Raising meat chickens in your backyard is an achievable (and easy) way to maintain a self-sufficient supply of protein for you and your family!
Cabinet Re-Purposed Into a Chicken Coop I saw his article and had to share it with you all, you’re going to think this DIY is so cool, you’re going to have to make it for all of your chicken loving friends!. Imagine a convenient location for all of your chicken needs, that’s what this DIY …
There are a lot of decisions to be made when keeping poultry, and whether or not to clip chickens’ wings to prevent the birds from flying is one of the choices that must be made.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Although clipping chicken wings does not cause harm or pain to the bird, it is always my last resort. I believe in allowing animals to retain as much of their natural state as practicable, but chicken wings do sometimes need to be clipped. Whatever your philosophy, here are some points to be considered as you make the decision that works best for you and your flock.
The reason this is a consideration at all is because chickens, of course, fly. They don’t fly very high or well or for more than short bursts at a time, but they do fly. They can clear fences, and that is where they can get into trouble. For many homesteaders, the reason for fencing is as much to keep predators and other dangers out as it is to keep chickens and livestock in. And if the chickens fly over the fence and out of their safe enclosure, the fence cannot do its job to protect them.
There are certain chicken housing methods that make it unnecessary to clip wings.
For example, some enclosures are covered. This not only prevents avian predation and discourages nimble ground predators from climbing up and over the fence but also keeps domestic birds from escaping. If your chickens live in a covered pen, there is no need to consider clipping their wings.
Another reason chickens would not need to have their wings clipped is if they do not have an enclosure at all. If they are truly free-range — let out of the chicken coop at dawn and allowed to spend their days roaming wherever strikes them — there is no practical reason to restrict them from flying. In fact, free-range homestead chickens are better off with both wings completely intact, allowing them to fly up out of danger to tree branches and other high places when threatened.
And, of course, chickens that are kept indoors except for when under direct supervision by humans or trained guard animals do not need to have their wings clipped.
It is significant to note that all chickens do not fly over fences. It is more difficult for some breeds and individuals than it is for others, and some chickens simply choose not to fly. Therefore, if your chickens have not flown out already and are making no attempts to do so, it may not be essential to clip their wings.
In many instances, chickens can be trained not to fly over the fence by simply putting them back in when they get out. Chickens tend to follow the leader, so if one bird flies out, the rest are likely to try it. The earlier you can catch the first few fence-flyers and retrain them, the better.
If your chickens do not fall into any of the above categories — completely enclosed including a roof, not enclosed at all, unable to or uninterested in flying, or trained to stay in the pen — then you may need to consider clipping their wings. If it is critical that your birds do not get out of their pen, because of possible predation, proximity to vehicle traffic, or other potential issues. In those scenarios, clipping is probably the best choice for your flock.
When wings must be clipped, it is crucial to do it correctly. Similar to trimming human fingernails, cutting the outer edges is harmless but cutting into the part where blood is flowing causes pain.
Most sources say to clip only one wing, causing an uneven dynamic which prevents the bird from achieving liftoff. This works well on my homestead.
The key components to clipping chicken wings are to stay calm, be sure to clip only the flight feathers, and don’t remove any more than necessary.
The flight feathers are the ones at the ends of the wings, visible when the wing is spread open. The quills (the rigid tubes down the center) of wing feathers are white or clear. This is an important distinction from other feathers which have dark-colored quills and can bleed heavily if you cut them. It is a good idea to have blood-stop powder on hand in case you accidentally cut a blood feather, but it is a better idea to take great care and be deliberate in cutting one feather at a time to avoid mistakes. Some chicken literature includes instructions to have pliers on hand and pull a feather that starts bleeding, but I have never had that experience with my chickens.
It is important to use sharp scissors, and helpful to have an assistant on hand to assist with handling the chicken is a real bonus. Make minimal conservative cuts when clipping feathers. You always can cut more off more if needed.
I have read that wing-clipping needs to be done every year as they molt and grow in new feathers. That makes sense, but I have not found it to be true with my flock. The habit of staying in the pen having been developed, it tends to stick with them. I toss the occasional outliers back over the fence in the spring when they first consider straying, and they seem to get over the idea.
By carefully evaluating the needs and habits of your poultry when making the choice about clipping their wings, the birds can stay on the right side of the fence and live long healthy lives.
What is your opinion about clipping wings? What do you do? Share your thoughts in the section below:
7 Reasons You Should Raise Chickens This is a great article that seems like a no brainer to the chicken owner. As someone who enjoys the company of chickens I remember a time before my birds when I too was on the fence about bringing these creatures into my world. I was concerned about what …
Dancing Goat Farm Labor for Lessons
Rockingham County, NC. Looking for people who live close to me who would like to learn about sustainable living, organic gardening, building a cob oven and rocket stove, canning, making cheese, goats, chickens, ducks and how to transform a 1/2 acre into a permaculture paradise, while they are waiting to make their move off grid. There is a learning curve to all of these skills. It’s always better to have some of them before you make your jump.
I’m not fully off grid yet. I heat with wood and the new 30′ x 32′ greenhouse will be heated with a rocket stove come winter. I’m still lusting after my solar set up. Reclaiming the old farmhouse well is still a work in progress at Dancing Goat Farm. One of the former owners thought filling it in with dirt and booze bottles was a good idea.
Oak pallets are much heavier at 62 than they were at 55. Some things I can’t pick up by myself like the chicken house. (It’s tipping over because the bunnies thought underneath it was a good place to dig tunnels.) I need help! If you want to learn, get your hands dirty, plant a row of your own vegetables this year give me a shout. I planted 8 fruit trees this month. 4 more are on their way. The concord grapes are in but not the white and champagne. The avocados, pomegranates, figs and olive trees have to be planted in the greenhouse. In May the lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, coffee, cinnamon and banana trees have to be moved to the greenhouse. The two clawfoot tubs have to be moved to the greenhouse because after a long day on the farm nothing is sweeter than enjoying a glass of wine while soaking under the stars.
Raising Meat Chickens Host: Austin Martin “Homesteady Live“ Audio in player below! Should you raise meat chickens on your homestead? Chickens are commonly called the “Gateway Animal”, and so it makes sense that Chickens are a great way to get started with raising your own meat. But raising meat birds is not the same as … Continue reading Raising Meat Chickens
“Backyard Shack” Chickens — Prepper Survival Tricks for a Famine or Post Apocalypse
What it takes to raise and harvest chickens following a societal collapse.
Tasty healthy, SURVIVAL eggs and chicken. Baby chicks to barter with.
Included: How to raise chickens without catching the attention of local thieves…
Animal predators, as well as human ones, will want your chickens and their eggs as much as you do, so being prepared is the way to keep your birds healthy and safely hidden until you are ready to harvest them.
One of the surest things about preparedness is that very few things are absolutely sure, and that applies to raising animals of any kind. Raising animals for food takes time and flexibility and the ability to go from Plan A to Plan B without losing your cool. The key to success is minimizing losses and maximizing harvest numbers. Chickens are one of the easiest animals to raise for eggs and meat, and that’s why farmers choose them as a first flock before goats, sheep, or other ruminants. If you are in a location where you can have animals, there are a few things you’ll need to get your chickens started as a renewable food source. You’ll need some place the birds can sleep at night, but the shelter doesn’t have to be fancy. Just shelter from the cold and/or heat, with food and water.
Chickens grow fast
If you buy chicks, they’ll grow fast and once they are old enough to identify as rooster or hen, you can sell mated pairs of birds to individuals or families you may be in contact with. Keep in mind that these birds, especially roosters, are quite noisy. If you’re trying to stay hidden, or just keep local thieves from knowing you’re raising chickens, you will need to keep your rooster apart from the hens in his own cage, with heavy blankets draped over it from dusk until lunchtime to muffle the sound of crowing.
They usually crow all day, but since they do it to establish territory over hens, keep him in his own cage (and away from the sight of the hens) most of the time and he will be more calm. When you are ready to increase the size of your flock, you can bring the hens to his cage one at a time. Once the new brood is hatched and you identify the new rooster you want to keep, you can harvest the old rooster for stew meat. For more ideas on keeping a rooster quiet, here’s a brief how-to article on stopping a rooster from crowing.
Chickens need daily water
Your chickens will need fresh, clean water daily just like you do. A mature chicken needs up to a full liter of water every day in warmer weather. If you have meat birds, (chickens that are raised primarily for the meat and not for the eggs they produce) they might need a little more than a liter.
One of the greatest challenges in raising animals of any kind is keeping the water containers clean. All animals, including chickens, don’t understand the need for keeping away from dirty water and if left to themselves will urinate and defecate in their water bowls if they are left on the ground. There are all kinds of inexpensive hanging DIY water container systems that solve this problem. Some of the best designs for these water containers can be made from empty two-liter soda bottles or plastic buckets. If none of these items are available, you can give the chickens water in any clean bowl you have available, but you will need to make sure the water is checked every day.
Chickens need vitamins, minerals — healthy food to eat
Chickens also need minerals such as calcium to make strong shells and ultimately make their meat and eggs healthy to eat.
Food for your chickens
Depending on the season of the year, and your bug out or emergency location, insects will provide some of the food that chickens need to eat every day. If you have a small cage with a mesh bottom that can be moved around (these are known as ‘chicken tractors’ to chicken farmers) the chickens will also be eating the green grass and other vegetation that they can reach through the wire. If you move the cage every day, the grass will always be fresh and the meat and eggs from these birds will benefit from the vegetation.
Chickens also eat scraps and will enjoy eating many leftovers such as wilted greens, vegetable stems and roots, even cleanings from a fish catch or fresh butchering of wild game. Some farmers insist that feeding chickens the butchered remains of other chickens is risky due to the potential for genetic weakness being passed down and/or latent bacterial infections; others say it is fine. My personal preference is to avoid feeding any animals the remains of the same kind of animals, but use your own judgment. Certainly you should avoid feeding them anything that has come in contact with chemicals or toxic waste. You are going to be eating those eggs and meat eventually, so don’t take any chances in making you or your family sick.
If you have more time to develop your chickens as a source of food, a compost bin in a plastic bucket with a lid can be used to grow earthworms or fly larvae to feed your chickens. This is another way to provide food for your chickens without having to feed them anything from your own table or supplies. If you only have a few chickens to feed, this will not be a problem. If you have more than six chickens, you will need to supplement their feed in winter with grain such as corn or oats or some type of layer feed.
Organic Feed for Chicks — First 8 Weeks
For this reason, some farmers with a small flock will cull (harvest) chickens in late fall so that they only have a few to feed through the winter. Then when the weather warms in the Spring time, they will allow their flocks to build back up with new baby chicks that should be big enough and weigh enough to be ready to eat in eight or nine weeks.
Saving our forefathers ways starts with people like you and me actually relearning these skills and putting them to use to live better lives through good times and bad. Our answers on these lost skills comes straight from the source, from old forgotten classic books written by past generations, and from first hand witness accounts from the past few hundred years. Aside from a precious few who have gone out of their way to learn basic survival skills, most of us today would be utterly hopeless if we were plopped in the middle of a forest or jungle and suddenly forced to fend for ourselves using only the resources around us. To our ancient ancestors, we’d appear as helpless as babies. In short, our forefathers lived more simply than most people today are willing to live and that is why they survived with no grocery store, no cheap oil, no cars, no electricity, and no running water. Just like our forefathers used to do, The Lost Ways Book teaches you how you can survive in the worst-case scenario with the minimum resources available. It comes as a step-by-step guide accompanied by pictures and teaches you how to use basic ingredients to make super-food for your loved ones. Watch Video HERE .
One of the best things about chickens is that they will nest on the ground with only a little encouragement in the way of a nest box. Nest boxes can be made of wood or plastic but need to be filled with some kind of clean bedding such as dry grass or leaves. Chickens will quickly develop the habit of laying in their boxes but sometimes they need help learning what the box is for, especially if they are young chickens. Some farmers place a golf ball into the nest box for this purpose. The chickens will think that the ball is an egg and will add their own egg to the clutch. Once the hen has begun to lay, a healthy, well-fed chicken will typically lay one egg per day.
You will need to gather eggs daily and either eat them immediately or refrigerate them. If you can refrigerate, or store in a root cellar kept at a cold enough temperature, the cold will stop fertilization so that the egg will not hatch. If you only have hens and not a rooster, the hens will still lay eggs but since they are not fertilized, they will not hatch.
As we mentioned before, chickens can be noisy, especially roosters. If you are hoping to lay low and go unnoticed in your location, you will need to keep your flock to just the laying hens. Unfortunately, the hens will only be good layers for a couple of years. Then you will need to replace your birds.
When it is time to harvest your birds (eight or nine weeks) there are several methods for doing this. If you are reading this article, you obviously have internet access. You can find any number of videos on how to harvest a chicken. There are several good how-to videos that show newbies a simple process of removing the head with a sharp knife and hanging the bird upside down to clean out the guts.
Next the bird needs to be placed in a pot of hot water to loosen the feathers; then the bird is plucked. You’ll find similar videos of hunters harvesting wild turkeys, a process that involves removing the skin of the bird, which hangs loosely on the body, and the feathers come off with the skin. One hunter shares that this method saves a lot of time and and you’re able to then get the bird onto the grill quickly.
If you are off grid and have no refrigerator or freezer, of course you will want to immediately cook your bird or any meat. There are ways to preserve meat with salt and smoke and drying techniques, but that is the subject for another day and another blog.
Protecting your chickens
You like chicken? Lots of animals such as coyotes, raccoons, hawks, wild or domestic dogs, foxes, wolves, domestic or wild cats, etc. also like chicken. As soon as you bring chickens into your setting, plan on keeping watch over these birds because you will have predators show up. The best protections include strong, reinforced cages with doors that can be padlocked, an outside domestic dog, and your watchful eye. It’s not just if other animals will try to eat your chickens, but when, and usually that is at night. If you park your chicken tractor (the moveable ones we talked about earlier) near where you will be sleeping, you will hear the chickens if they get upset by an intruder. If you are in survival mode, these animal intruders, if healthy, become another opportunity to add to your food sources. Get ready to get creative when making stew with your wild game.
Hatching even more chickens — help your neighbors help themselves
From fertilizer for the garden, keeping the insect population down near your crops, and feathers for pillows and mattresses, the value of chickens goes further than just meat and eggs. If you have the time and the land, raising chickens might just make the difference between just surviving the storm and living well in the midst of the storm.
If you start hatching too many chickens, you may even consider giving away some chicks to other local families with the backyards or other space to raise them.
History has shown us many times that it can all fly away in a split of a second. The biggest misstep that you can take now is to think that this can never happen in America or to you! Call me old fashioned; I don’t care…but I completely believe in America and what our ancestors stood for. They all had a part in turning this land into one of the most powerful countries in the world. Many died and suffered before a creative mind found an ingenious solution to maybe a century old problem. Believe it or not, our ancestors skills are all covered in American blood. This is why these must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same for our children and our children’s children. Our ancestors laid the bricks and built the world’s strongest foundation…that we are about to -irreversibly forget! I don’t want to see our forefathers’ knowledge disappear into the darkness of time…and if you care for your family…and what America stands for…then neither should you! Watch the video HERE and learn more.
Source : secretsofsurvival.com
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Raising chickens, once considered a staple of country living, has made its way into suburbia, where wannabe homesteaders are finding creative ways to bring rural life to their neighborhoods.
Caring for chickens (and their eggs) is not all it’s cracked up to be, however. Even in the relative calm of suburbia, there are dangers that threaten suburban flocks. Ready to enhance your homesteading journey with chickens? Be aware of these potential perils.
1. Zoning laws
Despite the growing popularity of backyard flocks, many cities haven’t kept pace and have zoning laws that prohibit the keeping of chickens within city limits. Check with your city’s ordinance codes to find out what (if any) limitations there may be before you order chickens and set up your coop. In some anti-chicken cities, officials are willing to “overlook” small flocks, provided they are well-behaved and don’t upset the neighbors. Many chicken owners find that paying off their surrounding neighbors with fresh eggs will smooth over any “ruffled feathers” about a few sweet chickens living in the backyard. Be a good neighbor: Keep your coop clean (and odor-free), skip the rooster (they make too much noise) and offer to bring deviled eggs to neighborhood cookouts. Be prepared, however. If you have an illegal flock, you may be forced to rehome them should city officials enforce zoning laws.
2. Neighborhood predators
You’d expect there to be danger to a flock of chickens out on a farm. Suburbia, however, has perils of its own that can be deadly for your brood.
One night, I forgot to close my chicken coop door. About midnight, I heard a clattering sound at my fence, followed by an uproar from inside the coop. By the time I made it outside, whatever had infiltrated the backyard was gone. My chickens were beside themselves, but all were present. A neighbor later told me she saw a coyote racing out of my yard while letting her dog out that same night. In my neighborhood, a new housing development had displaced a band of coyotes, sending them prowling through the streets in search of food and shelter. Fortunately for my girls, he left hungry that night.
Other neighborhood predators include the obvious: cats, as well as dogs. A hungry neighborhood cat can (and will) scale fences in search of young chicks happily rooting in the yard. Dogs break through fences, dig under coops, and chase errant chickens who may have escaped the safety of your yard. They also can include some surprising additions. As cities expand and develop forested areas, wildlife such as coyotes are trying to share space with the humans that just moved in. They’re looking for food and are willing to sneak into your yard to get it. Possums and raccoons may stealthily find their way into laying boxes in search of their morning eggs. Hawks can swoop down on unsuspecting chicks, carrying them off to feed their hungry young. Rats and mice invade coops and feed supplies.
How can you protect your flock? Provide your chickens with a coop. Their coop not only acts as a laying station for their eggs, but it gives them a place to escape the clutches of predators. With a chicken-sized entrance, large dogs and coyotes will be unable to enter the structure. A door that can be closed will provide extra protection from nocturnal visitors such as possums, raccoons and cats. Chicken wire (or poultry netting), buried at least six inches around the base of the coop, will discourage predators from digging in, and help keep your chickens from trying to tunnel out. (Have you seen the movie Chicken Run? I’m convinced it was based on the antics of my chickens!)
3. Free-range dangers
You may not have acres of land to allow your chickens to free-range. Even with an average-sized yard, however, your small flock can happily spend the days rooting through the grass and bushes in search of snacks, a warm dirt spot to burrow down in, or a shady area to rest. Trouble happens, though, when your chickens notice that the grass on the other side of the fence is actually greener, and then fly over the fence to explore. Not only will the rest of the flock follow, but they’ll luxuriate in their new-found freedom and head down the street, checking out what plants and bugs your neighbors have available. Your neighbors may not appreciate having visitors who scratch their way through their yard, and may chase them off or call the city to complain. Secure your neighbor’s goodwill by offering eggs, and offer to let your girls help turn over their garden plot in the spring. Keep your brood grounded by regularly trimming their wings.
4. Poisonous plants
Many decorative plants that look beautiful in landscaping beds are poisonous to chickens. Hydrangeas, tulips, azaleas and other beautiful flowers that gardeners like to grow can be toxic to free-ranging chickens. Look for chicken-friendly plants that can provide snacking opportunities for your brood, while beautifying your yard. Add nasturtiums, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and sunflowers for variety (and safety) in your garden.
Raising chickens in suburbia is an adventure. However, the benefits of fresh eggs and a flock of happy chickens in the backyard are worth the challenges. If you’ve been considering adding chickens to your family, there’s never been a better time.
What advice would you give to someone raising chickens in the city? Share your tips in the section below:
How to Grow Sprouts In A Mason Jar For You Or Your Chickens Sprouts are great for us and our lovely chickens. They are full of nutrients and much-needed sustenance. You can use sprouts in your every day foods, I prefer them in salads It gives the salad a great crunch and taste. For chickens …
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Easy DIY Pallet Greenhouse Or Chicken Coop This multi-purpose DIY project can serve as a great greenhouse or chicken coop. Easy to build for a very frugal price! There are loads of garden DIY projects on the web, the difference between this and others is that this is a multi-purpose garden addition, You can add …
Heritage vs. Hybrid Chicken Breeds: Which Is Sustainable? Before you even decide to get a chicken coop and buy chicken supplies, it is important to have a reason to raise chickens. Do you want them as pets? Are you capable of providing their basic needs? Which breeds suit your requirements best? Do you think egg …
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Anyone who lives north of a certain latitude or above a particular elevation knows that winter can be hard on homestead chickens. Keeping a flock warm and comfortable can be a challenging endeavor when the temperature plummets. Although there are a variety of methods available, ranging from infrastructure modification to feeding habits to artificial heat, one of the most important things to ensure chickens thrive in winter is to choose the right breeds for the climate
First, bigger is better. Larger animals are often able to store more fat, which acts as insulation. Although the general rule of larger animals being more adaptable to cold than small ones is more often true among mammals than in other animal families, it does seem to bear out with domestic fowl. Full-sized chicken breeds tend to do better in severely cold areas than do the smaller-sized bantams. While smaller poultry can and are raised successfully in northern climates, it works well to choose heavy breeds.
Another thing to look for when choosing a cold-hardy chicken breed are their physical features. Larger combs and wattles—the fleshy protuberances on the tops of their heads and hanging from below their beaks, typically red in color—are more prone to freezing. The reason for this tendency may be that combs and wattles have a lower blood flow than the rest of their bodies, particularly during cold weather. As with other organisms, including humans, physiology focuses on survival, which in cold weather causes blood flow to be reserved for the most important areas of the body.
Roosters typically have larger combs and wattles than do hens. But both sexes of some breeds have smaller ones, and those are the breeds that do better in frigid weather. They have less area of this sensitive skin exposed to the cold, which results in them being less apt to suffer from painful and debilitating frostbite.
Another feature to consider is fur versus feathers. The answer feels almost counterintuitive, but chickens with feathered or furry legs are not recommended for colder regions. The reason is this: snow and ice can stick to the fluffy legs and feet of silkie types and cause them to freeze more quickly than legs and feet with only skin. The same holds true for chickens with fur or fluffy feathers on their bodies and heads—traditional feathers keep them drier and more protected from cold. This is not to say that chickens with furry legs or bodies cannot be raised in the north, but it may be wise to keep an extra close eye on them during deep cold, particularly if they go outside at all.
Chickens have been bred over generations to adapt to specific conditions, and being cold-hardy is one of those sought-after traits. So what breeds of chicken are generally considered to be the best choices for regions of extremely cold winters?
My personal favorite is the Ameraucana. This is an American breed that is derived from the South American “Araucana,” a bird known for laying blue eggs. Like its parent bird, the Ameraucana—also known as an “Easter-egger”—typically has distinctive tufted ears and a short tail, and lays eggs that range from olive green to baby blue in color. Ameraucana roosters have brilliant plumage in iridescent greens and sometimes other colors which some people favor for fly-tying, and hens range from multicolored golds and oranges to all white. The two distinguishing characteristics which all of my Ameraucana birds have are tufted ears and greenish legs.
The traits that make me like Ameraucanas include their all-weather hardiness—heavy bodies and extremely low-profile combs and barely existent wattles—as well as their extra-rich eggs and general toughness.
Another breed I have had success with is the Golden Comet. One of my hens is a seven-year-old Golden Comet, and she is still laying eggs regularly even at her advanced age. She is robust, smart, and adaptable to new conditions—and like her roost-mates, has the cold-weather traits she needs to survive winters in my region.
Other breeds that are generally thought to be cold-weather chickens include Reds—both Rhode Island and New Hampshire—as well as all colors of Wyandottes, Orpingtons and Rocks. I have had a few of all four of these types over the years, and they have proven to be excellent cold-weather choices, but have replaced them with other breeds as time went by due to reasons other than winter hardiness.
It is likely possible to change housing conditions so that any chicken can be kept safe and thriving during frigid weather. But choosing breeds that naturally tolerate cold better can result in less effort and less worry on the owner, and create a more pleasant environment for everyone involved.
What are your favorite cold-weather chicken breeds? Which traits are most important to you for winter hardiness? Share your tips in the section below:
Backyard Chicken Eggonomics: How Much Does it Really Cost to Raise Chickens? I think generally we all would like to raise chickens, either for the eggs or just as pets. Lets be honest tho, do you really know what keeping chickens costs to raise? I know I didn’t until I read the amazing article from …
The post Backyard Chicken Eggonomics: How Much Does it Really Cost to Raise Chickens? appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.
In just a few weeks, the farm will have a few new residents! 18 of them in fact. Cute, fuzzy, little balls of fur that will grow to be our latest flock of chickens at the farm. More and more
The post The Baby Chicks Are Coming! The Joy and Ease of Raising Backyard Chickens appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.
The standard advice for feeding laying hens is simple: Just buy corn and layer mash. And if you’re primarily concerned with saving time and trouble, this is probably the right approach for you. But if you’re concerned with health and sustainability, you might consider another approach. Natural feeding can allow you to avoid pesticide-treated GMO corn. It also helps you make fuller use of your land’s resources in feeding your flock, and produces tastier, healthier eggs. We’ve been moving toward more natural feeding for several years, and so far we’ve been pleased with the results.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to natural feeding. This article lays out some basic natural food sources. Don’t worry about getting the proportions exactly right. Proportions matter if you’re feeding one pre-blended ration, but if you consistently offer your hens different types of whole foods, they can select what they need. Think about what you have available, mix and match to create your feeding program, and notice how it works for your hens. Make adjustments as needed.
Pasture provides chickens with greens, worms and bugs; it also may include seeds and fruits. Pasture can provide a substantial portion of your flock’s energy requirements. It also provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals, and those benefits get passed on to you; eggs from pasture-raised chickens are higher in omega-3 acids and some vitamins.[i] Foraging also keeps chickens occupied and makes them less likely to attack each other.
Fully free-ranging hens get the broadest nutritional boost from their extensive pasture.
They’re also quite vulnerable to predators, they may tear up your gardens, and they may hide their eggs where you can’t find them. Electro-net or other portable fencing allows chickens to range somewhat while providing a boundary.
Unless you clip your birds’ wings, they’ll be able to fly out. Hawks also can fly in. Chicken tractors of various kinds allow you to fully enclose chickens while still providing access to fresh pasture. The tractor must be moved frequently.
Our current chicken setup features a small A-frame yard with an open bottom which rotates around our chicken coop and chicken compost pile.
Tractored chickens are likely to exhaust the bug and worm supply in their fenced yard fairly quickly. Compost piles are a good source for bugs and worms and also give chickens a chance to enjoy scratching while not destroying their fresh pasture. We throw weeds into the compost pile throughout the year; the chickens eat parts of them, and the rest rots down and provides habitat for red wigglers, sow bugs and many other chicken treats. We water the pile when it starts to dry out. Sometimes we also lay a board down over part of the pile for a day or two at a time; flipping the board always reveals a layer of sow bugs for the chickens to gobble.
Some people manage to raise laying hens entirely on compost and pasture. This works best if they have access to extensive piles and pastures. Many backyard growers will need to offer supplements, as we do.
Seeds are a very compact and efficient source of energy. We still buy some grain to feed our chickens. Corn and soy are the basis of most commercial chicken feeds, but we avoid these because they are usually genetically modified. Many other seeds, including wheat, oats, millet, barley and sunflower seeds, are not commercially available in GMO forms. The grains are high in energy, relatively low in protein. Sunflower seeds are high in fats and proteins. We feed a mix of wheat, oats and sunflower seed ordered from the local feed mill.
Field peas are not genetically modified now, although that may be changing in the next few years. Lentils are non-GMO and expected to stay that way for some time, according to the website GMO Compass. Both are high in protein but not fatty like sunflower seeds. Our feed mill doesn’t carry these, so we’ve had to find other protein sources.
Chickens need a high proportion of protein in their diets for health and good production. We’ve found several ways of supplementing protein with farm-raised inputs.
The pasture and compost provide some bugs and worms. Japanese beetles handpicked from our gardens are another good protein source; we collect them in a jug, pour them out into a shallow pan of water in the chicken yard, and watch the hens gobble them up. We’ve also given the hens minnows from our overstocked pond. Some poultry keepers raise red wiggler worms or soldier flies to supplement their hens’ diets.
Our chickens also get meat scraps. When we butcher rabbits, the hens get the offal. When we eat meat with bones in it the hens get the bones to pick.
Dairy products also work well for hens. They get the whey from our cheesemaking; usually we put it in a waterer and let them drink it, and sometimes we soak their grain in it. Cheeses that store too long and get too strong and sour for our taste also go to the hens.
Some poultry-keepers collect discarded food from delis or restaurants to feed their hens. This may contain a high proportion of meat and dairy products.
We live in upstate New York, where the ground is frozen and covered in snow for several months each year. During the winter our chickens move off the pasture and into an enclosed coop. The yolks of their eggs turn noticeably paler, as they have a more restricted diet. We periodically feed them fodder pumpkins, weeds and limp leaves from the greenhouse, leftover baked potatoes (never feed raw potatoes!), and wheatgrass to provide variety, vitamins and minerals.
What advice would you add on feeding chickens an all-natural diet? Share your tips in the section below:
[i] Jeff Mulhollem, “Research shows eggs from pastured chickens may be more nutritious,” Penn State News, July 20, 2010 (http://news.psu.edu/story/166143/2010/07/20/research-shows-eggs-pastured-chickens-may-be-more-nutritious)
When the temperatures dip below a certain level, staying warm is more than just an issue of comfort. It becomes a matter of survival. If you keep chickens year-round, keeping them safe during cold snaps is a real concern.
Some breeds of chickens are more naturally hardy in extreme temperatures, but there are still steps that can be taken to enhance your flock’s winter survival. Assuming you have the best breeds for your area, consider some of the following practices to help them stay warm in the coldest weather.
1. The right-sized home. During winter, too much space can be a detriment. The larger the area, the more difficult it will be for the birds to keep it warm with their own body heat. My local organic farmers’ organization recommends between four and eight square feet per bird. Some experts allow for more or less than that, and a good bit of the decision depends upon the size of your flock and how much access they have to the outdoors.
If your chicken coop is cavernous, consider creating a coop within a coop. Building a small structure—even a temporary one using pallets or scrap materials—around their roosting area can provide them with a cozier space.
2. The right shape and orientation coop. A steep shed roof provides a low ceiling on one side, which helps the birds stay warm, and a higher ceiling on the other to allow human access for tending the birds. If your roof is high throughout, consider a makeshift dropped ceiling for the winter months.
Facing doors southward and away from winds and inclement weather helps when the chicken access door is open. If the orientation of your doors is not quite optimum, you always can add on an extra roof or vestibule.
3. Natural lighting. A skylight or south-facing window, or even some strategically placed sheet plastic near a door or window, can create a greenhouse effect. This can help keep your chickens warm in the same manner that plants are kept warm in a hothouse.
4. Insulation. Adding commercial insulation to a newly constructed chicken coop is a great choice. Just as with human homes, the more heat that can be retained inside during winter, the better.
The insulating value of your coop can be increased with whatever you have on hand. It may be possible to stuff wood chips or other fibrous materials between walls—or between an outer wall and an inner layer of recycled materials—to help keep your birds warm.
Snow is an excellent insulating material, too, but if you have more cold weather than snowfall, try using hay, straw or even bags of leaves for banking around the outside of the chicken coop.
5. Ventilation. It may be tempting to shut them up tight, but remember that respiration can cause condensation and dampness. Allowing the inside of the coop to become excessively damp can be dangerous during cold weather. Additionally, birds have a more delicate respiratory system than do other animal families.
6. High fat foods. Eating fatty foods helps keep chickens warm. Suet, fatback and kitchen scraps are ideal.
7. Warm foods and liquids for consumption. A friend of mine prepares fresh hot oatmeal for her hens on cold winter mornings. Perhaps that’s not your style, but you may want to allow kitchen scraps to come to room temperature—or even set them near a heat source to warm them—before delivering them to the chickens. I replace my chickens’ waterer with hot tap water at least twice a day during the coldest winter days, because warming from the inside out is a great way to create and maintain body heat.
8. Portable hot water heaters. I keep water in a kettle on top of my wood stove during winter, which helps me humidify my house and heat the chickens. I pour hot water into some heavy-duty five-gallon plastic jugs I salvaged from a bulk foods store and haul them out to the chicken coop on a sled and place them inside. Water retains its temperature far better than does air, which means it will help keep the coop warmer, longer. You can use any heat-resistant container, such as plastic or metal buckets, as long as it has a secure lid to prevent spills and keep the chickens safe.
You can use heated bricks in lieu of warm water if you prefer.
9. Entertainment. Chickens that have something to do while cooped up inside during cold weather will not only be less likely to become aggressive toward one another, but they can generate heat by moving around. Provide a fruit or vegetable such as an apple or cabbage, or a hunk of fatback or suet, hanging from a string at beak height so that the birds can peck at it.
10. Heat lamps. I use heat lamps as a last resort, but many people rely on them as a go-to. Whichever your viewpoint, it is essential to make safety your first priority. Make sure both the bulbs and the fixtures are of the highest possible quality you can afford, are hung on heavy-duty suspension material, and are not too close to anything combustible. It is always best to follow manufacturer’s instructions regarding usage.
Deep cold temperatures can be a real challenge for humans and animals who live in a northern climate. But by getting creative with ways to heat their coops, we can keep chickens safe and comfortable through even the coldest of winters.
How do you keep you chickens warm during cold months? Share your tips in the section below:
There’s nothing more exciting than purchasing your very first homestead. As you mend the fences and fix your new outbuildings, you realize it’s time to think about putting some animals on your property.
That, though, can be a scary thought, especially if you don’t know where to start. Educating yourself and creating a plan for exactly what you want out of your homestead will make things much more enjoyable.
Here’s the list of our five favorites for beginners:
Chickens are super simple to take care of, and their return is well worth any time and effort you put in to making them happy. They need little space, and so if you are just starting out with a few chickens, you won’t need much room. A chicken coop and a small run is sufficient. Five hens will produce approximately four eggs per day. In no time at all, you’ll have an overflow of eggs and you’ll be in good shape. Chickens also provide great compost for your growing garden.
Ducks are also great starter animals for your homestead. Like chickens, they don’t require a lot of space and are quite happy as long as they have water to bath in and food to eat. Plus, they are excellent foragers.
Ducks are very good for your garden, as they are great at keeping pesky bugs off your plants. Their eggs are an excellent source of nutrition, and their meat is also quite nutritious.
Adding rabbits to your homestead can be a lot of fun. They cost very little to feed, eating mostly hay and pellets, but they enjoy garden scraps as well. Rabbits also take up very little space; a 4×4 enclosure is perfect for one or two of them. They are an excellent meat source, and just like chickens they provide compost for your garden. Unlike cow or horse manure, you can use rabbit manure right away.
Goats are our fourth pick for beginner homesteaders, especially if you don’t own a lot of land. Goats can be a meat source, a dairy source and are excellent brush-clearers. Remember that goats are natural herd animals, and so owning more than one will be best. Goats are also climbers; having a high fence or even an electric fence will keep your goats safe. If you are raising goats for dairy, they will provide you with approximately one gallon of milk per day. But remember: They do produce less cream than do dairy cows.
Our last pick for a beginner homesteader probably requires the most time and energy. Pigs only need a pen with strong fencing, but if you have the land, you may consider free-ranging your pigs. This can reduce the amount of food they eat and will also take care of the smell that can come from a stinky pen. Although pigs do require more of us as homesteaders, they obviously provide us with an excellent and very delicious meat source. Keep in mind that sows can have litters up to 10 piglets and can have as many as three litters per year. If you are raising the piglets for meat, it will take a full year before you will get a sufficient amount of meat from them.
Do you agree with our list? What would you change? Share your thoughts in the section below:
If you’re a chicken farmer, you may already know that chickens actually thrive in colder temperatures, as they’re designed with a unique ability. They are excellent at regulating their body temperatures – way better than humans actually.
However, with the winter upon us, it would be nice to help our little feathered friends as much as we can.
The thing is that during the winter, your chickens require at least as much water as they do during the summer in order to generate body heat, so it’s still crucial that they receive an adequate supply of fresh, clean, unfrozen water. Going without water for even a couple of hours can decrease egg production for up to 2 days.
Keep Your Chickens Hydrated During Winter
Dehydration sets in quickly with chickens, especially in extremely cold environments. Even though your hens will drink significantly less water during the winter – about 3 times less on average than in the summer – it’s critical that you keep your “girls” properly hydrated during the winter.
Also, depending on where you live, wintertime survival for your chickens can be anything from a walk in the park and a day of busting bricks, if you know what I mean.
Another fact is that chickens are basically 65 percent water and shuffling back and forth to the chicken coop 3 or 4 times a day carrying heavy buckets of water in freezing cold and/or heavy snow is pretty far from my idea of having quality time during the winter months.
The problem with harsh winters and chicken coops is that water tends to freeze rather quickly in sub-freezing temps. Since your chickens need water on a daily basis, you’ll have to find a way to provide it to them without breaking your back in the process.
Water is involved in all aspects of poultry metabolism, which essentially means that if they don’t get enough of it, your girls will not be able to regulate their body temperature properly among other things (food digestion, body waste management etc).
Also, water is very important in the production of eggs, as an egg is made roughly from 74 percent water. If your girls don’t have access to enough clean/fresh water, you can kiss your egg production goodbye during the winter.
Just like humans, poultry are more sensitive to a lack of water rather than a lack of food, so you must be extra careful that they always have access to fresh and clean water (water no older than 24 hours would be ideal).
How To Stop Your Chickens’ Water Freezing
Now, during the winter, your biggest problem is preventing your chickens’ water supply from freezing. I know I am stating the obvious here, but just like with so many other issues, this is easier said than done.
Even if chickens come equipped with pretty tough beaks, they’ll never use them to pierce through heavy ice to get to the water. In other words, this will be one of your many designated jobs during the winter.
There are 2 main strategies when it comes to mitigating the freezing issue:
- the hard way is to manually replace the water when it freezes
- the easier way is to prevent it from freezing in the first place.
Carrying water may be quite fun – some may even say idyllic – during the summer, when it’s nice and warm outside, but it will make for a miserable experience during the winter’s freezing dark conditions. While this is basically the most passive option, it’s pretty far from the ideal one, at least in my book. It’s labor-intensive because you’ll have to refill the chickens’ water at least 3 times/day. Which brings us to the second option: prevention.
It pretty much goes without saying that in order to prevent water from freezing, you’ll have to summon a little bit of magic to apply some heat to the water container in your coop 24/7.
I must emphasize the word “little” here, because chickens aren’t very fond of drinking lukewarm water, pretty far from it actually, so you’ll have to pay attention to that issue. You should concentrate only on keeping the water from freezing because, as a matter of fact, chickens really love sipping freezing-cold water.
Again, there are 2 strategies involved here: if you’re not DIY friendly, you can always take the easy approach and buy an electrically heated pet bowl, though you’ll have to cough up a few bucks in the process.
Also, this solution only works if your chicken coop has easy access to a source of electricity (solar panels would work, but that’s overkill for your budget). These bad boys will do the hard work for you, but you’ll have no fun in the DIY-ing process and that’s a bummer.
Now, the flip-side to that coin is to use that big brain of yours along with a little elbow grease and build your own water heater.
DIY Winter Water Heater Using Electricity
As long as you’re handy with a screwdriver and you don’t have a problem with getting your hand dirty whilst saving a few bucks in the process, you can do this. To improvise a water heater you’ll just need a few basic materials and tools, including:
- a stepping stone
- a cinder block
- a light bulb (the good old-school incandescent variety, alright folks?)
- a fixing bracket.
The fixing bracket will be used to secure the light bulb firmly in place to the side of the cinder block. Also, you’ll have to drill a tiny hole through the side of the cinder block, so you’ll be able to run an electric wire to the light bulb.
When turned on, the light bulb will provide enough heat to keep the cinder-block warm provided it’s strong enough. It needs to be at least 40 watts. Obviously, if you place the chicken’s water bowl on top of the cinder block, it will stop the water from freezing without making it so warm that they won’t drink it. Depending on how low your temperatures drop, you may need a stronger bulb, or a weaker one.
Make sure you isolate all the electrical parts properly, because you don’t want to wake up in the morning and discover some fried chicken inside your hen house.
Video first seen on Gustavo Monsante.
DIY Winter Water Heater Using Sun Light
If you don’t have electricity available or you just don’t want the fire hazard or you’re afraid of electricity, wiring and what not, don’t despair just yet. We have another solution for you: the Sun-is-your-best-friend approach. The idea behind this DIY job is to use the sunlight (if any) for keeping the water from freezing.
Since chickens are usually sleeping during the night, they’ll only need water during daytime, when the sun is presumably up and shining.
For this DIY job, you’ll only need:
- a tire
- a rubber tub
The idea with the tire is that, being black, it will absorb the sunlight, thus keeping the water from freezing.
The styrofoam is used for insulating. Remember, this neat trick only works if there’s enough sun, which is a best case scenario during the winter. This may not be reliable enough if you don’t live in an area that gets lots of sunny, albeit cold, winter days, though it’s worth mentioning.
Video first seen on Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily.
The easiest way to prevent water from freezing is to float 5-6 ping pong balls in your water container. The ping pong balls will float around the container at even the slightest breeze, thus making tiny waves on the surface, which will prevent the initial layer of ice from forming. That’s right – ping pong balls can prevent water from freezing as long as the temperature doesn’t dip much below freezing.
It’s essential to remember during the cold season to never use a metal water container. Always go for dark-colored (ideally black) plastic or rubber containers during the winter. For example, a deep-black rubber container alone, if placed in the sun (if any) will prevent the water inside from freezing to temperatures several degrees below freezing.
Also, the larger the surface area and depth, the longer it will take for the water to freeze. A 40-gallon rubber-made water trough will rarely freeze during the winter, but it all depends on where you live.
This article has been written by Chris Black for Survivopedia.
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Frostbite can take place within minutes of flesh being exposed to wet, cold temperatures – and it can impact your chickens, too.
Chickens do have a covering of feathers to keep them warm, but their legs, feet, comb and wattles are left completely exposed. These areas are the most common places for a chicken to have frostbite. With proper monitoring and care once a case has been developed, the chicken still can live a long and happy egg-producing life.
Freezing temperatures are not the only cause of frostbite, as moisture is a large factor, too. Areas on the bird that get wet and then exposed to freezing temperatures are greatly impacted. Wind chill is another factor. Moisture in the air, combined with high winds and freezing temperatures, can quickly lead to frostbite.
Wattles can become wet when the chicken drinks from a traditional chicken watering container. This moisture can freeze in place, causing frostbite. Wet coop and run floors are also a leading cause of frostbite on the feet. The coop should be cleaned regularly to prevent moisture in the coop. Ventilation is also key to maintaining lower moisture levels, although wind blocks should be installed on the run to keep the wind exposure down.
Determining if the chicken has frostbite is quite simple. Color change in the legs, feet, wattle or comb are good indications of frostbite. Birds who experience swelling, blisters, black tissue, loss of appetite and loss of energy should be doctored.
Remove the bird immediately and relocate it to a warm environment. A location inside the home, basement, garage or barn will all work, provided they are warmer than the coop and completely free from the wind. The bird should be kept in this location until it has fully healed. Placing it back among the population could give the other birds something to peck at, making the affected area worse.
Slowly warm the affected area on the bird by soaking the feet in a lukewarm Epsom salt bath. Do not allow the water temperatures to top 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Providing water that is too warm will heat up the area too quickly and may cause further damage. It also will cause a great deal of discomfort to the bird. Never use a heating pad, hair dryer or another source of direct heat. If the comb or wattle is affected, soak a towel in the solution and gently press against the affected area. Do not rub the area; this not only will cause more discomfort to the bird but will also cause more damage. Leave any blisters or damaged tissue alone. They are there to protect the new flesh beneath it from further damage.
If an area has been opened, clean the wound with peroxide and allow to dry. The area should be kept clean and dry at all times. Apply a layer of cream to the area. This will protect the area and provide assistance with healing properly. Steer clear from water-based oils; they will only freeze and make the injury worse. Coconut oil and petroleum jelly are great choices.
If a veterinarian is an affordable and reasonable option, consider calling one. Pain medicines are available with a prescription from a veterinarian, but aspirin is another option. Regular run-of-the-mill human aspirin will suffice. Dissolve five pills in a gallon of water and give it to the bird over a period of one to three days; this will alleviate the pain and discomfort that the chicken may be experiencing.
Vitamins should be given to the chicken to assist in fighting off infection. Manufactured versions are available at most farm stores, although a more natural approach would be to provide dandelion. Fresh dandelion likely won’t be available, but adding some dried dandelion to the water will provide a great boost of vitamins. In fact, giving it to the entire flock year-round isn’t a bad idea.
The affected area should be monitored frequently for signs of infection. If the area has begun to swell, turn red, ooze, or has a bad smell, it is likely that infection has set in. Antibiotics should be given to the bird to assist in fighting off the infection. Fresh garlic is a natural antibiotic and can be provided to the bird as a natural alternative to manufactured versions.
With proper care and monitoring, the bird should be healed within a few days to a few weeks. After that, it can be returned to the rest of the bird population. Wait until temperatures have risen above freezing to avoid a second case of frostbite.
Roosters. These beautiful birds often earn a bad reputation. But, when carefully selected and introduced, a rooster can be a blessing to your hens, not a curse.
I’ll jump into the how-to part of adding the rooster a little later in this post. Keep reading to find out more!
But first, let’s talk about some basics behind adding a male bird (or birds) to your flock.
How Many Roosters?
If you have too many roosters, they’ll spend more time fighting than doing their job. A good way to calculate how many roosters you need is to count your hens. You want one rooster for every six-ten hens.
That way every rooster can have his own little flock of hens to care for and breed with. Your hens will be happy because there won’t be three roosters trying to mate with each one. It’s a good ratio to try and maintain.
When deciding upon the number of roosters, take into account the following factors:
Are your chickens confined to a pen and a run? If so, you’ll need significantly more space per bird if you plan to keep multiple roosters in there. Each one needs plenty of space for his flock.
If your chickens free-range, you’ll be able to get away with less space in the coop. But, you’ll want to make sure you don’t go below the minimum recommended space of four square feet per bird.
Having multiple, small coops available also helps minimize rooster squabbles. Or maybe you’ll have some of your birds roost on the barn roof at night like mine do.
No matter where they are, make sure each rooster has roosting space to enjoy at night with his hens. They will enjoy being together night and day.
Feeders and Waterers
Many rooster fights originate over a battle for resources. If you have multiple roosters, you may need multiple feeders and waterers too. You definitely want to keep an eye on your flock, and if there are meal time problems add some additional options.
You’ll want them to have plenty of food and water for their ladies. Roosters will eat whatever your hens are eating, so you won’t need to worry about separating food.
Roosters are roosters. And they make noise. Contrary to popular belief and many movies, roosters don’t just crow when the sun comes up.
They crow pretty much all day, or at least mine do. When a hen lays an egg? They crow. When they sense danger? They crow.
Roosters are loud. So if you have a backyard flock in the city, be sure to check out your town’s ordinances before introducing a male. They aren’t as easy to hide behind a privacy fence as hens are.
How to Pick a Rooster
There are so many breeds of chickens available, so you’ll have plenty of choices for your rooster. While there are breeds that are known for being more docile, each rooster will have a temperament all his own.
That means you can pick a docile breed and still end up with a mean rooster. Likewise, you can raise a rooster from an aggressive breed, and wind up with a sweet, docile boy.
So basically, there are no guarantees when buying a rooster when you buy one as a baby.
I’ve had the best luck with banty roosters. My Ameraucanas, Australorps, and Blue Andalusians were all aggressive. While Ameraucanas are typically aggressive, Australorps are supposed be more docile.
The banty roosters have been fine. So have all of our new cockerels since the initial banty, that are half banty.
There’s been a little fighting, typically when a new batch matures in the summer, and they establish a new pecking order. Thankfully, there’s been no aggression towards myself or my children with these smaller roos.
Since breed isn’t a reliable indicator of a rooster’s personality, here are some characteristics to watch for when buying a rooster that’s full-grown. Hopefully you’ll have a chance to see him in action at his current residence before purchasing.
- What do the backs of the hens this rooster is with look like? (You don’t want a rooster that tears up the backs of his ladies.)
- Has the current owner noticed any aggression?
- Is this rooster the dominant one at the top of flock, or a beta male?
- Does the rooster share food with the hens, or does he keep it for himself?
- How old is the rooster? (Young roosters who are just figuring out the mating thing are typically the roughest on hens.)
- Is the rooster healthy?
Be careful buying roosters sight unseen unless you’re prepared for your new rooster to end up in the stew pot. Many people who get rid of their roosters are getting culling a problem bird. It’s not always the case, but is common enough that you should always be aware of it.
3 Ways to Introduce a Rooster to Your Flock
Over the years, I’ve introduced roosters to my flock in three different ways. They were all successful, but each had their pros and cons.
1. Buying a Rooster Initially with Baby Hens
The easiest way to introduce a rooster to your flock is to do it before your flock is established. When you’re buying baby chicks for the first time, just add roosters to your order to maintain the proper hen to rooster ratio.
This is how I started off. I ordered my chicks, added a couple of cockerels to the order and raised them all together. They established their pecking order from the time they were small, and I didn’t have a problem with fighting.
The chickens and roosters knew each other. I didn’t have to worry about isolating new birds, or introducing illness. It was simple.
But, you really don’t know the temperament of roosters until they are bigger. The roosters I ordered as cockerels turned mean. They were a risk to the children, and those roosters are no longer on the farm.
2. Adding a Full-Grown Rooster to Your Hens
About the time I got rid of my other roosters, a friend of the family had given my mom a small flock of banty chickens that included two roosters.
At first, she kept her flock in her coop across the road, though the long-term goal was always for them to move over here to join my flock.
Isolation: It Takes Time
The new birds were kept them in their coop for three weeks. This isolation time allowed for illnesses to be displayed. The birds were healthy.
Whenever you introduce a new bird, it’s important to not just stick them into your flock and hope everything goes well. A quarantine period allows you to check for mites and disease. That way you don’t inadvertently expose all your chickens.
If you don’t have a separate coop, you can create a smaller coop inside your existing one with chicken wire. Or you can use a shed or barn on your property. It won’t be forever, so as long as the space is predator proof it’ll work.
For introducing a single rooster, you can also use a large dog crate. I did this when introducing a batch of chicks, and it worked well for the birds to get to know each other.
Just be sure to keep an eye on food and water in the isolation unit, and make sure you don’t let the birds get too cramped.
Start with Face to Face meetings in Large Spaces
Once you know your new rooster is healthy, you still don’t want to just add him directly to your flock. Give them time to get to know each other in a less territorial space.
My chickens and the new chickens free ranged together at my house. They had plenty of space, and at first both flocks stayed separate. They each foraged over a different section of land, and all went to their known coops at night.
After a few days of this distant meetings, the birds began to mingle. This mingling was repeated every day, and became more frequent.
Let the Rooster in at Night
Now that all the birds knew each other, it was time for the next phase of the assimilation. One evening after all the birds were roosting, I began to move the new ones. Since they were roosting, they were calm and easy to move.
I walked each bird across the street and into my coop. In the coop, I placed them on an extra roosting pole. That way they weren’t directly touching any of my existing flock.
By introducing the birds to sleeping together at night, the birds will be more likely to accept the new member. Then you can just let them all out in the morning.
Don’t Let Your Chickens Be Bored
Many problems with roosters arise when they’re bored. To solve this problem, provide your chickens with some activities they can do together.
Provide a spot for them to take dust baths. Toss out some grains and let them scratch. Give them your food scraps.
These things are simple, but will keep your chickens engaged and busy. They’ll be less likely to fight.
Know a Pecking Order Will Be Established
Even when you take precautions to introduce your new rooster, there will be changes in your flock. Each rooster will want his own girls, and there will be a new pecking order established.
There might be some squabbles while this occurs, but they should be minor. If you notice severe fighting, or injury, the rooster might not be a good fit for your flock. Slow down and go back to isolation at night.
Once my flock had its new pecking order figured out, one rooster took his hens to the barn to sleep at night.
Since they could get up high on the rafters, they were impossible for me to get back down and bring into the coop. So they still sleep there at night.
You might notice your chickens and roosters sleeping a little differently as well.
3. Letting Hens Hatch New Roosters
The final way that I’ve introduced new roosters into the flock is to have my hens do it for me. One benefit of having a rooster around is the fertile eggs. If you have a hen that will brood, you can have a self-sufficient flock.
When the chicks hatch, the mother hen will take care of flock introductions. By the time the hen leaves her chicks, they are grown enough to know their spot in the flock.
But, there will be a new pecking order established. I’ve seen the most problem as the new roosters begin to become interested in mating. They will always try to claim hens for himself.
In that process, he will almost always step on the toes of an established rooster. There’s a bit of squabbling, but the older roosters help the young ones learn their place.
The downside of this method is you can end up with too many roosters. So be prepared to cull some for the stew pot to keep there from being many problems. Then you’ll get both meat and eggs from your flock!
Adding a new rooster can take time. But, having one around can bring plenty of benefits to your flock.
A chicken flock is as crucial for your homestead nowadays as it was for our grandparents in the past. Discover the secrets that helped them survive during harsh times.
This article has been written by Lisa Tanner for Survivopedia.
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Basic Survival Skills for Living a Good Life It may seem like survival skills should come along with common sense, but with modern conveniences, it’s easy to get someone else to do most things for you. Food preparation, laundry services, and vehicle maintenance can be easily outsourced these, days but what do we do in …
The standard advice about raising chicks is to keep them under heat lamps, feed them chick starter, and give them coccidiostats. The first time my family bought hatchery chicks we followed this advice and ended up with healthy birds. But this approach was completely dependent on purchased inputs, and it may not have been the best start in life for what would later be pastured poultry.
There is another approach to chick raising for homesteaders, one that doesn’t require a power source or constant feed-store inputs. We tried this approach the second time we bought hatchery chicks. The result: hardy and precocious birds who foraged efficiently, started laying early, and weathered temperature extremes well.
Housing for chicks is fairly similar whether you’re using the commercial model or the alternative one. For their first 3 weeks or so, before their feathers grow in, chicks need protection from drafts and chill. Homesteaders in the cold North should keep their chicks’ brooder boxes inside. Make the box sides at least 12 inches high, and cover the top with a wire lid that will keep chicks in and rodents out while allowing air to circulate. We bedded the floor with wood shavings from our planer. Shavings, grass clippings, chopped leaves and straw are all acceptable bedding materials. Don’t use cedar shavings—some sources report that the essential oils in cedar are harmful to chicks.
Standard advice says that young chicks can be raised with as little as half a square foot of floor space per bird, but if you want to raise pastured chickens it’s wise to start with a larger box. This gives chicks more room to explore, and allows you to add branches on which they can practice climbing and roosting. Less-crowded birds with more to explore are less likely to peck at each other. A larger box also allows you to add hot water bottles and sod chunks, as described below.
Young chicks don’t need a heat lamp, which tends to keep the whole box very warm. Instead, offer them hot-water bottles to snuggle against when they’re cold. During the day we filled a gallon milk jug with hot tap water and draped it with loose flaps of polar fleece. The chicks crept under the flaps to warm up at intervals and then ran off to explore the cooler portions of their box. At night we put a smaller cardboard box, lined with Mylar and fleece, into the starter box. In the middle of this box was a syrup tin, which we filled with boiling water just before we went to bed. The tin was wrapped in fleece and set in a cardboard compartment so the chicks couldn’t scald themselves against it. Most of the chicks would run into the warm box at night; we shooed the stragglers in and shut the door. It’s important to round off the corners of the night box. We lost two chicks who got wedged too tightly into square corners.
Once the chicks are basically covered with feathers instead of fluff they’re ready to be put outside unless you’re still in the dead of winter. (Chicks raised in cooler temperatures tend to feather out faster; this is another advantage of not using a heat lamp.) In late April, when the weather was still unsettled, we put our three-week-old chicks outside in a small well-insulated coop with access to a pasture run and a compost pile. We continued to offer them a hot-water bottle at night. In their fourth week the highs dropped to the 30s and the lows to below freezing. The chicks thrived.
If you want your chickens to eat a wide variety of natural foods as adults, it makes sense to feed your chicks a natural and diverse diet. For the first few days the chicks need soft or finely ground foods. Offering a variety of foods provides a good mix of vitamins and minerals. It’s important to include high-calorie foods and high-protein foods. We started by offering our chicks mashed potatoes and whole-grain flour (for calories), scrambled eggs (for protein) and dried stinging nettle (for protein and vitamins). As they grew we switched the grain portion from flour to rolled oats. Then we offered whole seeds (oats, wheat, sunflower seed, millet and milo) soaked in water or — for extra protein — whey. Later, they were able to handle dry whole seeds. We also put a sod block into their brooder box as a source of both grit and fresh greens. We continued feeding seeds, eggs, nettle and potato after they moved outside. These chicks were more precocious and enthusiastic foragers than the batch we’d raised on chick starter.
We found some helpful suggestions for natural feeding on Facebook’s Poultry Natural Living and Herbal Care group. The Permies forum also contains many discussions of home-grown and alternative chicken feeds.
The alternative method of chick raising hasn’t been standardized and publicized like the commercial approach, and we’re still learning how to do it better. If you’ve experimented with alternative methods, please share what you’ve learned in the section below:
14 Common Chicken Predators and How to Protect Your Chickens Other than diseases, predators are the biggest problem of every chicken owner. Being able to protect chickens from these predators can be tricky though. If you’re a new chicken owner, you might not notice it yet but there are many animals out there interested in having …
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For many people, gardening and farming are two activities related to spring and summer, but not for preppers. Even though the outdoor gardening and farming season is ending, you can continue growing your own food during winter.
Is important to keep your plants safe and your flock warm during the cold season and don’t forget to start preparing for the moment when you’ll start working again in your lovely outdoor garden.
Until then, let’s see how to keep growing your own fresh vegetables and herbs, how to keep your chicken warm and happy and how to prepare your spring crops, because I’ve gathered 4 articles on this topic for this week’s Prep Blog Review.
- 6 Fasting-Growing Indoor Vegetables You Can Harvest Within 2 Months
“The outdoor growing season is ending for much of North American, but don’t despair — you can continue to grow food to eat. With the help of grow lights, you can provide fresh vegetables to be harvested during the cold months of winter.
And if you get started soon, you can be eating your vegetables in January. All of these vegetables can be grown in two months or less.
Microgreens are a delicious choice for an indoor garden. The leaves are harvested when young and tender, which makes a wonderful addition to salads and winter dishes. They can grow as quickly as two to three weeks. When the plants develop at least one set of true leaves, they can be harvested. You only harvest the part above the soil. The leaves are not only tasty but also are rich in important nutrients.”
Read more on Off The Grid News.
- Winter Chicken Care Tips – How To Keep Your Coop & Flock Safe & Warm
“Keeping your flock safe from the elements of winter’s fury is a prime concern for most backyard chicken enthusiasts. But with just a few simple tips, it’s actually quite simple to keep your chickens happy and safe through the cold winter months.
Chickens are bothered more by dampness and cold drafts than the actual freezing temperatures of winter. If you concentrate winterizing efforts to eliminating those two concerns, your chickens will stay comfy and happy all winter long! Here are a few of our best tips on winter chicken care.”
Read more on Old World Garden Farms.
- Straw Bale Gardening: Smart Reasons To Grow More Food In Less Space With Little Effort
“Limited space? No soil? Toxic or rocky ground? Spare corner? Edge of drive or yard? Here’s bales of advice for you on the straw bale gardening way.
TIP: Kids just LOVE to climb on these irresistible messy playthings, so if it’s feasible, get an extra 1 or 3 bales and put them out of the garden just for fun.
Straw or hay bale gardening is not to be confused with using loose straw in your garden for mulch or compost. What we’re talking about here is the whole bale, as it stands, tied with twine and used for planting plants on the top.”
Read more on No Dig Vegetable Garden.
- 24 Ways To Prepare For Your Spring Garden In The Dead Of Winter
“It can be hard to think about gardening when it’s below freezing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Cold weather is the perfect time for planning!
If you are thinking (like I might have perhaps thought in the past) that you can just grab a few packs of seeds from the local hardware store or super store in April or so, put them in the ground, and you’ll see something come up in a few months, well, you’re mostly wrong.
You definitely can grow food during the cooler months! It’s not rocket science, but it does require some thought and planning.”
Read more on The Survival Mom.
This article has been written by Drew Stratton for Survivopedia.
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Keeping your flock safe from the elements of winter’s fury is a prime concern for most backyard chicken enthusiasts. But with just a few simple tips, it’s actually quite simple to keep your chickens happy and safe through the cold winter months. Chickens
The post Winter Chicken Care Tips – How To Keep Your Coop & Flock Safe & Warm! appeared first on Old World Garden Farms.
Processing chickens usually involves plucking feathers, which can be a long and tedious job, especially with some heavy-feathered traditional chicken breeds such as Cochins, Orpingtons and Wyandottes. Instead of inviting a herd of neighbors over to help pluck your chickens on chicken butchering day, make your chicken meat processing easier with these simple ideas.
Skin Your Chickens
Forget plucking altogether and instead, skin your chickens. The process is quicker, eliminating not only all feathers, but the skin, excessive fat, the tail and the head. You get all of the meat in a neat, freezable package.
The chicken skinning process is as follows:
- Hang upside down – After putting a bird through the killing cone, tie a cord between its legs, and hang it upside down from an outbuilding ceiling rafter or tree branch.
- Skin legs – Use a sharp skinning knife and start skinning from where feathers start on the legs. After just a couple of turns around a leg, and you can simply pull the leg skin off with one downward motion.
- Skin body – Make a slice from leg to leg on the bottom of the bird’s abdomen. Then, skin rearward and frontward. Again, most of the skin will separate from the meat by simply pulling it downward. More delicate skinning is required on the bird’s rump, lower back, and where its wings attach to the abdomen. Only skin to the wings’ elbow joints.
- Separate unwanted parts – Using a stiff hunting knife, make a slice on one side, and then the other side of each elbow joint, thereby severing them in two. You won’t keep the end of the wing, but there’s not enough meat on that part to worry about. Next, slice through the neck with your hunting knife. Dispose of the skin with all of the feathers, the neck, the tail with its oil gland, the head, and both wing tips. What’s left hanging is the meat and legs. Unhang this carcass, make a slice at the hock joint, snap it sideways, and then cut off the scaly ends of the chicken legs. Slice open the bottom of the cavity, pull out the guts, and wash the carcass in a bowl of fresh cold water. You can separate out the liver, heart and gizzard, if you enjoy chicken giblets.
Clean Up the Whole Bird
Thorough cleaning is best performed in a sink with running water. Rinse the cavity and remove any parts missed by prior gutting. Pay particular attention to lungs, trachea and ovaries or testes, which still might be attached. Cut away unwanted fat. Trim any remaining feathers from the ends of the legs and wings.
Cut Body into Parts
To cut up your chicken into individual pieces:
- Legs and wings – Cut to the inside of the thighs. Then, grab both legs and snap them backward, exposing the joints. Cut them off of the main body and cut the drum sticks from the thighs, again through the joints. Cut the mini drum sticks of the wings off of the main body.
- Back and ribs – Stand the bird on its neck. Cut from the tail to the neck along one side of its ribs, and then cut the other side. Bend backward until the back snaps. Cut across the points of least resistance, cutting the lower back from the ribs.
- Breast – Put the front of breast down on a cutting board. Cut on both sides of the cartilage, slide fingers along the breast bone and peel it out. Cut the breast in half, giving you two pieces of breast meat.
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Packaging and Freezing
A nice aspect with skinning and cutting up your chicken is that you get a more compact package of chicken meat that fits better in the freezer than does a round chicken carcass. After you’ve cut up your chicken, thoroughly wash all parts again under cold water. Then let the water drain from the chicken parts by leaving them in the sink with the water turned off.
Avoid wrapping chicken meat in freezer wrap paper. Chicken meat lasts longer in the freezer when it’s packaged in plastic. Zippered gallon freezer bags work best. Traditional chicken breeds butchered at 12 weeks old will fit nicely into gallon freezer bags. Once excess water drains off the chicken parts, place them all within a gallon bag, partially close the plastic zipper of the bag, and then squeeze excess air from the bag before closing it.
You now have a nice, flat package of chicken meat. Now, wasn’t that easier than plucking the chicken?
Do you have any advice for processing a chicken without plucking it? Share it in the section below:
Sure, rabbits are cute, but don’t let that put you off! Rabbits are also an excellent meat source. Still on the fence? Here are our top nine reasons to raise meat rabbits:
1. Clean(ish) as a whistle
Though rabbits, like most livestock, are prolific poopers, they generally choose one spot to eliminate waste in consistently. Clean-up is relatively simple, since their waste is in pellets. When kept in a wire cage 1-2 feet off the ground, urine drains away into the soil below and the pellets can be raked up and removed. Compare the mess of a rabbit to the mess of chickens, and you’ll find the rabbit looks downright fastidious.
2. Ready-to-go garden compost
Unlike chicken poop and other kinds of manure, rabbit waste is the perfect pH for the garden without the need for composting before application. If you’d prefer, you can put it in your compost, as well. It also makes a great base for compost tea!
3. Perfect for small spaces
Because of their small size, rabbits don’t require a lot of space, making them a great choice for the urban or suburban homesteader. In addition to needing very little place, rabbits very rarely make noise. Occasionally they will squeal, but that is under extreme circumstances. Typically, they are very quiet, which means the neighbors will hardly know they’re there.
4. Easy to feed
Whichever way you choose to do it, rabbits are easy to feed. The simplest method is store-bought alfalfa pellets. They can be fed yard clippings such as cut grass, weeds and even surplus veggies from the garden to supplement pellets and cut down on feeding costs. Some rabbit raisers will grow fodder, such as wheat or alfalfa grass indoors under a grow light, which can ultimately replace pellets when done properly.
The simplest way to feed rabbits is to place them in rabbit tractors, an open-bottomed cage placed directly on the ground. Let your rabbits munch to their heart’s content, and then simply move the cage when they’ve had their fill, (and trimmed the lawn!) so they have a fresh batch of grass on which to snack. You may find your growth rate will increase if you supplement with pellets, but overall rabbits do just fine dining on the go.
5. Prolific and fast-growing
The age-old joke about “breeding like rabbits” is funny for a reason. Rabbits can have anywhere from 4 to 14 babies per litter, though the more typical range is between 8-10. Gestation is a mere 28-32 days, and, depending on the breed and your particular rabbits, can be ready for the freezer between 8-10 weeks old.
6. Cleaner to process
No feathers. No flimsy skin. No dunking in boiling water. While most homesteaders will admit it takes about a half hour to process a chicken, with some practice, a rabbit can be processed from start to finish in around five minutes. Think “taking-off-a-sock” simple. Get a nearby homesteader to show you how it’s done, and pretty soon you’ll be able to take care of business in record time.
Though start-up costs aren’t necessarily small, if you take the time to hunt for deals, setting up your rabbitry doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Scour Craigslist and check local homesteading groups for materials or cages. Once you’ve got your housing set up, your cost is mostly in food, which (as we discussed above) is easy to bring down by adding in grass and other plants you already have growing in your yard to their diet.
8. Healthy meals
Rabbit meat is a very lean, high protein meat. It also is very low in fat and cholesterol, making it a healthy meat option. Although it’s a heart-healthy meat, it does require some adjustment in cooking methods. Because of the low-fat content, it needs to be cooked on low heat for a longer time in order to avoid becoming dry or rubber. While it doesn’t cook the same as chicken, it has a very similar taste and can be used in almost any recipe that originally calls for chicken or even pork. A slow cooker or pressure cooker is perfect for cooking rabbit!
9. Steady supply of fur
Certainly plenty of homesteaders believe in taking advantages of all the resources a particular animal has to offer. Well, not only do rabbits provide a steady supply of meat, but a steady supply of fur, as well. Rabbit skins can be tanned and then used for small projects individually or sewn together for larger projects. Don’t have time to tan the hides right away? Stick them in the freezer until you’re ready.
What advice would you add on raising rabbit? Share it in the section below:
One Second After by William R. Forstchen is a really scary book. Not scary like a Stephen King book, but more like a wake up call to how fragile the world we live in is. This is the book that prompted my first post, and really pushed me to start thinking of myself as a prepper or a survivalist. If you stay dependent on today’s way of life, you will die quickly when it is all taken away from you.
This post is a review of One Second After and assumes you have read the book. If you haven’t already read One Second After, then be warned that there are a lot of spoilers in this post.
John Matherson is the main character and lives in the small college town of Black Mountain, North Carolina. One Second After deals with an unexpected electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the United States and how it affects the people living after.
Here is my list of lessons learned:
- If you currently depend on medicine to stay alive, you will be one of the first people to die. John Matherson’s daughter was a Type 1 diabetic. When the insulin was out, she died a painful sad death.
- The elderly that depend on others to take care of them will also die quickly. People forget about taking care of others when it is a struggle to take care of themselves.
- Back up generators are useless when they’re taken out by an EMP. None of the important generators in the town of Black Mountain worked after the EMP. The hospital and the nursing home specifically. If they had worked, many lives would have been saved. The town would have been more prepared before they ran out of fuel.
- Tend to any kind of open wound immediately. The small cut on Matherson’s hand almost killed him. His stubbornness to have it looked at was dumb.
- Old cars are more reliable than today’s modern cars. A 1950s era Studebaker, a 1964 Ford Mustang and a whole fleet of old VW buses and bugs didn’t notice the EMP attack. When so much depends on computer motherboards today, it is really easy to render them useless.
- Don’t be afraid to be a leader when you are the most knowledgeable and experienced in the group. Someone had to take charge of the town. The major was slow to take action because nothing like this had ever happened. Matherson was hesitant to take charge of the defense of the city, even though he was the most experienced.
- Teach your way out of a job. When everyone around you knows what you do, you no longer have to be the one that people depend on. This is what Washington Parker did with the college kids. He taught them as much as he could as quickly as he could. When the attack from the Posse came, the town was ready and performed well even after Washington died.
- Learn how things were done before electricity. Have good training material for this available in something other than electronic format. Books and magazines were eventually found in the basement of the library. But having this ready from the beginning would have been great.
- Having electronic versions of training material on a laptop that was in a Faraday cage would have been even better. Not a single time was a Faraday Cage mentioned in the book.
- Communication is really important. Having a way to talk across town would have saved lives.
- Why is it that in every prepper book the local first responders are screwed after an EMP? Couldn’t a fire truck or police car be hardened against an EMP?
- Everyone in your family needs to know how to use a gun safely. But you also have to train and practice how to protect your home. When Matherson’s home was invaded, the children were not useful. They had never trained for that situation. Gun training is not enough.
- Having neighbors who you know and trust is so important. Immediately after Matherson’s home was invaded, his neighbor came over to assist.
- It doesn’t matter how rural you are. If everyone is hunting the woods to survive, the animals will all be killed. Why didn’t they do more fishing?
- Working together is the only way for a group to survive. The town of Black Mountain became organized and everyone participated in the defense and food for the city.
- Don’t be afraid of strangers. Just make them prove themselves. They may be able to provide skills or advice to help everyone. Makala was and outsider who’s car was stalled on the highway like many others. But she was a gifted nurse who ended up running the hospital.
- Pets were looked at as protein. A last desperate means of feeding starving family members.
If I was the mayor of a small town and read One Second After I would:
- Have a room specially built onto the municipal building that would serve as a Faraday cage.
- Add a HAM radio for long distance communications. Also add a dozen short distance (25 mile) walkies talkies to the room.
- Add nightvision goggles to the room for defense.
- Encourage solar panels for homes in the city, stores, schools and municipal buildings.
- Create school and city food banks. Stock up on MREs and freeze dried food.
- Create a seed bank with crops that grow well in your area. Encourage people to have gardens and have free classes on gardening.
- Encourage and fund homesteading and Renaissance festivals. Old world skills like blacksmithing, farming without electricity, tanning hides and foraging would be valuable and it’s good to know who has these skills.
- Encourage chicken and rabbit raising. Have free classes on these topics too. Eggs and rabbit meat would have made a huge difference in Black Mountain.
Preparing the chicken coop for winter should be at the top of any homesteading to-do list. A well-maintained coop will help prevent illnesses in your flock and keep your chickens happy enough to continue providing eggs for your table.
Winter often finds us with frozen water buckets, more cleaning than usual and cranky hens, but taking care of a few fall chores can make overwintering much easier – and make it far more likely your flock will continue producing eggs.
1. Prepping the coop
After every snowfall I am reminded there is a slight gap in the hinged door that rests on top of our coop’s nesting boxes. That results in a small snow drift that materializes and scares the hens from using the far west nesting box until I clean it out. A few minutes with a caulking gun will ensure that doesn’t happen again this winter. Seal crevices, tighten screws and make sure doors close flush with the coop walls.
Now is also the time to clean the vents that allow air to circulate through the coop and clean debris off the outside walls and roof. In addition to general cleaning and maintenance, determine if your building would benefit from extra protection from the elements in the form of wind breaks, wraps or extra insulation.
2. Cleaning the coop
Start winter with a fresh, clean coop. Remove old bedding from the entire coop, roosting areas, nesting boxes and runs. Before loading the hen house with fresh litter, dust the interior with diatomaceous earth (DE). This will deter unwanted pests from finding a home with your flock.
Some homesteaders choose to use sand in the winter as bedding, because it is easier to spot clean every few days. Others opt for the traditional straw or wood shavings that need to be replaced weekly during the more confining winter months. A few poultry owners choose to use the deep-litter method, which works by adding a fresh layer of bedding on top of the old to act as an extra layer of insulation and requires fewer full cleanings. Those using the deep-litter method must be sure the enclosure is well-ventilated. Decomposing droppings release ammonia, which can cause blindness and other illnesses if levels remain high inside the chicken coop. No matter which method you choose to use during the winter months, you must be certain that the enclosure remains dry. Bedding that is retaining high amounts of moisture will cause your birds respiratory issues.
3. Watering the flock
Keeping the flock healthy throughout the winter months has much to do with water. Too much water in the litter will cause disease in the birds, but too little fresh drinking water will do the same. Chickens will not break through the ice with their beaks, so you must provide water containers that are free from ice. For the busy homesteader, heated waterers are quite a timesaver. A heated pet bowl with a pet-safe cord will keep your flock drinking throughout the day, although the shallower pet bowls may need more frequent cleaning. For those who do not have electricity in their building, or choose not to risk a fire, changing the water frequently, two to three times a day when temperatures are below freezing, should be sufficient. Use thick plastic containers to delay ice build-up.
4. Lights on or off
There is much debate on whether you should provide a light for your chickens, whether for the sake of heat or the sake of artificial daylight for egg production. Much of the debate stems from the risk of fire that arises when heating or lighting a hen house. It takes just a few moments for a heat lamp that has been knocked over to start a fire inside the coop. Heat lamps, or brooding lamps, should not be used in most chicken coops. They produce too much heat and also can stress the birds in the colder winter months.
In most areas, adequate lighting can be achieved with one 40-watt bulb with a reflector for every 250 square feet. Using a timer to achieve 10 hours of daylight will encourage your flock to keep producing eggs while also providing them adequate time to rest.
5. Boredom busters
Poultry cooped up in the coop all day will quickly become bored. That’s where the trouble starts. They will begin pecking at each other, to the point of death in some instances, while others will find mischief in the nesting boxes by destroying precious eggs.
Keep the boredom at bay with a few additions to the coop. A produce bag filled with fresh greens hung from the ceiling works as a healthy treat as well as a distraction from pecking at each other. Similarly, broccoli crowns, cabbages and other vegetables can be hung as a treat as can more traditional suet bags and seed blocks.
What advice would you add for taking care of chickens during winter? Share it in the section below:
Growing Your Own Chicken Feed the Easy Way If you are a chicken farmer, whether commercially or just a backyard flock, you know that good quality chicken feed is anything but inexpensive. Chances are pretty good that if you raise chickens, you also have a garden and therefore a built in workforce! There are several …
Got Empty Wire Spools? Here’s An Idea I saw this on the backyardchickens.com forum and had to share it with you all. I personally have never seen anything like this. I think it’s a fantastic idea, especially if you keep smaller livestock like rabbits or ducks. You can pick up unwanted wire spools from craigslist or …
1. Too many (or too few) roosters.
It’s true that you don’t need a rooster to harvest eggs, but a gentleman tends to keep the ladies happier and helps to break up domestic squabbles between the hens. He’ll also alert them to good forage and save it for his ladies to win favor. That said, too many roosters can cause territory disputes and lead to abused hens. A good ratio is one rooster to every 8-12 hens.
2. Inadequate protection from predators.
They don’t say “smart as a fox” for nothing. Predators are intelligent, and if they’re not they don’t make it very long. Chicken owners need to plan in advance to protect their flock. Raccoons have been known to break through mesh chicken wire, or simply reach through and kill birds through the fence. Weasels, believe it or not, can slip through the small holes. Hardware cloth is better to use for a chicken’s overnight housing. They’ll also need protection from digging predators, such as foxes and coyotes, as well as climbing predators such as raccoons, that can carry a hen with them over the fence. Make sure the coop is fully protected top to bottom, and don’t underestimate your predators. If all else fails, a trusty .22 is usually plenty to deal with unwelcome guests.
3. No access to forage.
The healthiest eggs come from chickens allowed to access forage. Chickens, while they do love their greens, are not (by any means) vegetarians. Even a brain as simple as a chicken’s brain needs stimulation from finding and hunting for food, and bugs are excellent entertainment and nutrition. Chickens living on a diet of corn/soy mush from the feed store are a sure way to harvest the status quo boring egg you can buy at the grocery store. Let your chickens forage, and they’ll thank you for it with tastier and more nutritious eggs.
4. No retirement plan.
All too often, classified ads have listings for “free chickens, 3 years old, no longer laying regularly, to a good home only, not the stew pot.” If you’re going to own chickens and raise them for eggs, you need to be realistic about their productive life span.
Chickens produce best in the first three years of life, and after that their production drops off drastically. They generally live for 7-10 years, which is a long unproductive lifespan to feed your retirees. Trying to give away the problem to others and insisting that they go to a “happy farm” rather than the stew pot is unrealistic. If you want your chickens to live a long and happy life, you’ll have to support your pensioners yourself as pets, or know that their next best fate is the stew pot.
5. Too small of a coop.
You’ll need to plan a little extra space for chickens too young to lay while they grow into adults, but before you’ve retired out your older hens. If you retire your hens before the new batch comes in, you’ll have a long wait without eggs as the younger hens come of age. Planning for a coop that’s 1.5 to 2 times the size you expect to need is a great way to ensure that you can cycle your flock, and expand it without cost if your needs change later on.
6. Using recycled material.
While it may be tempting to hack together a nearly free structure from recycled materials, make sure you’re picky about what you use. Hens tend to peck loose or peeling paint, and those old recycled “free” boards covered in lead paint that you picked up beside the side of the road may come back to haunt your family in the form of lead poisoning. Be sure that any material you choose is free of chemical treatment, old lead paint, rusty nails, and ideally is smooth wood without splinters or rough edges, both for your safety and ease of cleaning and painting down the road.
7. Not counting your chickens.
Though they say you shouldn’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, after they’re hatched is a whole different story. Each night when your chickens are put in, they should be counted to make sure everyone has come in safely. One may have been picked off by a predator during the day, and you don’t want that to happen several days in a row before you notice.
8. Not checking local ordinances.
In most places in the country, backyard chickens are perfectly legal, but it never hurts to check your local ordinances. Many towns have rules against keeping roosters (as noise prevention) or keeping more than a very small number. To prevent fines and headaches later, check the rules, and if they don’t meet your needs, work with your town council to change them. Backyard chickens are becoming more accepted even in urban areas as people move toward self-sufficiency, and if your town doesn’t allow them, maybe it’s time for a change.
What are the biggest mistakes you have seen made with chickens? Share your thoughts in the section below:
Top 4 Dual Purpose Breeds And Laying Chicken Breeds Chickens are just part of a preppers / homesteaders life. They provide, companionship, eggs and meat if needed. They keep down the insects around your yard and are just all round lifesavers. Click the images below to see the infographic. Feel free to save and share them. …
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10 Awesome DIY Chicken Coop Designs Now the weather is cooling off a little, I think it is time I made my hens a new home. I have had a cheap tractor supply coop for years and quite frankly it sucks! It’s too small and not very sturdy! Time to make my own because chicken …
How To Store Fresh Eggs Without Refrigeration For Up To 9 Months Store eggs without refrigeration like we did back in the day! Some say the eggs taste better when kept this way. Want to give it a try? I already do this and will never go back to refrigerating my eggs again! We have been …
The post How To Store Fresh Eggs Without Refrigeration For Up To 9 Months appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.
Awesome FREE Chicken Coop Plans With Photos Setting up a new homestead when you’re on a budget can be tough. It requires a creative spirit, scrounging ability, and some basic DIY skills. Backyard chicken coops continue to gain in popularity and I don’t see any signs of it slowing down. Chickens are great for the homesteader, …
5 Uses For Chickens In the Garden If you are looking for a devoted helper in your backyard garden, the humble chicken would like to apply for the job. We all know that there is no egg fresher than that which was laid by one of your own chickens. However, the benefits of welcoming a few …
A recent egg customer noted the thick stack of bills in the worn red canvas pencil case I use for egg money, and remarked that sales must be going well these days.
I replied that they were indeed doing nicely. The pullets are all up and running, and the older hens have bounced back from their molts and resumed laying again.
“The girls ought to be getting their own wi-fi and spa treatments,” my friend said, laughing.
It is true that my backyard chickens deserve to be treated well, and they are. The great thing about raising laying hens is that a few egg sales can pay for not only all the birds’ needs but can pad the pockets of farmers a bit, too.
I have raised a variety of other livestock, and each animal was rewarding in its own way. However, none have been so consistently self-supporting as chickens. Following are some ways my backyard birds pay for themselves.
1. Eggs. I have an endless supply of fresh organic free-range eggs, which are said to be lower in cholesterol than factory-farmed eggs. Around my house, there is no shortage of omelets, fried egg sandwiches, frittatas and egg-rich baked goods — made with eggs that go for premium prices if I were to buy them retail.
2. Sales. My surplus eggs sell for a reasonable amount, often the same price as weeks-old factory-farmed eggs in the grocery store. Even though they could easily fetch far more, I choose to keep mine affordable. Even so, my egg income easily covers the cost of everything the birds need.
3. Inexpensive to feed. My hens get top-of-the-line all-organic grain and scratch, and there is still plenty of egg money left over after I buy them food and supplies. In my particular situation, it helps that the birds have access to ample pasture and woods where they can scratch for their food of choice. Grain is always their last choice. But even in wintertime when they eat mostly grain and are not able to forage, I break even on feed costs.
4. Easy to house. My chickens have a cozy coop which is well-insulated against the winter cold, in addition to optional shelters from sun and rain where they can spend time during the day. According to my calculations, they paid for their own Taj Mahal in three or four years of egg-laying.
5. Can be treated humanely with minimal effort and costs. Chickens have few needs — food, clean water, shelter and protection from predation — and thrive well on very little. Homesteaders who are concerned with compassionate care for animals can easily attain such a goal.
6. Help with kitchen and garden cleanup. My chickens love all manner of food nobody else wants to eat. They will gladly snap up vegetable trimmings, past-prime produce, home-canned jellies and chutneys that have been sitting on the larder shelf too long, and stale bread, all of which saves space in the compost bin and saves on chicken feed costs. Chickens are omnivores, too, so they will eat by-products from meat and dairy which would otherwise go into the trash.
7. They love bugs and other pests. Mine eat ticks, flying insects, beetles and other garden menaces. It is good for them, provides them ample entertainment, and reduces my pest population. This results in better vegetable yields and less need for pesticides.
8. Meat and stock. My laying hens stay around the henhouse until they die of natural causes. Even when they stop laying, or when what few eggs they lay have paper-thin shells and break when they land in the nest box, the old girls stay. That is not the way everyone does it, but homesteaders need to do what feels right to them.
However, my homestead does sometimes raise chickens specifically for meat. The result is clean organic meat and stock at a significant savings over the same product purchased elsewhere, and is yet another example of how keeping chickens is an endeavor which pays for itself.
There is not much that can be had for free in today’s world, and there are not many endeavors which truly pay for themselves. In many cases, chickens are one of those rarities. By laying eggs, paying for their own upkeep, keeping other homestead costs down by taking care of scraps and bugs, and providing affordable high-quality meat, keeping chickens is very much a worthwhile activity.
Do you agree that chickens pay for themselves? Share your thoughts in the section below:
6 Uses For Egg Shell Membrane You Never Thought Of For something that is normally thrown out as rubbish, the membrane lining in an egg shell has some surprising uses. That’s right, crack that egg and use it as normal. Then, instead of throwing the shell away, peel that thin white skin or membrane out …
11 Amazing Uses For Vinegar Around The Coop Chickens can give so much more than meat and eggs, they can make your homesteading life much more enjoyable. Each chicken has their own personality and can be very rewarding. You can make apple cider vinegar yourself or you can buy it at the store but whether …
Even if I don’t like chickens very much personally, I am aware of the fact that raising chickens on your own homestead is becoming increasingly popular, especially among preppers.
Raising your own livestock is a big step toward getting off the grid. If you own a small farm or you have enough room in your back yard, chickens are a great opportunity for providing yourself and your family with fresh meat and eggs, totally organic and the whole nine yards.
However, keep in mind that free range chickens tend to forage in your garden (if you have one) so be extra-careful with these pesky birds.
In my opinion, from a prepping/homesteading point of view, chickens are very close to perfection when talking about raising your own livestock, especially for beginners. Home-raised chickens are way more tasteful (and better for you) and also significantly cheaper compared to the commercial variety.
A home-grown chicken will be free of hormones, antibiotics, growth stimulators and the rest of the pharmacy you will find nowadays in store-bought chicken.
The same story goes for the eggs, which are an excellent survival food. If you’ll be raising your own chickens you’ll have fresh eggs on a daily basis for you and your family.
Last but not least, a backyard chicken farm will provide you with top quality manure for making compost, thus your veggie garden will benefit enormously from these beautiful critters (or creatures, whatever you want to call them).
Oh, and I almost forgot: raising chickens is incredibly easy, as they require very little maintenance and they will be able to take care of themselves provided they have enough space to forage for food (I am talking about free range chickens here). Basically, if you have a chicken coop, a little bit of space and some spare time, raising chickens will present no significant problem.
However, at some point in time, you’ll have to deal with the incubator problem. Any chicken farm operation will require an incubator, if you want to hatch your own chicks. Commercially available devices are pretty expensive, north of $200, but the good news is that you can build your own chicken incubator for as low as $3.
The 3$ DIY Incubator
Okay, for three bucks you won’t get all the bells and whistles available on a name brand variety, but even the simplest and cheapest DIY incubator will succeed in its main goal: hatching chicks from fertilized eggs.
So, if you’re resonating with my preamble and you’re copacetic with raising your own chickens for scratch (that’s eggs), check out my first DIY project which will cost you just $3, no change. Remember, it doesn’t get any simpler/cheaper than this, so keep your eyes peeled:
For the $3 chicken incubator project, you’ll require:
- a light-bulb socket
- a regular extension cord
- a thermometer/hygrometer (that’s like a thermometer which measures humidity)
- some scrap wood for building the frame
- an incandescent light-bulb (the wattage/power depends on the size of the box)
- a Styrofoam box
- a screen to wrap over the frame (a piece of fabric/hardware cloth)
- a cup for holding water (an empty sour cream box will do the job with flying colors).
If you already have some of the gear available, as most homesteaders do, this project will cost you next to nothing. I mean, everybody has a light bulb around somewhere, along with Styrofoam boxes and pieces of cloth, right? The only high-tech piece of gear is the hygrometer and if you don’t already own one, well, you’ll have to cough up 7 additional bucks at your hardware store.
As per the DIY job, check out this instructable, it’s very straight forward: first, you’ll have to assemble the wooden frame to match the inner dimensions of the Styrofoam box, then attach the screen to the wooden frame, leaving enough room behind to fit a cup of water (hydration is always important).
Next, you’ll install the light bulb inside the box, put some ventilation holes in place, and in the last step you must install the thermometer/hygrometer inside. The assembly part is very easy and it will take you maybe 45 minutes. The general idea is that once you put some fertile eggs inside your home-made chicken incubator, you’ll just have to wait for three weeks for the fresh chicks to appear; that’s the boring part.
Now, whilst building the incubator is the easy part, the problem is with fine-tuning the environment, i.e. temperature and humidity. The general rule of thumb for hatching healthy chicks is that you’ll require a constant temperature of 99-102 degrees Fahrenheit 24/7. That temperature must be kept constant for three weeks. That’s why you need the thermometer inside the box, in real life the hen takes care of the temp problem.
Also humidity is important (here’s where the hygrometer comes into play), as it must stay around 40%-50% for the first eighteen days. In the last three days, it must be increased to 60%-70%. If it’s really cold outside, this may become tricky (cold weather means drier air) but you can mitigate the problem using a wet sponge placed inside the incubator.
Regulating the temperature inside your incubator is way easier; all you have to do is to cut additional holes in the lid until you hit the sweet spot (the optimal temperature). If you cut too many holes, don’t worry, you can always put duct tape over them.
Also, you can play around with the brightness of the light bulb and you have two options: you can switch the light bulb with a lower or higher wattage one or you can buy a dimmer switch for around $5. Either way, you’ll be able to get the ideal temperature relatively hassle-free. Additionally, you can purchase a thermostat and wire it to your power source; in this way, the light bulb will be switched off and on automatically when it gets too hot or cold.
Finally, you must turn the eggs a few times every day in order to prevent the developing chick-embryo from deforming (if you don’t turn the egg, the embryo will stick to the shell wall). Three times a day will do it.
That concludes our first project – the simplest, cheapest, yet very effective one. It’s the perfect DIY job for beginners.
4 Other Ways to Build an Incubator
Now, let’s take a look at a few more complex ones, shall we?
Here’s a video tutorial about a home-made incubator, a variant of the first but instead of a Styrofoam box, these folks are using a commercial cooler box but the rest is basically the same: a heat/light source, a hygrometer, a thermometer and a few happy chicks at the end of the video.
Video first seen on Sefa O’Reilly.
Take a look at this cheap home-made incubator, which is almost identical to our first $3 job, but with additional bells and whistles, i.e. a fan for controlling temperature/humidity better and a motor from a can opener for spinning the eggs automatically via vibrations (that leads to ADHD chicks, check that out).
Video first seen on Caton Domke,
Now let’s take a look at the next-level DIY chicken incubator, the fully automatic version. It’s homemade and uses an old fridge and some gear including water heater elements, a PLC Smatr Relay and a homemade rack.
Check out the video for more info, but keep in mind that this is a complex job. You’ll require some serious hardware and skills to pull it through. What I like the most about this project is that it turns the eggs automatically, industrial-style without the vibrations.
Video first seen on findrive.
Here’s another variant of the home-made incubator with an automatic egg turner. This baby uses a window motor from a Ford automobile with a PWM speed controller to turn the eggs, two limit switches, a timer and a Repti 500R thermostat. Again, a more complex DIY job, but check it out anyway.
Video first seen on gamecoker77.
I hope the article helped. If you have any other ideas or questions, feel free to comment in the dedicated section below.
This article has been written by Chris Black for Survivopedia.
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How to Ditch the City and Start a Farm A lot of us have the goal to live in the country, develop our homesteading skills to become more self-sufficient. Who knows, maybe even get to the point where we can live primarily off the grid. Prepping to survive after a major disaster is so much more …
Keeping your backyard flock happy is pretty simple and is the best way to ensure a plentiful supply of nutrient-rich eggs and plump meat chickens.
Some homesteaders are choosing to grow their own poultry feed in order to cut down on the unnecessary chemicals and fillers added to the commercial feed consumed by their flocks. They also may grow their own livestock feed as a way to become more self-sufficient and as a way to minimize the financial burden of maintaining their chickens. Whether this feed is used to supplement the foraging diet of a free-range flock or as the exclusive diet for a fenced flock, homegrown poultry feed is worth investigating.
Chickens need protein, calcium and carbohydrates in their diet. In most commercial poultry feeds, grains account for the largest percentage of carbohydrates in the feed. Grains, however, take up a lot of land, making them unsuitable for today’s smaller acreage homesteads. Corn is, of course, the most popular of grains for chicken feed, but barley, rye, and hulless oats all work well.
On the homestead you will have several options to choose from if limiting or avoiding grains. Give your chickens the carbohydrates they need through root vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beets, parsnips and sweet potatoes. After harvesting the root vegetables for the flock, add the greens to the mix as well for added nutrition. These root vegetables are easy additions to the garden. Whether grown in a separate area or as a part of your family’s garden, beets and other colorful vegetables provide an array of macro and micronutrients that also will promote good health in your flock.
Take, for example, the Mangel beet. Mangel beets are fairly hardy, reaching 10-12 pounds apiece and providing plenty of nutrition. Homesteaders in ages past used Mangel beets to feed the livestock through long winters, and these beets are slowly becoming a popular feed option for today’s homesteaders.
Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, work well for chickens. Hung in the coop or in another accessible area, chickens will pick and peck at them and not at each other. These vegetables can be planted earlier in the season than most and provide quality nutrition, including some calcium.
Keep your flock cool while in the summer heat by indulging them with a cool treat. Cucumbers provide adequate nutrition, but most importantly help to hydrate individuals due to their high water content. Cucumbers, sliced in half lengthwise, are the perfect treat to keep them cool and hydrated on a hot day.
A few leafy plants provide a small amount of protein as well as other essential nutrients. In addition to beans, which are higher in protein, but must be cooked before feeding to your flock, kale provides a small amount of protein with large amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals. Kale is easily grown in the cooler spring and fall months and can even withstand frosts.
A lesser known plant, called duckweed, is also higher in protein than most greens and makes a nice addition to homegrown poultry feed. Duckweed has a higher protein content than the soybeans used liberally in commercially produced feeds. It also provides some additional nutrients. It can be cultivated in small ponds or even in shallow tanks or pools, and although poultry can eat it fresh, most will consume it better when dried. Duckweed needs a nutrient base to thrive, so adding small feeder fish will provide a sufficient base for growth. Some have recommended using graywater from the house or even using some manure from the homestead to feed the duckweed.
Though by no means an exhaustive list, the above mentioned vegetables and greens are worthy of incorporating into any plans for growing poultry feed on your homestead. Add grains if space allows, but don’t allow a lack of space keep you from trying to feed your flock.
What advice would you add on growing chicken feed? Share your tips in the section below:
There is nothing quite as picturesque as a farmyard setting with chickens, ducks and perhaps a turkey or two wandering around. Unfortunately, a mixed flock may be more trouble than it’s worth. If you’re considering keeping different species of fowl or poultry together, there are a few advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind.
Advantages of a Mixed Flock
Some common reasons people want a mixed flock includes:
1. Aesthetics. Many people find a mixed flock to be very visually pleasing. While this alone isn’t a good reason to keep different species together, it is important to some.
2. Saves space. Depending on the species you are keeping, you can save space by keeping fowl together. You may be able to keep the fowl in one coop or at least have them share a yard/pasture/pond/etc.
3. Saves money. The above advantage also can mean that keeping a mixed flock can save you money in terms of building materials and fencing. This can be very tempting if you are building your pens or other structures from scratch.
4. Beneficial for land: Keeping a mixed flock may benefit your property as each species contributes something. For example, chickens are great for keeping insects in check but may not eat pests like slugs. A few ducks will take care of the slugs, however. Chickens and ducks will eat some grass, but geese are excellent grazers.
5. Entertainment: Entertainment may seem like a funny advantage, but just like aesthetics, it can be a huge advantage for some people. Watching the interactions and behaviors between species can be quite fun and even educational.
There are many reasons people decide to keep different species of fowl together, but generally it comes down to saving space and saving money. Unfortunately, keeping different species together can easily become a problem.
Disadvantages of Mixed Flocks
If you are seriously thinking about combining different species, consider these three potential problems:
1. Bullying. Bullying is easily the most common problem of keeping different animals of any type together. Fowl, in particular, can be quite territorial and aggressive; a simple Google search will show you numerous threads in forums in which people with just one flock of chickens need help with bullying problems. While some species get along together naturally, like ducks and geese, you can quickly run into problems when it comes to a big size difference like turkeys and chickens. Injuries and death can and do occur.
2. Disease. The next common problem with a mixed flock is disease and illness. There are a couple of specific issues with disease. First off, some fowl act as a disease carrier between species. For example, chickens are carriers of blackhead disease. This is the main reason hatcheries and breeders often stress to keep these birds separate. Secondly, some species are more susceptible to diseases than others. Something like a respiratory issue in a chicken flock can be more easily treated than a mixed flock with the same problem. Simply put, keeping species separate gives you bio-security against disease and allows more efficient treatment of illness and parasites.
3. Malnutrition. There is a common misconception that malnutrition always coincides with being underweight. In reality, livestock can be malnourished even if they visually look well-fed and healthy, even overweight. Malnutrition is simply a condition of livestock not receiving the proper nutrients in their food. Typically, if someone has one type of fowl, say chickens, they will buy chicken food. If they only have turkeys, they will buy a turkey food. Oddly enough, many people with mixed flocks just throw out one type of feed. This will quickly lead to malnutrition, deformities and even death. Each species must eat a species-appropriate diet, which can be very tricky in a mixed flock.
These three disadvantages are just the most common reasons why mixed flocks aren’t a good idea if you don’t seriously take planning and diet into consideration.
How to Make a Mixed Flock Work
If you are set on making your mixed flock work, you will need to do some homework. First off, limit how many species you are going to mix. Two or three species should be your limit unless you happen to have a massive amount of space.
To limit bullying problems, it’s wise to make sure each species has its own areas to hang out around. For example, a large feature will keep ducks away from your chickens, although they may be in the same fenced area. In this case, an added benefit will be that your ducks, who will undoubtedly make a watery mess of their area (be it a pond or sunken-in trough), won’t dirty up your chickens’ water, feeders and dirt bath areas.
Waterfowl should be given ample space in terms of water, so you can avoid bullying problems among geese and ducks. A large pond will allow them to create their own territory boundaries, but if you don’t have that option you should give them different watering spots with plenty of space around them.
Despite the potential for disease between chickens and turkeys, many people still keep them together. If you’re only raising two or three turkeys for the holidays, they may get along well with your chickens since it will only be temporary. If you plan to keep more than this or have hopes to breed, it would be best to keep them separate, as turkeys will act quite dominantly toward chickens. They might share a fenced-around area but should not be housed in coops together.
As for feeding, you will need to come to some compromise to ensure all the birds get what they need to eat. You could feed them separately, but this will take up a lot of time. Instead, you should choose which species you cohabitate carefully. For example, you could keep chickens and ducks together on a non-medicated chick grow feed but add in calcium in a separate area for the laying hens and supplement extra protein for the ducks.
Raising a mixed flock can be very rewarding, but should be approached cautiously. Even a healthy, peaceful mixed group could suddenly go bad at the drop of a hat. Always be prepared for this by having some means of housing the birds separately if such an event does occur.
Do you keep a mixed flock or have done so previously? Please share your opinions in the comment section below.
Small birds are usually bypassed as a food source, but those looking to supplement their food supply or establish additional food security can benefit from small birds. There are two main small birds I would recommend: quails and pigeons.
Here are the advantages to owning quail:
- They are small, so they need no more than one-square foot for each bird.
- They don’t roost, so a pen about 18-inches tall is sufficient. Pigeons, though, are roosters, so you will want a taller pen with a place to roost and nest.
- They are efficient egg layers in terms of converting feed into eggs.
It takes four quail eggs to equal one average chicken egg. Quail eggs bring much more money than standard chicken eggs, so you even can sell them.
Quail are quiet except for a sing-song coo; not even the males crow. This bird will not bother your neighbors! In fact, if you live in an apartment, no one will know you have them. Cleaning them is easy because the cage should have a screen floor with no need for nest boxes. Quail are not picky; they lay eggs wherever they stand.
Other great, yet smaller, quails are the gambel’s quail, Tennessee, California Valley, Texas and button quail.
Quail meat is high in protein and minerals and it’s lean, so it can dry out while cooking. It’s best braised, but can be fried or used in other ways. The eggs are amazing and full of HDL cholesterol (the healthy cholesterol). They are also hypoallergenic, so people with chicken egg allergies likely can eat them.
Pigeons: not Just an Annoying Bird
Pigeons (squab) may be a nuisance in the city, but they are valuable as a food supply. Pigeons are really easy to care for, and they grow quickly. If you look online for a meat-quality pigeon pair, you may be shocked; you would be fortunate to get a pair under $100 online. I suggest visiting a farm that has a silo; Amish farms would probably be the best choice. You may be able to purchase pigeons from Amish for less than $5 each. You will not find the fancy pigeons there, but they are very edible. Ask them to catch several, for mating. Once pigeons pair up, they stay together for life.
Before bringing them home, make a pigeon coup. It doesn’t have to be fancy and it will not have to be all wire. You’ll need:
- A closet or shed.
- A screen box to mount on the side so that they may peek out.
- A nest box so they can lay eggs.
“Squab” is a fancy name for the pigeons, and usually means young birds. A healthy pair will raise 12-14 squab during the year. It only takes about 26 days from hatching until eating. The parents will usually lay a second set of eggs before the first pair of chicks leaves the nest.
Pigeon feed can be found at many feed stores, or it can be pre-ordered. They will need minerals and clean water, daily.
Once established, you will have a constant food supply and new hobby!
Squab is a healthy and delicious meat. All the meat is dark and, believe it or not, tastes like the dark chicken meat. It is a tender meat, juicy and flavorful with fatty skin. There are many ways to cook this bird—all taste great!
Regardless of the way you choose to go, these birds offer multiple benefits. The cost of feeding chicken alternatives is inexpensive. All you need is a handful of feed a day, minerals and clean water. Anyone who has the room to keep either bird will find all sorts of cage plans online. The only thing left to do is go out and give it a try. You won’t be disappointed!
Have you ever raised quail or pigeons? Share your advice in the section below:
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Owning chickens can be an expensive venture if you rely solely on purchased feed. Obtaining the feed will also be a problem if the transportation structure is disrupted. Since this is a real possibility, at least for a short period of time such as when storms strike, you need to know how to procure cheap food for your chickens.
In addition to being ready for an emergency, most folks who raise chickens in order to get “free” eggs and meat will tell you that those eggs cost at least as much as store-bought eggs. Most of this cost is attributed to the cost of feed so if you can lower that, then it can be financially beneficial to raise chickens.
The methods and foods that we discuss today will not only help in cases of emergency; they will also help decrease your costs to feed your chickens now.
Another bonus is that you’ll know exactly what your chickens are eating, and in turn, you’ll know what YOU are eating!
Allow Them in the Compost Pile
Allowing your chickens to scratch through your compost pile will help them because they’ll peck out what they like, including bugs and worms, and they’ll also turn it for you while they’re pecking.
Feed Your Chickens Table Scraps
Chickens eat just about anything, including fruit and vegetable cuttings or scraps, egg shells, and even meat scraps. Just keep a bucket by the sink and take it to them in the evening. As a matter of fact, if you crack the eggshells into pieces that they can eat, that will provide the same calcium that they get from oyster shells.
There are a few foods that your chickens shouldn’t have, though.
Grains such as barley and hard red winter wheat, soft wheat, sunflower seeds, and oats are great for sprouting. Sprouts add extra nutrition and protein to your chickens’ diets and also make them happy, after they get used to the strangeness of it.
Most grains sprout in about 5 days and the process is simple, though it does take up some space. Spread the grains in seed trays and moisten them. Keep the layer between 1/4 and 1/2 inch deep. If you start a new tray every day for 5 days, then within 5 days, you’ll have a perpetual source of sprouted grains for your ladies.
Talk to Your Feed Store about Damaged Bags
During loading and unloading, bags often get ripped and the feed store is stuck with an unsellable product. Ask them about buying these at a discount, making sure that the bag is full enough to truly make it a deal.
Talk to Local Places for Free Food
Smoothie shops, gyms, vegetarian restaurants, co-ops, grocery stores and farmer’s markets are great places to look for scraps. Some areas have laws that prohibit restaurants and grocery stores from giving away old or damaged produce, but farmer’s markets and co-ops may be a little more willing to work with you.
If you have a local corn farmer, co-op or mill, ask them for the spillage, cracked corn leftovers, and older wheat that aren’t good for human consumption. Most will gladly give it to you for free and your chickens will be happy campers.
Let Them Till Your Garden
Once you harvest your garden, let the ladies loose to till it for you. They’ll eat the leftover plants and weeds as well as clean out the bugs.
Oh, and they’ll fertilize it for you as they go!
Not everybody has this luxury, but if you can let your chickens wander the yard, do so. Of course, not every neighbor will appreciate it, and if you live in the country, they may be susceptible to roving bears, foxes and other critters that enjoy chicken as much as we do.
If you can’t let them free range, consider building a chicken tractor that will allow you to move their cage over the yard so that they can have access to fresh grass, bugs, and insects.
Feed Grass Clippings, Raked Leaves, and Garden Weeds
Your girls will love picking through the grass clippings and garden weeds and it’s a free source of nutrition. That fresh grass will help with nice, yellow yolks and the raked leaves make good cover for worms that they can peck for after it rains.
Feed Leftover Milk and Whey
If you have a milk cow, you’re likely drowning in milk unless you have a large family or are selling it.
Use some of that leftover milk for your chickens. It’s a decent protein source and if you allow to clabber a bit, you’ll give them an extra boost of probiotics which will help with their immune systems.
Cull Your Flock
Yes, it’s one of the harder parts of growing chickens, but if a hen has greatly reduced egg production or is declining, it’s best to turn her into a nutritious soup instead of letting her wander around and eat without producing.
Grow Duckweed, Comfrey and Azola
Duckweed an Azola are water plants that are high in protein and vitamins, and your chickens will love them! You can grow them in a pond or a fish tank, though you won’t yield much in a tank.
Comfrey is an herb that grows on land and has several different medicinal uses, including making a great tea. It’s packed with protein for your girls, so it’s a great multi-use plant to have around.
Sell Your Eggs
Seems like a no-brainer and isn’t actually a way to create cheaper feed but now, in the real world, you can use the egg money to buy feed. If SHTF, you can trade the eggs for grain or other items that you need.
Ferment Your Feed
Fermenting your feed is much like processing the wheats used to make beer, minus the sugar. You wet it down and let it ferment. Fermenting your feed adds protein and probiotics and makes it easier to digest.
The probiotics help boost your chickens’ immune systems and a healthy chicken is a happy, productive chicken! An added bonus is that fermenting actually produces a pre-fertilized seed (if you use seeds) once it’s made its way from one end of your chicken to the other!
You can ferment your current food or use grains. Either way, this is how to do it:
- Place the food in a quart jar or a plastic container with a lid (gallon or 5-gallon buckets are great). Don’t use metal. Your container size will depend upon how many chickens you have because you’re going to put 3-5 days’ worth of feed in it.
- After you put the feed in the container, cover it with water so that there’s at least an inch of water above the top of the feed. Since the grain or feed will absorb the water, check it after a day or so and add more water if necessary. The layer of water helps keep it from molding.
- The next day, do the same thing in a new container, and start a new one for a total of 5 days. Cover them with a towel or loose lid.
- On day 4, feed the first batch to your girls an start a new batch in that container.
An alternative is to just make one big batch and keep adding water and grain to it as you feed it. Since we only have a few chickens, the jars work best for us.
Growing fodder takes sprouting a step further. You actually grow the grass from the sprout until it’s a few inches tall, then feed the whole thing to your girls. They get the benefits of the grass, the seed and the roots, so it’s an extremely delicious and nutritious way to stretch your grain. You’ll get about 25 pounds of fodder from 5 pounds of grain and it only takes a few days.
Spread the seeds in a 1/4-1/2 layer in a pan with holes in it. You can build a stacking system using some PVC pipe so that you can water from the top and let it drain down through a few layers into a catch pan. Of course, you can use just the sprouts, too!
Did we miss anything about feeding your chickens on a budget? Do you know some old ways to feed the chicken healthy that we haven’t heard about?
If you have other ideas or want to share your knowledge, please do it in the comment section below!
This article has been written by Theresa Crouse for Survivopedia.
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How To Safely Preserve Fresh Eggs Without Refrigeration For Up To 9 Months Store eggs without refrigeration like we did back in the day! Some say the eggs taste better when kept this way. Wanna give it a try? I already do this and will never go back to refrigerating my eggs again! We have …
The post How To Safely Preserve Fresh Eggs Without Refrigeration For Up To 9 Months appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.
The ancient Egyptians and Chinese are credited with inventing the first egg incubators, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the first commercial incubators were used.
Thus began the earnest attempt by poultry breeders to reduce the hen’s instinct to hatch her eggs.
Today, many laying breeds of poultry have almost no instinct to set on, and then hatch their eggs. So for the most part, you’ll have to resort to purchasing day-old chicks from a hatchery, or incubating the eggs and hatching them yourself.
The first thing you’ll need when your chicks hatch or arrive from the hatchery is a brooder to keep them in until they are old enough to regulate their own body heat without an outside source.
For a small number of chicks, brooders can be made from just about type of container. I’ve seen everything from cardboard boxes and baby pools, to large watering troughs.
What I’ll show you can easily be used to brood up to 50 chicks until they are ready for the coop or pasture pen. Plus, it’s durable.
The materials you will need to make the brooder hover are:
- 1 – 4×8 sheet of plywood
- 4 – 2x4x8
- A box of 1 1/2 inch screws
Start with placing two of the 2x4s about four feet apart and laying the sheet of plywood on top of them. Slide the 2x4s out to the edge of the plywood and screw them tight. Flip the plywood over and get a measurement for the ends. Cut two pieces for the ends and screw them on. At this point, you will have a sheet of plywood that is framed around the edges with a 2×4.
Next, take the remaining 2×4 and cut it into two-foot pieces. These will be the four legs of the brooder. Screw the four legs on each corner. You now have basically a two-foot-high plywood table. You will brood the chicks under the table. The heat is regulated by moving the lamps up or down and covering the sides with fabric.
Measure approximately 12 inches from the end and 24 inches from the side on each end. Drill or saw a hole at these locations big enough for an electric cord. This will be for using two heat lamps to regulate the temperature.
You can use any type of fabric to hang from the sides of the brooder to hold in the heat. I’ve used everything from feed sacks to old T-shirts. If you place the brooder in a corner, you’ll only need to cover the two sides that are open.
Once you have the brooder in place where you want it, simply pull the heat lamp cords up through the holes you drilled and place the lamps as high as they will go. You can adjust them later once you check the temperature.
Place a thermometer on the floor under the heat lamps and turn on the lamps. You will want the temperature to be around 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the first few days. Adjust the height of the lamps to obtain the right temperature.
If your brooder is in the barn or other unheated area, be aware of temperature changes. A 30-degree night might need the lamps adjusted compared to a 60-degree day. The key is to watch the chicks. If they are huddled under the lamps, it’s too cold. If they are wandering around throughout the brooder, it is a good sign.
Once the birds are feathered out, they are ready to move to another location.
This is a simple and easy brooder to make, and when you’re done you can store it easily for the next batch of chicks.
What advice would add for making a brooder? Share your tips in the section below:
How to Raise Baby Chicks on a Budget If you’re on the road to self-reliance and you don’t have chickens yet, what are you waiting for? We’ve all read about the war on self-reliance. It seems like feeding yourself is becoming increasingly illegal. People are forced to rip out thriving front-yard vegetable gardens, raw milk …
When my husband, 2-year-old son and I emptied our apartment and moved off grid in the Caribbean, seven chickens were the last residents we were expecting.
New to the off-grid experience, we were eager to learn nature’s way of doing things. The two roosters and five hens were our first lesson. Our new friends came by the cabin at the crack of dawn every morning, calling or walking up the cabin step to announce their arrival, when breakfast was late.
There is how we got them laying in a coop:
1. Build trust.
We began by feeding them dry coconut from the property and food scraps every morning. The chickens like dry coconut. But at first, they ran away when we got close. We stuck to the routine of putting their food out and sitting a short distance away to observe them. Sometimes, I would crouch when feeding them to show I didn’t mean any harm. I soon noticed this made the chickens more comfortable, and they began to come closer. We noticed that they were creatures of habit. The chickens made the same rounds around the property every day and slept in the same tree. Within three weeks of feeding them, they allowed us to get close and walk around them while feeding.
2. Get them interested.
We built them a coop but didn’t want to lock them in it for two weeks as was recommended. Instead, we wanted the transition to be as natural as possible. Since the chickens are accustomed to roaming freely and sleeping in trees, we thought it would be stressful for them to be put in a new place. So to get them interested in the coop, I would leave a trail of breadcrumbs leading from our yard to the coop at the back. Since they are creatures of habit, we thought changing their feeding location would take a while before they adjusted. But they caught on to the new location within two days. The coop had seven nesting boxes and a small ladder to facilitate them going up and down easily. They would still fly up to their boxes and jump back down. I would put the feed on the step leading to the nest boxes to spark their curiosity.
Three days after the coop was built, we had our first egg. I was ecstatic: “My hen has laid its first egg!” I have also read that putting fake eggs in the nest boxes can encourage the laying process. Another technique I use is leading them to the coop when they are ready to lay. Recently I have been able to distinguish the clerking sound the hens make when ready to lay. I would walk up to her slowly, show her an egg, and then walk away slowly so she would follow me — after which I would put the egg in the nest box where I want her to lay, and she would enter. I have been able to change a hen’s nesting location using this method — especially for those who keep laying outside.
3. Be observant.
Studying the hierarchy and group dynamics enabled us to see which hens would be laying fertile eggs (mating regularly) compared to the newer hens who were picked on while feeding. When we noticed some hens got less food, we would put food separate from the group for them. Soon, these hens began to lay, as well. Watching them closely, we were able to get a feel for their individual personalities. We got so good that when my husband found eggs inside the cabin, we knew exactly who it was – Sally, the adventurous and strong-willed hen. By paying attention to the chickens, I also realized that they didn’t like newspapers under the dried leaves to the bottom of their nest boxes. The hens would scratch it out and then go into one with only the dried leaves. As a result, I kept only dried leaves in nest boxes.
Our chickens lay once a day, and sometimes lay in each other’s nest boxes. Chickens have their own language, and when given it enough attention you learn what each clerking sound means. The high pitch rapid clerking sound is usually made when they feel threatened. We did research to find the chicken predators in our area. Our dog gives the mongoose a run for their money, but we have to tie the dog while the chickens are roaming. It’s a tough process trying to get the dog to stop running after the chickens.
When the hens want to mate, they make a low pitch sound to get the rooster’s attention. If you aren’t close enough, you may miss it. We always thought the hens didn’t give consent, but they do very subtly. Because our chickens have roosters, they roam more freely as he protects and feeds them.
4. Know their routine and meet their needs.
I noticed that our garden beds were the hangout spot during the day, so we had to train them to keep out of the garden. To assist them, we made a garden bed just for them and kept chasing them onto it every time they scratched the garden. As the plants grew taller, they were less of a problem and more like little helpers than they were when the plants were younger. They ate the weeds and bugs between the plants. I gave them fresh water on a morning in coconut shells. (They seemed suspicious of my plastic containers.)
Raising my chickens has been an amazing experience — from marveling at the bright orange color yoke to the dramatic nutrient difference between free-range chicken eggs and store-bought eggs. Allowing the chickens to live like chickens — eating worms, grass and insects — and getting plenty of fresh air and exercise is the reason they are healthier than supermarket eggs.
If you live off grid, then owning chickens has to be part of the experience. Apart from having your free-range eggs, you can put wood chips on the floor of their coop and rack it out for your garden manure. You’ll never miss television with chickens around. But the only way to really enjoy rearing chickens is to mimic nature. Let them sleep in the trees if your property is fenced. Let chickens be chickens; they know how to do it better than we do.
What advice would you add on raising free-range chickens? Share your tips in the section below:
April 18th, 2016
Video courtesy of Becky’s Homestead
How To Raise Chickens – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide One of the biggest challenges to living off the grid is having a sustainable source of food. Gardening is one way to do this, but it’s not the only way. I’m a big fan of raising chickens. The reason? Because chickens can provide you with a …
The post How To Raise Chickens – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.
Well, it seems that spring is finally here. I can see it in my fruit trees as they blossom, and hear it in the night sounds of frogs and insects that are slowly coming back after many months of silence. With the change of season, there always comes a chore list on a homestead.
Around my place, one of the things spring means is that it’s time to gear up for raising meat chickens. That is, it is time to get the chicken tractors in order, the brooders ready, and the feed and chicks ordered.
When I first started raising meat chickens, I envisioned it as being an income source in addition to a means of providing good wholesome food for my family. I started the venture with the notion of producing a free-range, GMO-free product. It didn’t go as I had hoped. Free-range works well for my egg-producing chickens, but what we found out through experience is that free-range slows the growth rate and produces an ultimately smaller and inferior bird for eating purposes. Modern meat-producing breeds are generally poor foragers, and are designed to grow and put on weight quickly with a steady supply of easily obtained feed. Thus, I opted for raising the chickens in the pasture, and to this end constructed several 10 by 12 chicken tractors.
The chicken tractors house 40 chickens each. By moving these tractors once or twice each day, we achieve two things. First, our chickens get some supplemental feed in the form of available grasses and greens. Second, our chickens are always in a clean environment. The daily moving of the tractors is something that my young twin boys have enjoyed helping with since they were three.
I stuck to my guns on the GMO-free part of the original equation. However, finding GMO-free feed proved difficult, as we had to travel some distance to get it in bulk — and it was ridiculously expensive. Feed expense becomes a big issue when each bird requires 14 pounds of feed to grow out and you are raising 120 of them.
Ultimately, the chicken venture proved to be untenable from a commercial standpoint. Between the cost of chicks and feed, the time and diesel fuel required to move the tractors, the cost of certified commercial butchering and labeling, and the expense of getting the product to the farmers’ market, we had to sell chicken at more than $3 a pound to even eke out a minimal profit. Our area is not conducive to selling chicken at that price; it isn’t that people don’t care about that kind of product, but rather they can’t afford it.
But it wasn’t a fruitless endeavor. I inspired others to raise their own chicken, and taught them how to do it if they were interested. So, from that standpoint it was an excellent feel-good activity! I still believe that in the right area it could be profitable, but you need a more urban setting with a high concentration of well-employed and health-conscious customers. For me, it has become just a way to provide good food for my family.
The tractors themselves are fairly easy to build. You will need:
- 3 12-feet 2x4s
- 2 10-feet 2x4s
- Scrap 2 by 4
- 3 4-feet-by-12 feet cattle panels
- 1 12-feet-by-12-feet tarp (I often go to 10-feet-by-10-feet to save a few bucks, and they are easier to find)
- 1 50-feet roll of chicken wire, 4-feet wide
- A box of deck screws
- A box of fence staples
- Cable ties
- 25 feet of good rope
To start, you will build your 10-by-12 base using your 12-feet and 10-feet 2x4s — use two 12-feet sides, two 10-feet ends, and a 12 footer trimmed by about 3 ½ inches to fit in the center. These are attached with 3-inch deck screws, and scraps of 2 by 4 are used to make corner braces.
Next, the cattle panels are arched over this frame, secured by fence staples. The result looks like a wire hoop house.
Using more scrap lumber, build end frames and a door for one end; my design is always dictated by what scraps I have on hand.
The tarp is stretched over the cattle panels and secured with cable ties. The final step is to cover the tarp with the chicken wire, and cover the ends with chicken wire as well. Your rope is used to make a tow harness for the completed tractor.
Additionally, you will need feeders and waterers for your birds. Old rain gutter makes a great feeder, and if you don’t want to buy commercially produced waterers, your imagination is the only constraint. (I have uses 3-inch PVC and poultry nipples from a farm supply store to construct large watering apparatus.)
We grow Cornish cross chickens for their meatiness and rapid growth. They spend about two weeks in the brooder before going onto pasture in the tractors. Once they are in the tractors, I take them feed, and I fill the waterers twice a day when I move them; I move them one tractor length each time to keep the birds on fresh ground.
Chicken tractors are a great way to raise meat chickens, and a fun way to get the family involved in your homesteading activities. It is also a great way to have total control over what goes into the food you eat. And, let’s face it, everything tastes better when you grew it yourself.
Have you ever used chicken tractors? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
While catching chickens to be processed last fall, my brother and I were having a debate about who could make the best chicken catcher.
We laughed about how, as kids, we would make one and then snag every hen in the barnyard a couple times each. And if you caught the rooster, it was a huge deal. After a few times of snagging him he was pretty hard to catch.
This was long before the Internet, video games and a million channels on TV.
It brought back memories of the time a few years ago when my boys were getting old enough to help — which means they could walk a few steps without falling down — and I declared we needed to catch all the broilers in the next few days to butcher.
They asked, “How we gonna’ ketch ‘em?”
“I’ll make a chicken catcher!” I exclaimed.
Of course, I had their attention then.
So we went on the hunt for the materials, which consist of a piece of No. 9 wire and a pair of pliers. I explained how, as kids, we would rob a wire coat hanger from the closet (without mom seeing us, of course) and use it to make the catcher. This sparked a whole new line of questions about “how could you bend a hanger?” So I explained how clothes hangers once were metal wire — not the plastic ones you see now.
That was almost as weird to them as making a chicken catcher.
I then bent a U-shape in the end. I told the boys to go get a stick, about the size of a chicken’s leg or a bit bigger, and I placed it inside the U, making sure it was against the bottom of the U shape. Taking the pliers, I squeezed the U, almost shut up against the stick, which left a long tail.
I then made a few fine adjustments based on years of making chicken catchers. We were done, and it had taken a total of about three minutes.
The boys both looked at the wire, and then looked at me, and said, “How do you catch a chicken with that?”
So off we went to demonstrate. I opened the movable pen, reached in with the wire, and before they know what had happened, I pulled a bird to me by the leg. Before I knew it, my youngest was screaming, “Let me try!”
How do you catch chickens? Share your tips in the section below:
How To Build An Amazing Chicken Coop Backyard chicken coops continue to gain in popularity and I don’t see any signs of it slowing down. Chickens are great for the homesteader, or dare I say, even the weekend prepper and suburban survivalist, given the advantage of having a source of fresh eggs. But you must …
Communicating with Your Animals
He was running at me full on. I stopped him at arms length by grabbing his neck. This was true one on one animal communications.
I then shook him; not hard enough to hurt him, but firm enough that he knew I could break his neck if I wanted to.
My two eyes looked into his one for a long moment and then I slowly released my hand. The communication between us was absolutely clear and he understood.
Training Male Geese
I have a new young flock of geese and it is almost a rite of passage that the leading male would someday challenge me. He was almost full grown and the biggest of the flock. And now he was testing his boundaries and wondering just how much authority he had in the world.
I feed, water, and protect them and I am very clear about our relationship. And now he and the rest of the flock were clear too.
I will sometimes sit very still and let the geese come and look me over very closely, and even do some exploratory nibbles. Is that grass on her head edible? What do her changing feathers feel like? How does she make the long snake spit water? They are very curious, but never aggressive. Especially now that we’ve ‘talked’.
Another reason to raise geese: The Barefoot Friendly Project; Transforming Harsh Land
Animal Communications – More than Just Talking
There are many different levels of communication between species. And in fact you are communicating with all of the plants and creatures around you all the time. Although you are probably not as aware of your message as they are.
The phrase “inter species communication” normally conjures up images of specially gifted mystics. Maybe some one who can hear something we can’t – it’s just out of our frequency range. Or perhaps it is a magical ability like the psychics who can also conduct seances to talk with loved ones now past into the world of the dead.
But communicating with plants and animals doesn’t have to be supernatural.
I am not discounting the direct ‘knowing’ levels of communication. And yes, if you were to focus on developing that ability over time, those intuitive levels of communication may very well open to you. In fact, I think it happens quite naturally for anyone who spends enough time in their garden or working with their livestock.
But most inter species communication is much more practical and easy to understand.
It’s Not Magic, It’s Physical
Have you ever heard the saying “your actions speak louder than words”? The physical level of communication is extremely effective and is within reach of anyone, without any training. Not to mention, it is something you are doing all the time anyway.
There are estimates that some 90% of communication is non-verbal. These are studies referring to human to human communications, but it applies to plants and animals too. Your body posture, the quality or cleanliness of your clothes, your hand gestures, and the expression on your face, the smell your body is emitting – all of this communicates your mood and intentions.
There is also some degree of reality to that “vibe” you put out that others pick up on.
Different Ways of Communication
There really are many ways of communicating. And this is quite useful since most of the other life forms on this planet don’t quite vocalize the way we do.
For example, once I had shaken that goose, he stepped back quickly with his head slightly tilted expressing a bit of shock. When he was a few feet away, at a safe distance away from me, he began to compose himself by preening his feathers.
Watching him made me laugh at the recognition of an almost universal response after an altercation; that of grooming. Embarrass a cat and it will almost immediately start licking its fur. And humans once separated will start straightening their clothes and smoothing their disheveled hair. A hen getting up from the rooster’s rough attentions indignantly ruffles her feathers back into shape.
My laugh was not derogatory, but served as a peace offering sound and let everyone know all was well in the world. The rest of the flock who had been watching this with interest now cackled back in response, and everyone started moving off to find something else to do like nibble at some nearby grass.
Learning from Your Animals
I had learned about the power of laughter between species from two ferrets.
Don’t ask me why we have two ferrets. We certainly don’t need any ferrets. And we don’t really want two ferrets. I can’t honestly think of any good reason to have ferrets. But I have a young daughter who gets money for working, and she was convinced that buying ferrets was the best use of her hard earned funds. Sigh.
Since we have the ferrets (ah, the relentless pressure of children), I can’t help but be fascinated by them. One thing that interests me is that when I let the ferrets run free in a new area where they aren’t normally allowed in, they get so excited. They jump around and make a funny sound sort of like a cross between a grunt and a gurgle. That sound is so captivating (I’ve been trying to catch it on video and when I do, I’ll get it to you). But what was it they were doing?
Then one day it occurred to me they were laughing with joy! The ferrets definitely share the playfulness of their cousins the otters. They are amazingly good-natured creatures and love having fun. “Mommy they exude cuteness,” my daughter explains. (They exude a few other things too but I won’t go into that here.)
But the ferrets were so happy they would laugh out load as they ran and played.
Sometimes they playfully come up and nip my feet and then bound away – chuckling the whole time. I stand there dumb founded at the audacity of these eight ounce bundles of silliness daring themselves to play with a giant. It’s completely disarming.
My daughter is right, they do exude cuteness.
Read about my daughter’s other pet: The Perfect Natural Camouflage
Pay Attention to Signals from Your Animals
The ferrets got me in trouble with the chickens. One morning I decided to let the ferrets run about with me while I was working in the garden. And as the ferrets did their jumping and playing and investigating they naturally came across the flock of chickens I keep for eggs. Although these ferrets are pets and probably would never consider eating anything but the store bought supplies my daughter gives them, they were recognized by the chickens for what they are; carnivores. And the chickens were upset.
The flock is free range so they moved off to another part of the yard. But later that day when I saw the chickens again the rooster rushed me. I easily kicked him back. But from the way he looked sort of satisfied and did not come at me again, I became ashamed of my earlier annoyance. The rooster had been trying to get my attention in about the only way a rooster knows how. I was mystified what he was trying to communicate. And then it dawned on me, he was letting me know how upset the chickens were at the ferrets being loosed in their space.
Tell Pests to Leave Before You Kill Them
Before we built our home, our little family lived in a 20×20 room above the barn. Mice also had quite an attachment to that room. My husband whom I don’t normally think much of a big communicator totally shocked me with his solution to the problem. He started by stomping around growling at the top of his lungs in the meanest bad-ass animal sounds I’ve ever heard come from a man. He did this for quite a few minutes making sure to visit each corner to insure his message was being received.
Then he set out some traps. But I think the mice got the message from his growls for we didn’t trap many and generally weren’t bothered by them again. From then on, if an occasional new mouse showed up my husband would repeat the warning and that usually took care of the problem.
We aren’t always successful with communications. I’ve tried communicating with fire ants for many years without success.
Dealing with Predators – Livestock Guardian Dogs
As you start to develop systems for producing your own food, you’ll notice that lots of other creatures like your food too. After years of losses of both livestock and plants I came to the see how extremely useful a pair of good dogs could be. In no way am I a professional animal trainer, and I had never been a “dog person,” but using dogs to protect your food supply made so much sense I had to learn.
The dogs live to chase off deer, raccoons, squirrels, and other dogs. They will harass snakes, bark at hawks, and hold off a pack of coyotes until I can get there to help. They don’t mind working all night while I sleep. And they consider themselves well rewarded by a bit of praise and the scraps I toss them.
In the Grow Your Own Groceries video set, I have a section that goes into detail of how to work with dogs – and of course, you can pick up a copy at this link: http://growyourowngroceries.com/.
Embracing New Relationships
Opening up my relationships with other living beings beyond humans is one of the many pleasures of growing my own food. Let me know your interest level and I’ll write more about inter-species communication. Talking with plants is not quite as direct and requires more sensitivity, but can definitely be developed. As with animals, learning to communicate on the physical level with plants is the easiest way to get started.
Drop me a note in the comments section below to let me know if you’re interested in communicating with plants. I’m sure you have some interesting stories to tell…
I am also intrigued with communication on even more subtle levels; working with energetics or nature spirits as was reputably done at Findhorn, for example.
And then there is that other topic to deal with; how can I love the creatures I am raising knowing their fate is that I will kill them and eat them? It is a difficult question that I struggle with and would be delighted to discuss with you. Again, let me know your interest by putting a quick comment down below.
3 Part Series about Ethical Meat: Have You Ever Been to a Hog Killin’?
So you’re thinking about adding livestock to your homestead? Consider low-maintenance livestock.
“Low maintenance” can mean many different things depending on your situation, but my definition is livestock that takes the minimal amount of time, energy and money to care for.
Here are what many homesteaders consider the four best:
1. Weaning or feeder pigs – Buying pigs when they are weaned from a farmer and raising them to slaughter weight is a good way to provide meat for the homestead.
It is around a six- to eight-month commitment. You simply purchase in the spring and slaughter in the fall. This avoids carrying stock through the winter. Winter, in many parts of the country, will always mean more maintenance.
Pigs are easily contained using electric fence. Make sure to give them plenty of room, and buy at least two at a time. If you can give them a pastured area, they will forage in addition to the feed you give them. Use a self-feeder and watering system, and watch them grow.
2. Broiler chickens – Raising meat chickens from chicks to slaughter can be done in as little as eight weeks. Purchase the day-old chicks from a reputable hatchery and once they are feathered out (usually in two weeks or so), it is only a matter of feeding and watering them daily until they reach about five or six pounds. Slaughtering can be done by a commercial facility or right in your own backyard.
3. Rabbits – Many rabbits are for pets, but pet breeds aren’t good for meat production. New Zealand Whites are a common breed for producing meat. Although rabbits can be raised in any climate, they prefer cooler weather. If you live in a hot climate, you’ll need to make sure they are kept cool by shading them and avoiding excessive heat.
Due to the short cycle from birth to maturity, most rabbit farmers have breeding stock on hand, as purchasing young rabbits for slaughter isn’t common.
Still, breeding three or four females and raising the young for butcher isn’t a huge undertaking.
When it comes to butchering and processing rabbits, there are more slaughterhouses that are processing rabbits than ever before, due to the growing popularity of rabbit meat. Rabbits are easier than poultry to process at home, and once you’ve done it a few times, you can process a dozen rabbits in less than an hour.
What would you add to this list? Share your advice in the section below:
How To Make a DIY Chicken Coop From an Old Swingset Setting up a new homestead when you’re on a budget can be tough. It requires a creative spirit, scrounging ability, and some basic DIY skills. If you go through the work and expense of raising chickens for eggs, it’s important to provide them with …
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How to Help Hens Lay a Lot More Eggs Jordan Walker is very passionate about animals. He shows this passion by writing several helpful articles about the subject as the lead content curator for Coops and Cages and other pet related blogs. In this article, he shares tips on how you can help your chickens […]
If you’re like me and a lot of other homesteaders, you:
- Keep a small flock of backyard chickens to feed your family;
- Want to cut down on commercial feeds;
- Prefer to eat organic;
- Can’t free-range because of limited pasture or too many predators.
But do you have access to lots of biodegradable stuff that can be composted? Then consider what a growing number of homesteaders are doing: raising chickens largely on compost. Yes, compost. It’s entirely feasible for small homesteaders like us.
Contrary to what many believe, chickens are natural omnivores, not herbivores. They like to eat a wide variety of stuff, from insects to seeds, berries to reptiles. When I watch chickens forage freely, I notice they search for worms and bugs first, then go for grains, greens and fruits later.
Even though chickens’ nutritional requirements consist largely of carbohydrates (around 80 percent), they just love going after the proteins first. Whether it’s the joy of pecking at a juicy, wiggly worm, or the thrill of chasing after a scampering mouse — chickens instinctively go after small animals — lizards and snakes included!
So whether we raise them for meat or eggs, we have to provide the right mix of proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fiber in their diet. And to do that from scratch can be quite a challenge.
Composting in the Chicken Run
The trick is to keep compost piles in the chicken run. Set up a series of piles, next to each other, at the end of the run. There you can dump all the fresh biodegradable matter you can collect, so the hens have quick, easy access to the edible things they can get their hands (or beaks) on. They’ll scratch and peck on the goodies on top, shred what they don’t want, and mix and turn the compost as they go. They’ll also leave droppings, providing rich fertilizer for you to use in the garden.
The method certainly isn’t new. Our forebears probably did this for ages, when straw, woodchips, manure and all sorts of garden waste were in abundance. But industrialization and the availability of cheap commercial feeds caused modern chicken growers, big and small, to drop the practice and conveniently resort to store-bought feeds – most of which contain GMO soy and grains, antibiotics, growth hormones and other synthetic ingredients.
There are organic commercial feeds, of course. But like anything organic, they cost substantially more.
Consider the essential protein a good compost offers: vertebrates as well as invertebrates — arthropods, insects, arachnids and crustaceans — that can provide up to four times the amount of protein chickens need.  Couple those with all the variety of goodies you dump into the compost – stale bread, old oats, fruit peels and other scraps from the kitchen and garden – and you’ll soon see a decline in your need to run to the store. And, quite likely, an increase in your flock’s health. You get healthy chickens with strong immune systems and, as an added bonus, eggs that have nutrient-dense, bright yellow yolks.
The Compost’s Composition
If you already have existing farm animals, their manure and hay beds would be the perfect starting material. Add to them your fresh kitchen waste, grass clippings, dead plants and any organic, biodegradable material you can find in and around your property. If you live near the woods from where you could collect fallen branches, see if you can gather them to turn into woodchips and sawdust. You could also ask the local public works department or any tree service company near you if they’d be willing to give you some of the wood they fell.
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Don’t be shy about asking neighbors and the farmers’ market in your area for kitchen and garden scraps. Many grocers, health food stores, restaurants, food pantries and school cafeteria would be happy to get rid of their waste to cut down on garbage collection fees. It would also spare them of the guilt of contributing so much amount of bins to the city landfill.
Small farms, grain mills and other operations that grow and trade all kinds of fresh produce would also have tons of hulls, stalks and other wastes to discard. Just be wary of their growing techniques, if they use a lot of chemicals or not — you wouldn’t want those ultimately getting into your system.
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Justin Rhodes of AbudantPermaculture.com offers a practical, step-by-step guide to building a composting system in a chicken run.  In it, he recommends setting up a succession of three or four piles, about a cubic yard each, next to each other. You can work it one at a time, week by week, so that you have a chain of piles that are cooking and curing progressively.
Depending on where you live and how cold or rainy it gets, you should be able to keep the compost warm until the late fall or early winter. Just cover with a tarp to help insulate it.
When it gets a bit challenging to balance the carbon-nitrogen level of your compost, try adding some biochar, paper or cardboard if it gets too wet; add water it if it gets too dry. Lime is also said to induce microbe growth and provide extra calcium for the hens to produce harder-shelled eggs.
If you’re growing chickens primarily for eggs, there are certain foods that you’ll want to avoid, as they may cause problems, including low egg production and foul-tasting eggs. These are avocados, citrus peels and fruits, long-cut grasses, garlic and onion, bones and meat scraps that have gone bad.
Have you ever fed your chickens with compost? What advice would you add? Share it in the section below:
March 14th, 2016
Video courtesy of Becky’s Homestead
Why are my chickens not laying eggs? It can be a very frustrating question. In this video Becky shows you how she dealt with some issues in her chicken coop that were hurting egg production. She also shows you some other things you can look out for that might stop your hens from laying.
Raising Chickens for Beginners Raising chickens is easy and rewarding but a lot of people don’t really know the true cost to having them. Having chickens is my goal for next year. There are so many rewards when you own chickens like saving money on eggs and chicken but there can also be a …
How To Build a Simple Yet Awesome Backyard Chicken Coop Build your own simple yet awesome chicken coop for your backyard and save hundreds of dollars. This cool DIY project could save you hundreds of dollars and get you a bigger coop for your money. The materials needed can be bought from any hardware store …
The post How To Build a Simple Yet Awesome Backyard Chicken Coop appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.
10 Reasons Why Raising Ducks Might Be Better Than Chickens The number of people / families that are keeping chickens is on the rise. They produce eggs pretty much daily and can be a source of meat when the time arises, but recently I have seen more and more accounts of how ducks are becoming …
The post 10 Reasons Why Raising Ducks Might Be Better Than Chickens appeared first on SHTF & Prepping Central.
These will be particularly useful if you’re a chicken owner looking for cheaper ways for feeding your, ahem, “livestock”, and who isn’t?
For those of you who haven’t jumped on the chicken train, yet: Why raise chickens, you may ask? Well, home-grown chicken meat is healthy and it tastes good, and besides being a great source of food (eggs included), they’re fairly easy to raise and they’re also good fun (as in entertainment).
Are you sold yet? If not, keep reading!
Chickens can be grown in small, even portable, coops which are nicknamed chicken-tractors. These are excellent to use if you have a smaller backyard. Chickens are not picky when it comes to food, and they eat some of the stuff we eat regularly (bread, grains and stuff like that).
In the best of worlds, you should let them feed themselves, as in “free range chickens”, but in our modern day and age, that’s often difficult due to space restrictions or local laws. Many city ordinances don’t even allow chickens, let alone free-range ones. There’s also the safety of the chickens to be considered; if you live beside a person who has dogs or cats that run loose, your chickens are going to be considered dinner!
So, today’s article is about how to DIY chicken feeders. You may enjoy feeding them by hand, but this projects will free up some time in case you’re too busy to throw scratch every day.
Ask around and you’ll find out that chickens regularly spill the food in the feed dish or even poop in it, so go for a fresh and clean start with your chicken farm project by building a feeder which does not allow them to get inside the feeder and waste the food.
I know, chicken-chow is relatively cheap, but that doesn’t mean you must lose half of it to waste on a daily basis.
Are you ready? Let’s get it on, right after the break!
Project 1: PVC Chicken Feeder
PVC is almost a panacea for your homestead. I mean, if you can build entire underground watering systems from PVC piping, chicken feeders are child’s play! So, if you want to say goodbye to chicken feed waste and trampled grass, build your own chicken feeder using plain-old PVC piping.
The simplest design is a T-shaped system which can be easily built using 90 degree elbows along with PVC piping. The beauty of this chicken feeder is its simplicity and effectiveness. Also, this baby can be used for both feeding and watering your chickens, making it an absolutely must-have for your coop.
In terms of materials required, you’ll only have to go shopping for a 5′ long PVC pipe, a “T” joint, two 90-degree elbows, a cap and a jar of PVC cement. The idea is to cut off two 3” pieces from the PVC pipe which are required to join the “T” and elbows together.
The PVC cement must be applied in each one of the two holes of the “T” and, as quickly as possible, both of the 3” long pieces of PVC pipe must be firmly secured into the respective hole. I say quickly because PVC cement dries in a matter of seconds and it becomes rock-solid. Basically this is a two step process, repeated for each side hole of the “T”.
Next, the elbows must be dry-fitted onto the 3” pipe stubs. After you have them on, make a mark on the elbow pieces across to the joining parts of the “T” using a sharpie, to help you later when you’ll be gluing them together.
After you mark them, glue these parts together with PCV cement. The long pipe must be also glued in the top hole of the “T” piece and that’s about it; you’ve ended up with a T-shaped chicken feeder which can be placed basically anywhere and it can be used for watering your chickens too. For keeping it fixed firmly in place, you can use wire or something similar. Then, all you have to do is to fill the tube with whatever chicken feed you’re using, and place the cap on top.
This is how the two-sided gizmo looks in the end; the finished product and some complementary chickens, for your viewing pleasure:
Photo source: Backyard Chicken Lady
And here’s a video tutorial depicting all the details for making a simple chicken feeder from PVC pipes.
Video first seen on Specific Love Creations
Actually, there are three different models along with the first T-shaped one, so go ahead, take your pick. There’s this next one:
Video first seen on Hobby Farms
And then these other really cool ideas:
Video first seen on Green Power Farm
Video first seen on Carolina Coops
Project 2: The Rodent-Proof Chicken Feeder
If you’re having a pest (read rats) infestation problem in your backyard where your chickens march gloriously enjoying the spring breeze, what are you going to do? You can’t just let the rats spread disease and eat you out of house and coop. Call pest control?
Well, that could work too, but the elegant, more permanent, chemical-free solution would be to build a rodent-proof chicken feeder. By rodent-proof, I mean the rats will be unable to get inside and grab a free meal on your dime whenever they want.
Enter the Chicken Feeder 9000; check out the video below and don’t worry because the door shuts in slow motion so that the chickens are safe and in a couple of days, even the oldest and stupidest hen will learn how to use it. And yes, it works folks. You can see the desperation in the little grey fellow’s misty eyes, can’t you?
Video first seen on East Bourne Diver
Here’s a video that will help you with the DIY job if you’re into trolling rodents!
Video first seen on TCSRock78
Project 3: The Wooden Chicken Feeder
This falls into the “high end” category of DIY chicken feeders and it requires excellent skills in terms of wood cutting and assembling. However, if you’re good with tools and wood, this project will fit you like a glove and your chickens will be happy. As you know, happy chickens give more eggs, so go for it.
In the photo source you can find detailed information about the respective job, including parts list, tools list and schematics. Materials required are screws, plywood, redwood plant stakes, veneer and miscellaneous materials (washers, sandpaper etc.). And here’s how the end-product should look in the end. Beautiful, isn’t it? On top of its astounding looks, this high-end feeder is bird/pest-resistant and, not counting the labor, it will cost you about 40 bucks tops.
Photo source: Back Yard Chickens
Project 4: Zero Waste Chicken Feeder
Here comes a similar project, the zero waste chicken feeder, which also requires moderate carpenter skills, but don’t worry, here’s a video which will help you a lot with the DIY job. It looks easy and simple, right? What are you waiting for?
Video first seen on Stan Sullivan
Project 5: “The Best” Automatic Chicken Feeder
I don’t know if this one’s the best, as the ad says, but it certainly looks pretty good. The gizmo will provide your chickens with enough food to last 10 chickens for 2 weeks and it can be built for less than 40 bucks. It works very nicely and helps reduce food waste a lot. You can fill it with both pellets and crumbles and here are the detailed instructions.
Video first seen on Shawn Whetsel
Project 6: The Bucket Feeder
If you’re on a tight budget or just looking for the best deal in town, the bucket feeder is the answer to your prayers. This project will cost you 15 dollars tops and I think it’s the best idea that’s been created for a chicken-lover since immemorial times, or at least since plastic buckets were invented.
So, all that you’ll require for this bucket feeder/waterer (it works both ways, check that out) is a 5 gallon plastic bucket with a lid, an oil pan, washers, a nut, adhesive and some screws. I bet that most of you already have them around your homestead somewhere, right? So you may end up with 0 costs after all. Here are the detailed instructions.
Project 7: The Bulk Chicken Feeder
For this project you’ll require a drum, a flanged elbow and some basics tools, like a ruler, a pen, hacksaw or something similar for cutting the hole. Total building time? 10 minutes. Budget? 20 bucks. Satisfaction? Infinite!
Here’s the video tutorial, so check it out.
Video first seen on Rob Bob’s Backyard Farming
Project 8: The Three Bag Easy Automatic Chicken Feeder
Almost last but definitely not least, ladies and gents, I present you with the 3 Bag Easy Deluxe! This project requires a thirty gallon trash can (go for the least expensive one), six 3” pipe elbows and six 3” pipe end caps. The end result will be an automatic chicken (and duck) feeder which is fairly easy to make and works like a charm.
And here’s the video tutorial, folks. Life is great with chickens, isn’t it?
Video first seen on J&J Acres
Project 9: The Absolutely Free Gravity-Operated Chicken Feeder
The best things in life are free, including gravity operated chicken feeders. This project is at an 8-year old level of skill, it requires $0 and it can be built in 10 minutes or less. All you need is a PVC bucket, some thick wire, a knife and a few spare minutes to build it, so check out the tutorial.
Video first seen on Anže Rogelja
I hope this article helped and if you have suggestions, comments or other ideas about feeders, feel free to express yourself in the dedicated section below.
This article has been written by Chris Black for Survivopedia.
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As more and more people begin to think about raising backyard chickens – we thought for today’s farm update we would take you through the basics in raising your own – from chicks to coop! There is little doubt
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5 Ways to Put Your Chickens to Work For You We all know the importance of chickens to any homestead. They are a great source of protein both in the form of meat and the eggs. There are some layer hens which lay eggs 365 days a year. But the benefits of having chickens are …
When it comes to choosing livestock for the homestead, everyone will have a different opinion about what type you should get started with. Here are three types of livestock best suited for the new homesteader or someone without much experience with raising animals.
Hands down, chickens are the ultimate livestock for the homestead. These birds have a lot going for them.
- Eggs: If you’ve never had farm-fresh eggs from happy hens, then you are going to be amazed at the color and texture compared to typical eggs from the grocery store.
- Meat: You can raise your own meat breed of chicken or raise layers and cull the roosters for meat. Chickens are easy to process and don’t require the help of another person.
- Pest control: Have a problem with insects? Chickens will take care of them. This is a great way to control bad bugs without resorting to pesticides.
- Gardening: Tilling a garden is made easy with chickens. Just put up some electric netting around the area you need tilled and let them go to work. As a bonus, they will fertilize while they till. Chickens are also amazing at preparing land for a garden. They will quickly scratch out brush and grasses, leaving you with bare ground.
- Composting: Using chickens for composting is a brilliant idea. The hens will quickly scratch up brown and green materials so you don’t have to worry about shredding. They will add in their own manure and leave you with rich compost — with hardly any effort on your part.
There really aren’t any disadvantages to keeping chickens. They are easy to care for, and many heritage breeds are quite independent and hardy. Chickens are very entertaining and you will find that they each have their own personalities.
Chickens are allowed within some city limits (no roosters!) so they are a great way for the urban homesteaders to add some food to their table.
Similarly to chickens, rabbits are a great addition to the homestead. Some of their advantages include:
- Meat: Rabbit meat is delicious! It is very lean and healthy as well as easily digestible. Aside from taste and nutrition, rabbits are super easy to butcher and process. You won’t need to worry about feathers like you would a chicken.
- Pelts/fiber: You can get pelts for craft use from all rabbits and fiber from certain breeds. If you enjoy crafts or hobbies like knitting, raising rabbits is a great way to contribute. You may even be able to make a little money from selling extra pelts or fiber.
- Fertilizer: Rabbit manure is an amazing fertilizer and can be used as-is — no composting or maturing necessary (although it’s recommended). Extra manure can be sold to gardeners to help with the cost of raising the rabbits.
- Green recyclers: Rabbits will gladly eat up grass and other green materials that you don’t want. They’ll also consume scraps from your vegetable garden.
A possible downside of rabbits is that they are cute! Some people can easily get over the idea of rabbits only being pets, but there are individuals who can’t bring themselves to viewing Peter Cottontail that way.
Rabbits are quiet and don’t require a lot of space. They are easy to manage, and a good breeding stock should reproduce without a problem. Rabbits are especially good choices for urban homesteaders who can’t keep/don’t want to chickens or just want variety in addition to their hens.
While goats can be challenging at times, their versatility and the sheer fun of keeping them easily makes them perfect newbie homesteader stock.
- Dairy: Sure, dairy cows are the ultimate milk machines, but dairy goats are a much better choice for the average new homestead. Their smaller size makes them far more manageable and also decreases feed costs. You won’t need anywhere near as much land, either. A small family can’t drink as much milk as a Jersey cow can produce in a day, so going with a goat or two makes much more sense.
- Meat: You can raise a meat goat or two every year for the freezer. Again, meat goats are often much easier for the new homesteader to raise than a beef cow. Also, if you keep dairy goats, you may as well breed her to a Boer or some type of meat cross so you can raise her kids for the freezer.
- Fiber: Fiber breeds offer a third way of getting something back from your goats. There are only a couple breeds of fiber goats and it can be tricky to find a breeder, but it’s worth it if this interests you.
- Brush Clearing: While sheep are mostly grazers, goats are browsers. Have a wooded lot or brushy area you want cleared? Add some goats! This is a great way of naturally clearing out an area without backbreaking labor on your part.
People sometimes struggle with goats because they lack good fencing. Goats are escape artists and very intelligent. If you have a weakness in your fence or a flimsy-latched gate, it’s safe to say they will find it. Don’t skimp on quality fencing and you will enjoy having a small herd of goats on your property.
Do you keep livestock? Please share your stories or tips for new homesteaders below!
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I don’t know many farmers who don’t have at least a few chickens. Even dairy farmers I personally know keep a half dozen or more of our feathered friends. The chicken is to a farm what denim jeans are to the everyday American: indispensable and very common.
From fried eggs for breakfast (and chicken and waffles here in the South!) to fried chicken or the oven-roasted bird that graces our dinner table for Sunday lunch – yes sir, the chicken has been feeding Americans since its arrival in the New World with first settlers.
Chickens can produce 200-300 eggs a year or give you 10-14 pounds of white meat per bird. Not bad for an animal that is cheap to purchase and very cheap (or free) to feed. In fact, you can invest once in your first stock of chicks, and never buy another chicken again as long as you breed the birds yourself. Keep them in a pen, use a chicken tractor, or free-range them with other livestock. The chicken is adaptable to almost any environment.
Here are five of the most common breed of chickens you will find on the American farm or homestead.
Plymouth Rock: The Plymouth makes a great started breed and can grow to more than nine pounds. This makes them a fine meat-producing bird, and they are also terrific egg-layers. The birds are quite easy-going and are great for beginners. We had several of these birds around the house when I was a kid, and it was on this breed that I “cut my teeth” with chickens. We fed them some corn and let them free-range. Simple as that, and we had a constant supply of eggs and meat.
Jersey Giant. Yee haw, boy, that there is a bird! The Jersey Giant is a large meat bird that can grow north of 12 pounds. They do well as a backyard and homesteading breed and for the small farmer. The hens lay very large brown eggs and most often are a very calm bird. Like the Plymouth Rock, they do fine free-ranging.
Leghorn. This is the iconic white chicken on the family farm. The Leghorn was brought to these shores originally from Italy. These chickens are ideally suited for laying vast amounts of eggs, averaging 280-340 per year. Their eggs are white and are the most common egg you and I purchase in a supermarket. Leghorns are very efficient when it comes to foraging, making them a good choice for your farm. But they are white, which could make them an ideal target for Mr. Fox or Wile E Coyote.
Rhode Island Red. A dual-purpose bird that does not gain the weight of the Giant or Rock. This bird is rust colored and can produce a good amount of eggs and meat for your table. These may be the most common bird on a homestead. They lay brown eggs that are smaller than the Leghorn eggs — and in fewer amounts.
Ameraucanas. These smaller birds are not really a meat chicken; they are far too small for that task. What they are famous for are their eggs. The birds are a little unusual looking, but are quite docile and make a good family pet. They lay blue eggs and are somewhat of a novelty amongst hobbyist and homesteaders. If you like blue eggs for breakfast and the sight of a different-looking chicken running around the yard, then this may be the bird for you.
What advice would you give the first-time chicken owner? Share your tips in the section below:
One of the best ways to ensure you enjoy a good experience with chickens in cold climates is to choose a breed that is known for being winter-hardy.
While most chickens are fairly cold-tolerant as a general rule, some breeds seem to enjoy cold temperatures more than others.
Consider choosing a breed that is proven to flourish in colder climates, such as the Barred Plymouth Rock. Or, if you don’t want to worry about frostbitten combs, the solution is to keep chickens that have smaller combs that are tight to the head, such as a pea comb.
Following are some of the breeds I’ve had personal experience with over the years that have done very well in the winter months. I define “doing very well in the winter months” as showing no signs of stress, such as picking feathers or spending a lot of time huddled up and dormant. Poor egg production is another sign of stress.
I first tried Buckeyes years ago and was impressed with them right from the start. The chicks are small but the most active I’ve ever seen. This trait carries all the way through to adulthood.
These birds will forage like crazy. Unlike many chickens, these girls will run out into the snow if they have been cooped up for a couple of days. Egg production is good during the winter, although they are average to just above average layers in their prime. Any small moving object will be attacked, making them excellent mousers.
Rhode Island Red
A popular breed, Rhode Island Reds are great layers and maintain a good egg production in winter months. I have had no problems keeping them through the cold months. I once kept a flock through the coldest winter I can remember with temperatures staying in the -10 to -15 degree range (Fahrenheit) for several days at a time. They did very well with no signs of frostbitten combs.
While not as active as the Buckeye, they are good foragers, although they don’t seem to like to get out in the snow as much as the Buckeye does. They are readily available at hatcheries and typically cost less per chick than some of the rare breeds such as the Buckeye.
Australorps are reputed to hold the record for the most eggs laid in a year. I have found them to be the best layer of all the breeds I have ever kept through the winter. Most people remark on how docile the breed is, but I have had several flocks that were flighty compared to the other breeds mentioned here. I’ve had trouble keeping them from flying over the 48-inch poultry netting. This was typically when something startled them, and a hen or two would make it over the netting. Once they fully matured, this behavior ceased. Overall, they have been great chickens in the cold months, especially if you want good egg production.
As always, do your research and experiment with different breeds until you find one that suits your particular homestead.
What chicken breeds would you add to this list? Share your tips in the section below:
Earning some extra income from your livestock can be easy if you give some thought to it and do a little research. It can be as simple as raising an extra calf to sell, or selling your excess eggs to a neighbor.
Here are some ideas that I have used over the years — as well as observed others using — to earn a few hundred dollars from livestock on the homestead.
As with any business venture, make sure you understand any regulations that may be in place so you don’t end up finding yourself in a bad situation with local agencies, such as the board of the health or township trustees.
For this article, I’ll discuss ways to earn money from selling live animals. This is the easiest way to cash in on livestock without running into a tangled web of regulations. Let’s look at two popular livestock: pigs and chickens.
Money From Pigs
An obvious one here is raising one pig for yourself and one pig for a customer. Pigs are gregarious by nature and will grow and thrive much better with at least one other pig.
Start with friends and family and you’ll quickly find people who would love to have you raise a pig for them to put in the freezer. I usually have more people that want me to raise them a freezer pig than I can handle.
Another great way to earn some extra cash is to purchase a couple of gilts, breed them, and sell feeder pigs. Here in the U.S., small farm feeder pigs are a scarce commodity in many areas. If you don’t want to keep a boar, use artificial insemination. It’s easy to perform and most places that sell semen will give you advice and they have video tutorials on their website.
You can also keep a few piglets and raise them for roaster pigs. A 180-200 pound pig is the optimum size for most pig roasts. Find some companies or individuals who have a hog-roasting business and supply them with a few pigs.
Time your breeding so that the pigs will be about the right size in time for graduations and other summer holidays and celebrations. May and June are huge for weddings. This will ensure you have plenty of demand and can charge premium prices.
A 10-24 pound pig is called a suckling pig. These are largely a product for the ethnic market, although many high-end chefs are now touting the suckling pig as a delicacy not to be missed. I’ve sold 15-20 pound pigs for as much as $150 each for this market.
Cash in on Your Chickens
Selling chicken eggs is one way to help offset the feed bill for your layer flock. In the spring and summer you’ll see an abundance of “eggs for sale” signs along country roads. In the winter, that’s another story. Start a new flock of pullets in the fall and you can be producing a good supply of eggs when customers are having the most trouble getting them. They sell fast and at a premium price.
Have you ever considered purchasing an incubator and selling chicks? Another option is to sell fertile eggs for others to incubate. This works especially well with a rare or specialty breeds.
I’ve sold spent laying hens to an “all-natural feed” dog kennel several times. They come, pick them up, and take them to the processor. I collect the money and wave goodbye!
Where You’ll Find Customers
There are two kinds of customers who will purchase your livestock or homestead products — those who will pay premium prices, and those who won’t.
It makes sense, then, to focus your efforts toward the customers who are looking for premium value rather than the cheapest price.
The best prices are obtained from marketing to customers who would like to buy from a small farm or homestead rather than the local giant chain store.
Here’s a list of what these customers may be looking for:
- Locally produced.
- Supporting small or independent producers.
- Transparency – Knowing your methods and procedures for producing your products.
- Health – Products that are free from harmful additives.
- Integrity – Knowing your products are made with integrity, even if it costs more.
- Hard to find – Products that can’t be purchased at the local chain store.
While there are other reasons a customer may decide to purchase your products, these are some of the most common. Weave these messages into your marketing. Notice that this type of customer doesn’t consider price as the first criteria for purchasing.
So, where do you find this type of customer? It’s not as hard as you might think. They are looking for you! If you are remotely close to a major city, why not advertise your products in the newspaper and make sure they include your ad in the online version?
Go the Extra Mile
If you have a product that can be shipped for a reasonable cost, delivery is no problem. If you sell something that can’t be shipped easily, then have customers come and pick up their products or deliver it to them.
If you or a family member works in town, then you can set up deliveries to a central place and have several customers meet you at the same time.
For years, I hauled various products to town every week and delivered them to co-workers. Eventually, I had several other customers meet me at the end of the workday to get their products. I supplemented my income by several hundred dollars every week — which added up to thousands for the year.
Many times the biggest obstacle for potential customers is not knowing how to purchase from you. Go the extra mile with customers who have no experience buying direct from the source. Remember, most people go the store, find what they want, and buy it. They have no idea about your process for purchasing and receiving your products.
Selling products from your small farm or homestead is an education process. Educate them on how your product compares to the mass-produced counterpart they can get anywhere. Give them a sample product, or share with them how to use it, cook it, etc.
Here’s one final tip …
Think about products you can sell around holidays. This can be pumpkins and gourds in the fall, hams and turkeys around Christmas or Thanksgiving, and flowers for Memorial Day, weddings and graduations. The opportunities are limited only by your imagination.
With only a few simple advertisements and some word of mouth through friends, family and co-workers, you can earn some significant extra income doing what you love!
How do you make money on the homestead? Share your tips in the section below:
How to Butcher Your Own Poultry Most people live a pretty comfy life compared to our ancestors. We have an abundance of fairly cheap food available at the local grocery store. Meat comes packaged on slabs of Styrofoam, with the bones and skin removed. Heck, you can even buy it marinated, cooked, and ready to …
Keeping chickens healthy and comfortable in cold temperatures is easy if you follow these simple tricks.
Chickens, of course, are not mammals. They are birds, and thus, they maintain their temperature very efficiently if they are not subjected to extreme conditions such as wind, rain, snow or ice.
The first step is to make sure your coop is adequate to protect them from the elements.
There should be no cracks or openings that will allow cold drafts to enter the coop. You want it to be air-tight, with the exception of ventilation, for proper air movement. Place air vents high in the walls or in the roof to allow proper air exchange and to avoid moisture build-up.
Condensation and high humidity combined with cold temperatures are the chief cause of frostbite to the wattles and combs of chickens.
Make the most of solar heat by placing windows on the south side of the coop or by installing clear panels in the roof. This will aid in warming the coop and especially the floor during daytime hours.
Make sure your perches are wide enough so the birds can sit on their feet while roosting. I like to use two-by-fours for perches, turned flat, so the chickens can roost flat-footed. Unlike many birds, chickens don’t like to curl their feet around a perch. Do not use plastic or metal pipe. It’s slippery, and metal gets very cold and could cause frostbite.
Allowing the manure and bedding to build up in the winter will create heat as the waste breaks down, just like a compost pile. If you smell manure and ammonia when you enter your coop it means you need more bedding. Keeping plenty of bedding in the coop allows the birds to scratch more, aiding the composting process as well as keeping them active during winter months.
To encourage your chickens to be more active in winter months, hang a head of cabbage on a string from the ceiling. They will love it and stay busy pecking and shredding it.
Feeding a high-quality protein feed in the winter helps to keep their metabolism running high and produces more energy for warmth. Giving them cracked corn in addition to regular feed in the evening provides them a good high-energy boost for the night.
Chickens need good supply of water at all times. If the water is freezing, you’ll need to give them warm water two or three times a day or purchase a heated water base to keep the water from freezing. Dehydrated birds have a very hard time maintaining their body temperature. And chickens that are low on water will not eat as much, and that only makes it harder for them to maintain heat.
I have kept chickens using these methods for years through many days of zero and even sub-zero temperatures — and you can, too!
What are your best tips for keeping chickens warm? Share them in the section below:
How To Make A Chicken Water Heater In 4 Minutes If you own chickens you know how difficult it is to keep them watered over the winter months. As soon as you put their clean water it is pretty much frozen within 20 minutes. Chickens cannot drink water that has frozen due to plunging temperatures. …
So you’ve decided that chickens would be a good addition to your self-sufficient lifestyle. Now comes the more difficult part. What exactly are you going to do with those chickens you see scratching and nesting in your mind’s eye? Are you raising them for eggs only? Maybe you are remembering those expensive, fancy breeds shown at county fairs.
Why not raise them for some extra cash? If that interests you, then keep reading.
Before you get started, consider:
1. Is it legal for you to raise chickens where you live — and to sell?
In rural areas this might not be an issue. However, it is always smart to check just in case your county or state has some obscure regulation regarding raising chickens and all that enterprise entails. In urban areas there is almost always some ordinance or regulation you will need to be aware of regarding the raising of livestock within township or city boundaries. Roosters are often banned within city limits so that would mean you couldn’t breed your own line of show birds.
2. Do you need a permit to build your chicken coop and run?
This is definitely necessary to find out if you are within city limits since you could be required to pay a fine and remove the unpermitted building or addition.
3. Do you have enough space?
Figure at least 4-square-feet per bird for the coop and 8-square-feet per bird for the run. We’ll discuss this more a little later in the article.
4. What kinds of predators do you need to protect your chickens from?
In the city you may have to deal with rats, raccoons, opossums, feral or stray cats and dogs, and the occasional troublemaking human. I live within township limits and I have seen foxes during the day and heard coyotes at night. You may have these same problems depending on the size of your town/city and your location within it.
Hawks, eagles, owls, weasels and snakes also can cause problems if your homestead is located in smaller townships and villages.
In true rural areas you will encounter larger predators like wolves, bears, badgers, bobcats, etc., depending upon the region you live in.
5. What age of chicken will you buy? How long do you want to wait for eggs, good-sized carcasses, or to be able to show your bird?
Chicks require a bit more work to raise. If you can’t keep them warm enough they will die. Chicks are somewhat delicate and you will wait at least six months for eggs and up to a year for them to be full adult size and ready for butchering. As far as ornamental birds go, you could wait up to three years for them to be ready to compete. Another potential problem is that you can’t really tell if you are getting male or female chicks because vent-sexing is only about 90 percent accurate.
Pullets are about 20 weeks old and are just a couple weeks away from laying eggs. If you buy pullets to start your flock you will know you are getting all hens as the adult feathers are growing in and are distinctive between male and female. This is the most popular way of raising chickens. This is the age that most ornamentals are purchased and some county fairs have a pullet class, meaning you can begin showing your bird as soon as the chicken has settled into its new home.
Mature hens are difficult to find. However, you can occasionally find farmers willing to sell their ‘old biddies’ to you. Keep in mind, however, that these birds are past their prime laying years. Mature show chickens can be quite expensive, especially if they are considered to be bred from champions of their breed.
Once you have found out or considered the information above you are ready to decide whether you are raising these chickens for eggs, meat, both eggs and meat, or for show birds. The care for the birds is similar, though show birds tend to be more delicate and require extra care and more extravagant housing.
The first thing to think about when choosing the types of chickens to raise is related to where you live. The climate in your area will be the biggest deciding factor in choosing the breed of chicken you can most easily raise in that area. Once you have determined the seasonal differences, you are ready to research which chickens will do best in your region.
Chickens Raised for Food
The table below lists the chickens that are raised for egg production in a backyard setting, the approximate number of eggs per week you will get from each bird of that breed, and the color of the eggshells. All of the breeds listed in the table are cold hardy birds though you may need to offer some form of heat in the coop if temperatures dip below what is the norm for your region.
|Breed||Egg Laying||Egg Color|
|Red or Black Star||5/week||Brown|
|New Hampshire Red||3/week||Brown|
As you can see from that table most of the chickens raised for eggs are dual purpose. That means that once their egg laying days are over they can provide a meal for your family. You should remember that chickens can live from 10 to 14 years but will only lay the projected amounts in the table between the ages of one and three to four years. After that, egg laying will taper off until your chicken is laying only one or two eggs each week.
Other things that will affect your hen’s egg laying are winter, molting, crowding and illness. You can’t really do anything to increase laying in winter so just be aware that as the days grow cooler and shorter your hens may not give you as many eggs. Molting occurs in most breeds starting at about 18 months of age. A molting bird will look terrible since they lose most if not all of their feathers during this period, which can last from two to four months. Egg laying will resume about a week after the bird’s feathers grow back in. Crowding occurs when you have too small a space to contain your flock. To be comfortable and happy each chicken needs the proper amount of space to roost, nest and scratch. Illness can be controlled somewhat by keeping your coop and run clean and having a vet familiar with livestock birds care for them, when needed.
In the table above – with the exception of the Easter Eggers, White Leghorns and Ameraucana breeds – the chickens were bred to be layers as well as roasters or fryers. The breeds listed in that table will weigh between five and eight pounds at their full adult weight and will dress out to a four- to seven-pound carcass.
Chickens Raised for Profit
Show chickens, also known as ornamental birds, require slightly more care than the breeds used as layers and meat producers. You will need to be sure that their coop is much cleaner since mites and lice will detract from their looks. These birds, too, will molt so they won’t be able to be shown or sold as show birds during this time. I suggest that you do a lot of research before investing in your choice of an ornamental breed. However, if you do choose to raise an ornamental breed, or several, they can bring in a nice profit on each chick, pullet or chicken sold.
Below is a list of 11 of the most popular breeds used as ornamental or show birds. You may choose one of these more popular breeds or take a risk on raising a rarer breed. It is a myth that ornamental chickens don’t lay eggs. Of course they do, since all birds lay eggs. However, their eggs are much smaller than chickens bred for egg-laying. The eggs are are edible if they are gathered shortly after being laid.
- Brahma. This breed is called ‘The King of All Poultry’.
- Silver Phoenix.
- Langshan. These birds can fly fairly high, so build your fences accordingly.
- Malay. These chickens stand two- to three-feet tall!
- Dutch Bantam.
Your egg layers and your meat birds can earn you money as well if you have a large enough flock to support that effort. Two to four birds will provide enough eggs each week for your family and probably have enough left over to give away to friends. However, if you have a large enough flock and raise your chickens properly, during the summer months you can make a tidy profit at the farmer’s market or selling to your neighbors.
It is thought that about half of the backyard farmers or homesteaders that raise chickens sell their excess eggs. Eggs from chickens that are raised with grain or corn supplemental feed sell for about $2 per dozen. Eggs from chickens that are either free-range or eat only grass, vegetable waste from your kitchen and bugs are considered organic can sell for as much as $5 or more per dozen. If you are raising your chickens for meat, you also can sell the butchered carcass at the farmer’s market or to your neighbors. Corn- or grain-fed chickens sell for about $3 per pound. Free-range or organic-fed chickens can sell for around $5 per pound.
And then there are the “heritage breeds” that are raised for meat. These carcasses can sell for more than $5 per pound since their meat is tasty and tender. One thing to remember if you are raising meat chickens to sell: Butcher them at the earliest time after they have reached their full adult weight. If you butcher chickens older than two years of age, they are no longer “roasters” and are only good for stewing due to the meat not being as tender. Roasters bring in the most profit, although “stewers” or “soup” birds can still be a nice money-maker during the winter months.
What advice would you add in raising chickens for profit? Share your advice in the section below:
We recently visited our friend Gary at his home to celebrate his daughter’s (also a friend) birthday. We’ve known this wonderful family for a few years now and although we don’t live right down the street and see each other every day, this visit like every visit was full of fun and good times. It didn’t take long after arriving before I was pleasantly reminded of just how interesting visiting Gary can be. You see, Gary is like us in that he has chosen to do all he can to wrestle back some control of his life back from the system by doing whatever he can to build resilience into his every day life by embracing the homesteading lifestyle at every opportunity. For Gary, this includes everything from growing as much of his own food as he can, to keeping small stock in the back yard and this visit revealed (to my great excitement) that he has branched out making his own wine and whiskey, complete with his own miniature whiskey still that lives on under the carport!
As we walked around Gary’s average sized suburban property he shared a good number of fun and interesting things that he’s currently got working and I was interested to see them all. The chickens and rabbits were still doing just fine, but now they have been joined by the pigeons which we found bedding down for the evening in their happy little coop. The turkeys, which I had enjoyed very much when we were there the last time, we gone having graced the family’s table a while back. The front and side yard gardens were in good shape despite having a bit of transitional look to them, which is great because it shows that they are constantly changing to get ready for whatever comes next in a never-ending cycle of growth, harvest and rejuvenation. I think I enjoyed hearing about the mushrooms Gary was growing over by the fence the most. Planted them right in the logs himself. Awesome. When we headed back inside, Gary showed me the various wines he was waiting on, showed me how his whiskey still operates and explained how he ages the Shine with a bit of oak to mellow it out a bit. Before I knew it, Gary was showing off his bread bowl and exposing me to homemade kombucha for the first time. Tasty and good for you too. That’s a win-win if you ask me. From there we discussed the motivation for doing all of this “different” kind of stuff. I know why Alice and I do what we do and finding out what motivates other folks interests me. So of course, I asked whether he was doing any bartering with any of these “goods” and Gary grinned widely and simply stated, “Well, I haven’t paid for a haircut in ten years.” Now I was the one grinning.
The composting area and butterfly garden.
There’s more to this average suburban space than meets the eye.
Raised garden beds fill the front.
Here are the rabbit hutches and the chicken coop.
These are the pigeons being raised for meat.
I wanted to share all of this with you for a couple of reasons. First off, Gary’s a good guy doing good things for his family, his community and the world in general and that should be recognized. The way he is going about all of that makes it even better, choosing the natural/organic way whenever given the opportunity. What’s more, Gary is very willing to share his knowledge with others whenever he can, giving freely of his time simply because he believes that what he is sharing is worth the effort. Kudos!
Secondly, I wanted to share Gary’s adventures because it speaks to a larger fact that we believe is very important yet most folks seem to not realize. Anyone and everyone can be a homesteader, regardless of your circumstance. You do not have to have 50 acres to live the homesteading lifestyle, merely a desire to grab your daily reality by the shoulders and retake control over your personal situation while doing what you can to meet the basic requirements of this life. If you do that, whether you’re growing your own food or developing skill sets that will help you meet your basic needs, you’re a homesteader.
So take heart friends and believe me when I tell you that you can do it too. If you want grow some of your own food to increase your food security, or develop a secondary revenue stream for you and your family to build some financial resilience, or learn a new skill set that will have some actual value should we wake to a tomorrow that is drastically different than the world we know today, I say go for it and know that you can do it. We support your efforts, we believe in you and we cannot wait to welcome you to the community.
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