself one day?
Working Towards Sustainable: Grow Your Own Feed
This isn’t for everyone. But it might mean a lot to you (as it dose me)!
Growing your own chicken food can also include letting them have access to your other animals manure, a compost pile, grass, etc.
Supplying your chickens with water is a necessity!
There are a lot of way to go about that though. There are...
- The gravity fed ones, that are popular.
- A simple dish you clean and keep full.
- A five gallon bucket with chicken nipples in the bottom.
- Or automatic water, of some sort.
I actually like using two of the above methods...
Chickens next to the goats water bucket.
I like to have a five gallon bucket with chicken nipples in their coop... plus a simple dish that we clean out and fill everyday.
Also when you are considering which one you are going to use... are you going to put any apple cider vinegar, garlic, or anything else in their water?
Protection From Predators
Sammy our great guard dog!
When raising chickens you need to be able to protect them from predators.
The first thing we did when we got chickens was go to the pound. We knew we would need a guard dog to keep away the cats and coyotes that were in the neighborhood.
We called ahead and found ones with Aussies... and that’s what we got! She has been an amazing guard dog!
Before you get a guard dog, make sure you are going to get one that will protect and NOT EAT your chickens! Sounds silly, but it seems people get labs and chickens at the same time. It can work, but expect extra work... either training or keeping them separated!
The best guard dogs are the ones that are specifically bred for that. Aussies are bred to heard, not really to guard. But she dose a good job. :)
Some livestock guardian dog (LGD) breeds you might consider are: Great Pyrenees, Maremma Sheepdog, and the Anatolian Shepherd.
Shelter Or Chicken Coops
There are a lot of coop/tractor options.
We started with an a-frame coop on wheels that we could move around. It is pretty heavy, but it works.
A few years ago we also built a stationary coop. That is in the back of the pasture (to be this spring :) ) that they are let out into during the day.
There are a lot of different chicken coop designs, and chicken tractor designs, and pros and cons to all!
Read more about Building A Chicken Coop Here!
Free Range Or Confined?
There are so many benefits to going the free range route.
You get healthier eggs and meat... with less of the bad fats and more of the good.
Free ranging chickens in the herbs.
You have chickens living the way they are supposed to... In a healthy environment!
You get a healthier homestead. The chickens keeping up on the bugs, diseases and pests, in your yard, pasture and land.
Raising free range chickens (in some way or another) is the way to go!
Butchering Older Chickens
After you raise them, whether it is for eggs or meat... there comes a time when they get old enough it is time to butcher them and make some chicken stock (old layers), or roast chicken (broilers raised for meat).
Learning how to butcher certainly has its learning curve...but like always is very doable!
Our family has butchered chickens a few times. We also have butchered an elk, goat, and cow we raised (that was way heavier than we thought it would be :) ).
Getting Chickens To Work
Chicken on our compost pile.
Yes! Chickens can do a lot of things for you. All that you have to do is get all of that energy pointed in the right direction. :)
You can get you chickens working in your garden, but they need supervision. You need to control what they have access to so that they don’t end up eating all your just ripe tomatoes, or digging up your plants!
You can put them in a movable chicken coop and move it around the walkways of your garden. Or you might be able to fence off your garden. It will depend on your situation.
How big is your garden? If it is small you could probably just fence off the vegetables (and any other plants).
There are many other things that chickens can do for you too. Here are a few things that chickens can do:
- Help your compost. You stack it up and they will tear it down, and help aid in the decomposing process. (You will of corse have to re-stack it, but it is less work than turning the whole pile.)
- And while they are there they are helping by fertilizing to it.
- Eat up bugs, grasshoppers, scorpions, etc. (Sadly they don’t eat ants though.)
- Keep flies down. If you have any other animals chickens can peck through their manure and get the maggots before they turn to flies.
- They can spread a pile of mulch just give them the access! :)
Eggs Or Meat? Or Both!
Raising chickens can be different, depending on whether you are raising them for meat or eggs.
Hen in a nesting box with eggs.
When raising chickens for eggs, you are concerned about the quantity and quality of eggs. You want the best egg laying chickens.
Chickens that lay colored eggs may also matter to you. What color shells do you want? White, brown, green, or blue?
Raising chickens for meat is another option to consider. We haven’t done that yet, but plan to in the future. :)
Buying Your Flock
When you are going to buy your flock here are a few things to keep in mind. If you are not concerned about the quality, then go ahead and buy from an ordinary hatchery.
However, if you are thinking about breeding, then consider doing a little more research.
Delving into a little more about hatcheries versus heritage bred chickens, makes heritage bred birds a MUST if you are wanting to breed.
If you are looking for heritage chickens, good places to start would be the Livestock Conservancy, and the Sustainable Poultry Network. They are great sites to help you find heritage birds near you.
We are working on getting our own flock of heritage chickens started now! It will be fun to see how that goes. :)
More about Buying Your Flock Here!
Hatching Your Own Chicks!
|Broody hen with chicks under wing.
|Newly hatched chicks under broody mom.
A great part of raising chickens. :) You may just want to hatch a few chicks for fun! Or you might be planning a more extensive breeding plan...
Either way your in for some fun! Going out to the coop and finding several under a hen is fun for everyone!
If you are wanting to take hatching a few chicks to the next level, here is a great place to get started.
Hope helps you start raising your chickens...
Or to take your chicken raising to the next level!
Have fun raising chickens!