Monday, February 21, 2011

Chickens (enough to get you started)

I have had chickens most of my life. My laying hens live to be about 7 years old...and since they punched a clock for years, they deserve a retirement. So they die of old age. Amazingly enough, they lay eggs for quite a while.
Hens The best laying hens are cross breed hens. If you Google 'sex link chicks' you might get yourself in trouble on the internet, but these are the chickens you want for non-stop eggs rolling your way. I had red cross links and they were the best chickens-the eggs were so big I had to tie the extra large egg box with string to keep them from opening. I now have Black Star chickens; another cross breed, and they are no less disappointing. I got these chickens because their eggs are smaller and will fit in a extra large egg carton without the string. They are very friendly and can be like pets. 
For just your family, three chickens might be enough, but if you want to sell eggs, start out with 12 that's a dozen eggs a day. You can always get more.
Roosters I usually have a rooster until he dies of some valiant brave act...such as fighting off a dog, or raccoon. Roosters do a good job of putting their lives on the line. They do protect the hens. I had ordered a straight run of chickens, and got 12 roosters. I kept the rooster that still had all his feathers, (the one no one wanted to peck back) and sold the rest to someone who wanted fresh chicken. His name was Mr. T The biggest baddest rooster; unfortunately, he fought off a stray dog and lost, but he saved the hens, all of them. 
You don't need a rooster to have a harem of laying fact it is better for the hens to live like nuns. Hens will lay eggs with or without a rooster. One nice thing about having a rooster, is to hear him salute to the sunrise. He will also crow at the full moon, or upon an early morning arrival from the headlights from your car.
A Silver Spangled Hamburg Rooster

Care Chickens can live anywhere, but they do need a coop; a roosting place out of the weather and beyond the reach of predators. And as far as the great outdoors, they like to have a place they can scratch for bugs-like your flower gardens-he,he. Free range chickens are happy. Happy chickens are laying chickens. 
There is nothing better than gathering eggs in a clean coop. If you have had chickens for a while you can comprehend a happy noise or a complaint.
I use wood shavings for a nice bedding 2 inches deep on the floor of my coop, and I make sure that I clean out the coop every month. Chicken manure is great compost, but it is hot, you might want to keep a pile for a couple of years before applying to a garden. 
As far as their nests, straw is best in laying boxes. A laying box can be anything resembling a crate, at least 20" X 20" Many people have been creative about nesting boxes; toilets, bed pans, even the kitchen sink. 
Secure crates 3 to 4' high on the wall, and if it can be in a private spot the better. Chickens like to roost so make wooden poles crossing in an area that is not over food or water. The size of your coop goes by footage...2 square foot per chicken.
Food  I buy egg producer pellets and a chicken scratch at my grain mill-which is cracked corn, millet, oats and some mash (?) On occasion I will buy a large bag of day old bread at the bakery outlet store. It is also important to have grit-always have calcium granite pellets just for chickens in a separate bowl right near their food dish. And of course clean water all the time. 
If your chickens free range, they will eat bugs, grubs, greens and whatever their hearts desires, again make sure they have access to water. During the depression, my grandfather supplemented his chickens with road kill-I wouldn't do that, but times were tough back then, and yes, chickens are meat eaters.
There are so many chicken breeds that I will leave that up to you....This is a hatchery that I have dealt with many times with a lot of luck, and they will further help you on your way.
One of my favorite documentaries about chickens is the PBS DVD "The Natural History of the Chicken" This movie will have you laughing and crying, It is a gem. 
Good luck at raising chickens it is rewarding.
You can have chickens in the city, but check you local ordinances first..

1 comment:

  1. Great info! I'm going to send this link to E'm best friend Becca, who is very excited about building a coop and having some chickens this year