Rural Lifestyle

Life in Rural America

Tag: livestock

Rethinking Buff Orpingtons For My Prepsteading Chicken Flock

Buff Orpington Chick

There have been some events which have caused me rethink the Buff Orpingtons for my prepsteading chicken flock. Buff Orpingtons have been part of my chicken flock for around four years, and during that four years I have noticed a common trend.

When new chicks are bought from the local feed store, they are brought home and put in a six feet X eight feet brooder house. The house has perches, plywood walls, screened in floor, heat lamp… everything the chicks need to be safe.

The chicks are usually kept in the brooder house for around six weeks, and then put in the main chicken house. A lot of it depends on outside temperatures, and how feathered out the chicks are.

Buff Orpingtons

Spent Day Cleaning Out Chicken House

Chicken house

My chicken house is a mess so it is time to do some cleaning. About a year and a half ago I set up a water barrel system inside the chicken house and is a 35 gallon drum going to a stainless steel pan with a float. The chickens have been getting on the drum and pooping all over the top of it. When I fill the drum up chicken poop is all over the place.

Then there is the metal trash can I store feed in. It is next to the water barrel and close to a corner of the chicken house. The chickens get into the corner and lay eggs, right where chickens get on the feed barrel and poop.

There is barely any room between the feed can and the wall, but enough room for the chickens to get into.

I decided to rearrange everything.

The water barrel is getting moved outside.

The feed can is getting moved away from the wall. Now I can get in there and clean out.

The chickens are getting a laying box put in the corner.

Lessons learned

Mama Guinea With Her Keets

Mama guinea with keets

Guinea fowl are loud, not as friendly as chickens, not very smart, but for some reason they are fun to have around the farm.

In late summer of 2015 I got a dozen guineas along with some chicks. Over the course of the next few months 4 of the guineas went missing or died. I found one guinea chick dead from what I suspect was heat stroke.

Guineas are not supposed to be good parents, and that may be true. What I am seeing with my guineas, the chicks have to keep up with the flock, kinda like sink or swim. While at the same time the flock protects the chicks.

The guinea flock will run off any chicken that dares get close to the keets. Guineas do not seem to share food with the keets, but rather shows the keets where the food is at. At a week old I saw the flock taking the keets close to 100 yards from the chicken house.

Mama Guinea

All Of The New Chickens Are Gone

Chicken flock November 23 2014

I need to explain the title in a little more detail. When my wife and I moved to the farm in July – August 2013 we brought with us 13 hens. These hens were a year and a half old.

Between February – March 2014 my wife and I bought around 20 chicks. These chicks were only a day or two old and were bought from local farm supply stores here in Jasper Texas.

We are back to 13 hens and one rooster. Some of the original chickens disappeared, and the new ones took their place. But we are back to the original number we started with.

Between a chicken hawk, fox or coyote, and my dogs killing the chickens, the ratio of new chickens that have died sits at 100 percent.

My wife and I loaned a rhode island red rooster to my cousin, he is doing good. My wifes buff orpington rooster had a stroke. Those are the two extra chickens we have left out of the new we bought.

Update on the New Chicken House

Outside of chicken house

Awhile back I started building a new chicken yard. Now that the yard is pretty much complete (for now), the time has come to build the new chicken house.

The size I decided on was 16 feet by 16 feet. 16 X 16 = 256 square feet. I figured 256 square feet was enough to accommodate roost, laying boxes, storage cabinet, water barrels and batteries for the solar power.

The laying boxes will take up 6 feet on one wall, and the roost takes up around 12 feet on another wall. The laying boxes in the new chicken house will be modeled after the laying boxes of the old chicken house.

An 8 foot wide leanto will be built off one wall. Which is where the solar panels will be installed.

Inside the house is a steel storage cabinet 36 inches wide and 18 inches deep. This is for tools, nails, screws, paint, chicken feeders, waterers, just your usual stuff.

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

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.

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 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.

Rabbit Box Update

Rabbits in their cage

After building the rabbit hutch, my wife and I built a couple of hide-away boxes for the rabbits to get into. The box also acts as a birthing box, a place to get out of the cold winter wind, and a place to get off the wire of the cage.

The problem is, the rabbits have been urinating in the box.

The floor, the walls and the bedding material are soaking up the urine. This is creating an unsanitary situation for the rabbits. Something has to be done to fix the problem. So what I did was remove part of the floor of the box.

From what I am observing the rabbits tend to urinate and poop in the corners of the box and cage.

The box was removed from the cage.

All of the old bedding material was dumped out onto the ground.

The bedding material that did not fallout was scrapped out by hand.

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.

Rabbit Update: Raising Rabbits For SHTF

Rabbit exploring her new home

An update to how the rabbit hutch and hideaway boxes are working out. The hideaway box is working well, but they are moving their food bowls around and spilling their food.

To fix the food bowl problem I ran a screw through the bowl and into the 2×4 under the bowl.

I used a 10 penny nail and hammer to poke a hole in the bottom of the food boil, then secured the bowl with a 2 inch outdoor wood screw.

The doe seems to spend an equal amount of time inside and outside the box, while the buck spends most of his time on top of the box.

The rabbits get on top of the box so they are next to each other, and that is where they spend a good deal of their time .

Building A Rabbit Hide Box

Raising rabbits for shtf

A rabbit hideaway box serves several purposes – it provides a place for the rabbit to hide, provides the doe with a birthing box for her litter, and provides a high place for a lookout point. Rabbits are prey animals, and as such will want to hide when they are scared.

The rabbit hutch was built a couple of weeks ago, so now it is time to build the hideaway boxes. One box will be built for the doe and one box will be built for the buck.

The first hide box was built 20 inches X 24 inches. After the box was placed in the hutch it seemed a little large.

The second box was built 16 inches X 20 inches. Even at 16X20 the box seems a little big.

I may cut that down to 12 X 20, but it will be after the rabbits are grown. Right now the boxes seem a little large, but the rabbits still have a lot of growing to do.

Finishing The Rabbit Hutch

Complete rabbit hutch

My wife and I started the rabbit hutch last weekend. And as things happen in life we ran out of time and were unable to finish the hutch. This weekend we were going to be a little pressed for time, but I was hoping to get it finished. Besides the hutch my wife and I had a pageant for my daughter in Newton Texas on Saturday, then a birthday party for two of the grandkids on Sunday. Saturday was a no-go, so we only had Sunday to work on the hutch.

Sunday morning my wife and I moved the rabbit hutch from in front of the wood shed to under a large oak tree in the back yard. When my wife asked why we were moving the hutch to work on it, I asked her if she wanted to work in the sun.

The drops from the legs are long enough to make cross members for the floor. When the floor was being built a cross member was placed every 2 feet. This left a space of 2×3 feet that was not supported. As a result there was a lot of slack in the floor. After the extra cross members were installed the floor was reenforced and the extra slack was removed.

Rabbit Hutch Doors

Kevin Felts © 2008 - 2018