Rural Lifestyle

Life in Rural America

Tag: raising chickens

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.

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.

My New Adversary The Chicken Snake

chicken snake

My new adversary and I came face-to-face this morning, and it was not a pretty sight.

On the morning of May 27, 2013 I went out to check on the chickens and rabbits. Before the chickens were let out of the coop I walked to the end of the run to make sure it was closed. Took a couple of steps over to the rabbit hutch, looked up, and within arms length on top of the hutch was a chicken snake looking straight at me. The rabbit hutch is 8 feet long, the snake was almost the length of the hutch.

The first thing I did was take a couple of steps backwards, reminded myself that cotton mouths do not climb, then went into the house to get a camera. What good is a story without pictures.

My wife grabbed her camera and started taking pictures.

The snake seemed to be looking for a way to get into the rabbit hutch. The rabbits seem a little big for the snake to eat, but you never know.

Before I could get a rake to get the snake off the hutch, it had retreated to the safety of some brush.

If being face-to-face with a chicken snake was not bad enough, I found a second snake just a few minutes later.

Best Free Range Dual Purpose Chicken Breeds

Barred Rock chicken

Lets talk about some good free range dual purpose chickens. These are chickens that are good at free ranging, egg production or for butchering.

For the sake of discussion lets say that some kind of SHTF / TEOTWAWKI situation has happened. Whether its some kind of new SARS virus, wide spread civil unrest, nuclear war with China, hurricane, blizzard,,, something has happened to disrupt food shipments.

You go out to the chicken coop, survey the flock for dinner, what kind of chickens would you see? Did you focus on egg production, meat production, or both? Did you buy hens that go broody, or did you go with breeds that do not go broody? If you butcher a hen, will it be replaced?

What are some of the traits we are looking for? Lets start with heritage breeds that have a proven track record of over 100 years. The older the breed the better.

Lets look for chickens that weigh at least 6 – 7 pounds before processing, because do we really want to butcher 2 or 3 small hens for a single meal? We want a hen that can go broody, is a good mother, raise her chicks for the next generation, is a good forager and will feed a family of 4.

Dominique Chicken

Designing A Chicken Coop Pole Barn

Chicken coop pole barn design

Some people build a coop with either a wooden floor, or pour a cement slab. Due to the cost of having a wooden floor and the cost of pouring cement, I am going with a bare earth floor. Also, a bare earth floor is natural to the chickens. This is the way chickens have been raised for thousands of years. My option is to either build a pole barn, or build a leanto chicken coop. At the current time I am leaning towards a pole barn.

Issues that need to be addressed: Square footage, security, food, water, lighting and laying boxes.

Square Footage – Its recommended that each chicken have at least 3 square feet inside the coop. For example, 30 chickens multiplied by 3 square feet equals 90 square feet.

In another article we discussed how many chickens are needed for SHTF. In that article we talked about having as many as 60 – 80 laying hens. Lets go with a high number of 80 chickens. 80 X 3 = 240 square feet.

Keep in mind 3 square feet is a bare minimum. The more space chickens have, the better. When chickens are packed together, they get bored and will start fighting and pecking each other.

The pole barn I am looking at building provides 192 square feet, which is 12 feet wide and 16 feet long.

The local building supply stores sell metal roofing in 8 and 12 foot long sections. Two pieces 12 feet long will be enough to do one end. Four pieces 8 feet long will be enough to do one side. This way the metal does not have to be cut to size and there is no scrap material left over.

192 square feet divided by 3 = 64 chickens.

Australorp For Your Backyard Chicken Flock

Australorp in laying box

Why should you consider the Australorp for your backyard chicken flock?

From my experience with the Australorp, they are an excellent dual purpose chicken. The Australorp is an excellent egg layer, and good sized for butchering. Australorps would make a nice addition to just about any backyard chicken flock.

Tolerate heat well – they were developed in Australia in the late 1800s.

High egg production – in 1922-23 a team of six Australorp hens set a world record of 1857 eggs at an average of 309.5 eggs per hen for a 365 consecutive day trial (from wikipedia). Australorps also hold the world record for egg production. In trapnest testing, a Australorp hen laid 364 eggs in 365 days.

A trapnest is a nesting box that closes after a hen has entered the laying box. This traps the hen and allows inspection and marking of the egg to a specific hen. If a hen is eating eggs, a trapnest allows the farmer to know which hen is eating the egg, as the hen will be trapped in the laying box with the egg.

Heritage Chicken

This is something that we need to pay attention to, or at least take into consideration.

According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, the definition of a heritage chicken is as follows:

Issues With Increasing Chicken Flock Size

Chicken coop

Awhile back we talked about how many chickens would be needed for SHTF. We came up with a low number of 30 chickens, and a high number somewhere around 70 – 80. At the present time my wife and I have 13 hens.

In the next few months my wife and I are planning on moving to the homestead. Once we get moved, our chicken flock will be increased from 13 hens, to around 25 hens. There are a couple of problems we nee´╗┐d to address before we get more chickens, such as – having enough room on the coop, access to feed and access to water.
Chicken House Size

The current coop size provides each chicken with 3.69 square feet. If the flock is doubled, that gives each chicken 1.84 square feet. 1.84 square feet is not enough room.

I do not want to rebuild the coop. My wife and I put too much time, effort and money into building it the first time, I do not want to build it a second time.

Chickens In Wintertime

Raising chickens for SHTF

In this article we will talk about how my chickens are doing in the wintertime. All of the hens were bought as chicks within two weeks of each other. The first chickens were bought on the last weekend of February 2012, the next batch were bought the first week of March. The final batch were bought around March 7th or 8th, 2012.

Part of my long term SHTF survival plan includes having a self-sustaining chicken flock. In a previous thread we talked about how many chickens a family may need for a TEOTWAWKI event.

Current chicken flock has:

  • Rhode Island Reds
  • Silver Laced Wyandotte
  • Barred Rocks
  • Australorps
  • Black Jersey Giants
  • Speckled Sussex
  • Buff Orptington

My observations are based off a rather small sample size, so we will have to take part this thread with a grain of salt. When my wife and I get moved to the homestead, we plan on adding 12 – 13 Dominickers.

As the flock size increases, the sample size increases. Hopefully next year I will be able to provide a article with a larger sample size.

Moulting

Selecting A Chicken Breed

Wondering what is the best chicken breed for your flock is? Victoryfarm made an outstanding video about some of the chicken breeds they raise.

Some of the chickens discussed in the video:

Barred Rocks
Rhode Island Reds
Hybrids

My experiences with the Barred Rocks and rhode Island Reds have been opposite of his. My Rhode Island Reds seem to be a little more fussy then my Barred Rocks.

Both of my Barred Rocks are pretty tame, and only 1 of my Rhode Island Reds is tame.

I have raised Barred Rocks twice, and both times they have been hardy during the winter time.

This is my first time raising Rhode Island Reds, but so far I like them My grandmother raised a lot of Rhode Islands when my dad was a kid.

Raising Backyard Chickens

Interested in raising backyard chickens? Cookingupastory posted an great video that covers some of the basics.

I like how Naomi Montacre, co-founder of Naomi’s Organic Farm Supply gives a clear description on each of the topics.

Some of the topics includes:

Eggs and egg production
Chicken lifespan
Pullets
brooder box

Feeding Poultry

Experiments have demonstrated that what may be called the gastric juice in fowls has not sufficient power to dissolve their food, without the aid of the grinding action of the gizzard. Before the food is prepared for digestion, therefore, the grains must be subjected to a triturating process; and such as are not sufficiently bruised in this manner, before passing into the gizzard, are there reduced to the proper state, by its natural action.

Chickens eating table scrapsThe action of the gizzard is, in this respect, mechanical; this organ serving as a mill to grind the food to pieces, and then, by means of its powerful muscles, pressing it gradually into the intestines, in the form of pulp. The power of this organ is said to be sufficient to pulverize hollow globules of glass in a very short time, and solid masses of the same substance in a few weeks.

The rapidity of this process seems to be proportionate, generally, to the size of the bird. A chicken, for example, breaks up such substances as are received into its stomach less readily than the capon; while a goose performs the same operation sooner than either. Needles, and even lancets, given to turkeys, have been broken in pieces and voided, without any apparent injury to the stomach. The reason, undoubtedly, is, that the larger species of birds have thicker and more powerful organs of digestion.

POULTRY STOCK, BREEDING, AND CROSSING

The following article was taken from:

Poultry: A Practical Guide to the Choice, Breeding, Rearing, and Management of all Descriptions of Fowls, Turkeys, Guinea-fowls, Ducks, and Geese, for Profit and Exhibition.

Author: Hugh Piper

Publication Date: 1872

Keep only good, healthy, vigorous, well-bred fowls, whether you keep them to produce eggs or chickens, or both. The ill-bred mongrel fowls which are so commonly kept, are the most voracious, and consume larger quantities of food, without turning it to any account; while well-bred fowls eat less, and quickly convert that into fat, flesh, and eggs.

“Large, well-bred fowls,” says Mr. Edwards, “do not consume more food than ravenous, mongrel breeds. It is the same with fowls as with other stock. I have at this moment two store pigs, one highly bred, the other a rough, ill-bred animal. They have, since they left their mothers, been fed together and upon the same food. The former, I am confident (from observation), ate considerably less than the latter, which was particularly ravenous. The former pig, however, is in excellent condition, kind, and in a measure fat; whereas the latter looks hard, starved, and thin, and I am sure she will require one-third more food to make bacon of.”

Chicken House Lessons From The Past

The following article was taken from:

Poultry: A Practical Guide to the Choice, Breeding, Rearing, and Management of all Descriptions of Fowls, Turkeys, Guinea-fowls, Ducks, and Geese, for Profit and Exhibition.

Author: Hugh Piper

Publication Date: 1871

In this work we shall consider the accommodation and requisites for keeping fowls successfully on a moderate scale, and the reader must adapt them to his own premises, circumstances, and requirements. Everywhere there must be some alterations, omissions, or compromises.

We shall state the essentials for their proper accommodation, and describe the mode of constructing houses, sheds, and arranging runs, and the reader must then form his plan according to his own wishes, resources, and the capabilities of the place. The climate of Great Britain being so very variable in itself, and differing in its temperature so much in different parts, no one manner or material for building the fowl-house can be recommended for all cases.

Plans for poultry establishments on large scales for the hatching, rearing, and fattening of fowls, turkeys, ducks, and geese, are given in our smaller work on Poultry.

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