Rural Lifestyle

Life in Rural America

Tag: chickens

Buying Chicks in the Summer

Chicks inside chicken coop

For the most part buying chicks is a springtime activity. The local farm supply stores start getting their chicks in around early to mid February. Then there are the Easter colored chicks. Please do not buy colored chicks for Easter. You do not know what breeds you are getting, what sex, and the “new” quickly wears off.

You may think that after the feed stores stop selling chicks in the spring that there are no more on the market. That is simply not true. Some hatcheries sell chicks all year long. Where do you find these hatcheries? On the internet.

My wife and I had never bought chicks over the internet. We had always gone down to the local feed store, bought whatever chicks they had in stock, then went home. After buying our first set of chicks over the internet, I doubt we will ever buy from a feed store again. The process was easy and straight forward.

Some of the popular hatcheries:

  • Cackle hatchery
  • Ideal Poultry
  • Murray McMurray
  • Privett Hatchery

Planning a New Chicken Yard

Chicken House on legs

Before my wife and I moved to the farm, with the help of friends and family we got a 75 feet long by 35 feet wide new chicken yard. With 2,625 square feet 100 chickens could fit in the yard and each chicken would have 26 square feet. It is recommended that each chicken have at least 10 square feet in the yard. That is double the minimum needed square feet, but there is little to no room for fig trees, blueberry trees,,,, or anything else.

It is time to build a new chicken yard.

The old yard is 75 feet X 25 feet.

The new yard will be 200 feet long, 100 feet wide on the back end and around 175 feet wide on the end where the chicken house is going to be.

The original chicken house is 6 feet wide X 8 feet long.

The new chicken house is going to be 18 feet wide and 20 feet long.

Planting Fig Trees in the Chicken Yard

Update on the Chicken Flock

Buff Orpington chick about 6 weeks old

When my wife and I moved to the farm in august 2013, we arrived with 13 hens. The hens were a little over a year and a half old. Those 13 hens were laying around 9 – 10 eggs a day.

With that 9 – 10 eggs a day I tried to estimate how many chickens and eggs my family would need during a long term SHTF situation. In a previous article we got an estimated number of around 75 chickens or so to satisfy our egg and chicken meat production needs.

In the past 3 months something happened that has thrown a serious kink into my chicken flock plans.

Out of the original 13 hens, only 8 remain.

Out of the 24 chicks my wife and I bought in February 2014, only about 12 remain.

In other words, we have lost about 1/2 of our flock in the past few months.

A Fox Appears

Lost a Rhode Island Red Hen

Rhode Island Red

Monday April 21 one of my best Rhode Island Red hens got out of the chicken yard and the puppies tried playing with her. Lets just say things did not turn out too well.

A couple of weeks ago the puppies tried playing with the same hen. A lot of the feathers on her neck were pulled out. Besides a couple of small bite marks she was otherwise ok. It looked like she was going to make a full recovery. Then Monday came along.

After my wife and I got home from work I opened the chicken yard for the chickens to free range until dark. The puppies were roaming free while the chickens were in their yard.

Maybe around 6:30 or so I opened the chicken house and that is when I saw her. She was in the nest with a broody Australorp. I knew right then something was wrong. She was missing feathers around her vent and she acted scared.

I picked her up out of the box and that was when reality set in. She was more than just scared, she was missing chunks of flesh under one of her wings and around her vent. I am going to guess she jumped over the fence of the chicken yard. The puppies saw her and and tried to play. Chickens just are not as durable as puppies.

One of my Silver Laced Wyandottes Died

Silver Laced Wyandotte

The day start out as any other. I woke up, threw some clothes on and went out to the chicken house to let the chickens out. This has been my daily routine for 2 years.

Today was different. When I opened the door, one of my Silver Laced Wyandottes was laying on the floor dead. I opened the door to let the chickens out, then grabbed the Silver Laced Wyandotte to get it out of the chicken house. The body was cold and rigor mortis had set in.

A couple of days ago something killed one of my Black Jersey Giants. That is two of my full grown hens who were 2 years old have either died or been killed. That sucks. It really sucks. These hens were in their prime years, spring is here, egg production is picking back up and bam out of nowhere this Silver Laced Wyandotte dies out of nowhere.

On Friday, April 4th my wife and I picked up a Satsuma tree along with 5 bags of cow manure and compost mix. We already have two Satsuma trees in the ground and growing, but we wanted a third tree.

Instead of burying the chicken, or throwing it out in the woods for some wild critter to eat, I planted the Satsuma tree on top of the Silver Laced Wyandotte.

Hopefully the circle of life will continue.

Predators Killing My Chickens

Chickens in the chicken yard

Something is killing my chickens. In the past 2 weeks my wife and I have lost 3 chickens. Overall we have lost something like 5 or 6 chickens.

  • 1 Speckled Sussex about a year and a half old
  • 1 Rhode Island Red about a year and a half old
  • 1 Barred rock pullet about 6 – 7 weeks old
  • 1 Australorp pullet about 6 – 7 weeks old
  • 1 Black Jersey Giant about a year and a half old

The Speckled Sussex and Rhode Island Red just disappeared. One day they were there and the next day they were gone. No pile of feathers, no blood, no nothing, just gone.

The Black Jersey Giant was a different story. I found it inside the chicken yard half eaten.

The Barred Rock pullet, all I found was some feathers.

The Australorp pullet, something had killed and gutted it.

Chicken Hawks

One Month Update on the New Chicks

Rhode Island Red about four - five weeks old

It is amazing how fast chicks grow. In 1 month they went from being totally helpless, to foraging for food. With every passing day the chicks move further away from the chicken house.

The more I watch chickens, the more I understand why the species has been so successful, and why humans have grown dependent on them. While cats, dogs, humans,,, are still dependent on their parents at one month old, chickens are pretty much independent. At 4 – 6 weeks old chicks need protection from full grown chickens and predators, but they do pretty well at foraging and looking for food.

The colors of each breed are becoming more defined. The Barred Rocks are getting their distinctive white specs, Rhode Island Reds are getting a deeper colors red, Australorps are still black as they should be and the Buff Orpingtons are turning a bright yellow gold color.

At around 4 weeks old the chicks have shed their soft birth feathers and have got their real feathers in. Some of the chicks have bald spots from shedding (molting) one set of feathers and getting another set in.

Best Four Chicken Breeds

Taking Care of New Baby Chicks

Chicks around the feeder

Are you interested in raising some baby chicks, but are worried about how difficult it is to get started? If you take the right precautions raising chicks is neither difficult or hard, but it is a labor of love.

Chicks are small and cute, but provided they have the right conditions they are not fragile. During the late winter and early spring hundreds of thousands of chicks are mailed from hatcheries to farm supply stores and directly to customers. The vast majority of those chicks arrive alive and well.

Baby chicks should be provided with 5 things, safe place that will protect them from predators, heat lamp / heat source, food, water, and a clean place to sleep.

Let’s discuss each of those points in detail.

Keeping Baby Chicks Safe

Baby chicks are an easy target for just about any kind of predator. They are an easy target for house cats, feral cats, aerial predators, snakes, opossums, minks, weasels, raccoons,,, to name a few.

First Chicks Added To The Farm In 2014

Chick waterer in new chicks

My wife and I got our first chicks of 2014, 6 Buff Orpingtons and 6 Australorps. Circle 3 Feed here in Jasper Texas got an early shipment of chicks. Usually the chicks do not start shipping until late February and early March, which is when Kristy (my wife) and I got our first set of chicks 2 years ago.

Circle 3 had Bantams, White Leghorns, Australorps and Buff Orpingtons. My wife and I were only interested in the Australorps and Buff Orpingtons.

My wife has been wanting Buffs for a long time. Now that we live in a rural area I told my wife to get as many Buff Orpingtons as she wanted. On Friday February 7th I picked Kristy up 6 Buff Orpingtons, and we are supposed to get another dozen on Monday February 10th.

We have two Australorp hens that are turning 2 years old in 2014. While Circle 3 had them in stock I picked up 6 more.

White Leghorns

Got Our First Rooster

Bantam rooster

My wife and I obtained two heinz-57 roosters that have been rather “neglected.” These are our first roosters, and our first steps to building a self-sustaining chicken flock.

The roosters are going from being wild, never handled, roosted in trees at night type of life, to being in a chicken house with a dozen hens who have been socialized.

Rooster #1 – looks like it has some Rhode Island Red, or maybe Delaware. Its spurs were maybe one and a quarter inches long.

Rooster #2 – is a white body with long black tail feathers. The people who handed the roosters over said #2 had been fighting other roosters, so it had been kept in a cage.

Both roosters are very skinny.

Feather quality of both roosters were poor.

Things Moving Along Nicely At The Farm

Septic system being put in

Things are moving along nicely as my wife and I settle into our new life in rural southeast Texas.

Power has been hooked up to the house.

Deck has been moved to the house. Now its just a matter of leveling the deck.

Air conditioner is supposed to be hooked up today (August 15, 2013).

Hopefully I will be able to buy a 1,000 gallon septic tank and 100 feet of field line in the next couple of days.

First Observations On Free Ranging Chickens

Free ranging Dominique chicken

Are you raising chickens as part of you long term SHTF / TEOTWAWKI survival plan? If so, have you put much thought into how well your chickens are able to forage, and what type of land is available to the chickens?

During a collapse of society it will be critical for livestock to forage.

How do we know what chicken breeds are good at foraging and which ones should be avoided? I hope to do a series of articles on how well different chicken breeds cope with free ranging.

My wife and I recently moved to a rural area of southeast Texas. One of the first things we did after the move was let the chickens out to free range. The area directly behind the chicken yard is around 1 acre of cleared land, and then another 2 acres of timber.

When the 13 hens were being fed commercial laying pellets my wife and I were getting 8 – 12 eggs a day. Some of the hens are molting, so that may contribute to the fluctuation in laying patterns. We are also in the hottest part of the year with daytime temps reaching 100 degrees here in southeast Texas.

Moving The Chicken House To The Farm

Moving chicken house to the farm

What do you do when you have chickens and plan on bugging out? You build the chicken house where it will fit on a trailer, or in the bed of a truck.

When my wife and I built the chicken coop we knew that one day we would be moving. So the chicken coop was built so that it would fit on a dual axle trailer. The inside of the trailer measured 7 feet, so the coop was built 6 foot 3 inches wide.

Today (July 20, 2013) my plans were put to the test. Here is the story of moving the chicken house.

What a day. Started off with breakfast, pulled my boat to the camp, picked up my son, back home, then moved the chicken coop into position to be loaded on a trailer.

Loaded the chicken coop on a trailer, dad pulled the coop and trailer to the camp while I had the run on a trailer attached to my truck.

Building A Chicken Yard Part 1

For those of you who are planning on raising chickens after SHTF / TEOTWAWKI, have you put any thought into building the chicken yard? People who have lived in a rural area may have been exposed to the hard work of building a chicken yard. But people who live in the city or urban areas, the vast majority have no idea how much hard work building a chicken yard takes.

As some of yall may know my wife and I are planning on moving to a rural area of southeast Texas. We have moved past the planning phase are are moving to the implementation phase.Barred Rock chicken

When my wife make the move to the homestead, the chicken coop will be loaded on a trailer, taken to the farm, unloaded and bumped up to the new chicken yard. Before all of that can happen the new chicken yard has to be built.

After spending a lot of time on the dimensions, how many square feet each chicken needs, how many chickens I wanted, and room for growth,,, I came up with a chicken yard that is 75 feet long and 30 feet wide.

Meat Production After SHTF

Barred Rock Chicken

There are all kinds of articles out there talking about meat after SHTF. You want to know what is missing in a lot of those articles? Exact details.

Awhile back we talked about how many chickens would be needed for SHTF. I would like to do this article in the same manner as the chicken article.

Lets start with one very important question, and that is how much meat does the average person eat? To find the answer lets turn to the US census.

Per Capita Consumption of Major Food Commodities

Average US meat consumption in 2009:

Commodity Weight / Number
Red Meat, includes beef, veal, lamb and pork. 105.7 pounds
Poultry, includes chicken and turkey. 69.4 pounds
Eggs 246 eggs

For right now lets exclude eggs and focus on red meat and poultry. We will talk about eggs later.

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