Keeping backyard chickens is less work than having a dog or a cat once you have a feed/water system in place.
Benefits of Backyard Chickens:
- Egg production
- Pest control
- Weed control
- Chicken tractoring….Nature’s rototillers
- Chicken TV
The Chickens. Galus galus domesticus has hundreds of breeds or varieties. Obtaining hertitage breeds is highly recommended. Similar to collecting heirloom seeds, hertiage breeds can be traced back thru multiple generations and naturally reproduce as well as being productive layers far longer than commerical chickens. http://www.albc-usa.org/heritagechicken/
Miss Mary is gearing up for her winter hatchings, if you live near Denver and are interested in day-old chicks for 2014, let me know.
Food. I feed my girls a mix of layer and scratch; both, of which, are organic, non-GMO, non-soy, non-corn, high-protein mixes of wheat, barley, lentils, etc. from Fehringer Farms (http://www.fehringerfarms.com/home.html). During the growing season, not much is eaten as they are pastured everyday; they eat a variety of garden goodies that haven’t yet been fenced. Chickens love kitchen and restaurant leftovers. As a treat, feed them some red wrigglers from your worm farm. I also purchase a small bag of “Chicken Crack” aka mealworms, good herding mechanism. Your local Vitamin Cottage is always a good place to pick up damaged organic produce, give them a dozen eggs and they will leave boxes at the back dumpster for you.
Provide your hens with fresh water at all times. When your girls start laying, you can provide them with a Calcium source but it’s not necessary if they are free-ranging and healthy. This can be oyster shell from your local feed store or you can roast crushed eggshells and feed back to them. Always roast their shells or you’ll have egg peckers!
Coop. Chickens need protection from predators (dogs, coyotes, fox, raccoons) and weather. Coops also should have the nesting boxes and roosts for the chicken to hang out on or sleep. If you don’t provide them with an raised roost, they will instinctively take to the trees or roof. Coops can be built from all sorts of materials, and also bought for riduculous amounts of money or pretty cheap. Check out your local Craigslist or ask your Dad. He built mine.
Dust Bathing. Bathing is important to hens as it rids them of ecto-parasites suce as mites and ticks. If your girls are restricted, provide them with a small area of dry dirt or diatomaceous earth (DE) to rustle around in. If they are free-range, they will choose their favorite bathing location.
Nesting Boxes. You don’t really need them, they will lay their eggs regardless but it does make egg gathering less of a hunt. Build about 1 box per 5 birds and you should be fine. Line the boxes with soft bedding such as straw, wood shavings, or coffee chaff. Coffee chaff is free and a natural miticide. My GFs and I have a great hook-up for coffee chaff and burlap, holler if you live in CO…
Eggs. More info coming soon….
Love. Give your girls some Love! It will come back to you in more ways than one…