So excited!!
December 12, 2010, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Sustainable Living

My Mom took me to Bring’s Recycling today, a giant store of materials left over from tearing down buildings and the like, and we got the supplies to build a chicken coop.

I can’t believe she agreed to it, and I’m even more surprised by how cheap it was – 30 bucks. We still need to get the locks, so we don’t have any racoon-burglers. But still, that’s only another 5 bucks. What’s even better, is that chickens are cheap to maintain too. Especially if you have your own garden. They need straw for bedding, and you can either give them some chicken comercial feed, or let them be free range and feed them grain, left over kitchen scraps (greens and fruit), and an occasional calcium supplement… It’s just so easy. And they’re so easy to take care of… from what I’ve read, at least. Change the bedding every other day, easy. Just sweep it into the compost bin.

So, what I know about chickens I’ve learned from my Granny, and from the book The Urban Homestead, by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen. It’s legit – she and he lists their sources in the back.

So here’s  a summary of the section on chickens, if you want to have fresh eggs every morning:

  • If you let your chickens free range in your garden and yard, they will fertilize the ground for you (chicken poop is the second best compost fertilizer, next to rabbits), eat weeds, and eat bugs. They even lay eggs!!
  • Three eggs a week per chicken is average.
  • Chickens pasture-raised can live as long as 30 years.
  • You only need a rooster to have chicks.
  • You can get chicks at a feed store, a local farm or breeder, at a local animal shelter, or order them online.
  • Make sure to have them sexed – this way you know you’re getting only hens. Chickens have pecking orders, or a social hierchy, so if you do get a rooster, only get one or face the horrors of a fowl war.
  • Only get chickens that are active, alert, bright-eyed, and clean plumage. Most importantly, their butts should be  clean. DO NOT get sickly chickens – they are highly susceptible to diseases if they aren’t already sick. Even if the chicken is clean, but it’s surrounding aren’t, walk away immediately. Don’t bring home parasites or diseases.
  • Chickens are social. Never have only one. 3 to 6 hens is typical for a city flock, but if you live in a place, like say Eugene, you might have to check with your local laws and regulations. Eugene only allows two chickens per household.
  • Chicks are complicated – they need to be constantly warm, housed in a brooder, and fed special food. This is why I’m starting with adult hens, but when we move to a house with a bigger yard, I want to get a rooster and breed. My point is, it may be fun to raise the chicks, or maybe you want the short-cut like me. Either’s fine. Keep in mind, chickens don’t start laying eggs until they’re about 6 months old.
  • The hen house is essentially “a box with a wood, dirt, or concrete floor, a bar for roosting, and a nesting box or two for laying. Hens share nesting boxes, so one box per four hens is sufficient” (Paraphrased). You need about 4 square feet per hen if you let them out to play each day. If not, you need about 10 square feet per hen. Make sure it is easy to open and access for cleaning. Shouldn’t be drafty during the winter, but cross-ventilated for the summer. Unless you live in a southern climate, insulate the chicken house too. Make sure your house is secure – racoons can eat a chicken through chicken wire, and unlock latches and the like. Get a padlock, and make sure your henhouse is sealed from chicken predators.
  • Chickens eat greens, grains, scratch, fruit, weeds. Chickens NEED grit, and calcium. If you don’t give them a comercial feed, just let them get grit out of your yard and give them constant access to some, and grind up the chickens eggshells VERY FINELY for calcium supplements (if the chickens recognize the eggs they might eat their own).
  • Don’t leave them out at night.
  • Change the bedding/Clean the coop every couple of days.
  • Chickens don’t make much noise – Roosters are incredibly loud.
  • Chickens do not get along with cats or dogs.

Well, good luck with your chikitas!!

  • For water, the book suggests getting a poultry fountain. It can’t be perched on, pooped in, or knocked over.

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