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ucrenegade

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Anyone have experience raising them. With the inflation my wife and kids are researching how to free range raise chickens.
 

Yeshuasdaughter

You know, that one lady we met that one time.
V.I.P Member
I don't know if truly free range is what you want right away. If they're free range, they'll lay their eggs everywhere, under the house, in the weeds, under the car. Plus they'll be vulnerable to predators.

We had a nice big coop. Maybe 20x20. It housed 26 hens and one rooster.

You have to make the coop really impervious to predators. So you'll want to dig a trench at least a foot deep in the shape of the coop. That's where the posts will go, and also you will need to bury the chicken wire this deep. Staple it to the very bottoms of the posts, as far as you can go. The posts need to be tall enough to stand at least six feet out of the ground.

Anything and everything will come out of the hills looking for a nice KFC dinner, so you really can't skimp on the fencing. We had a wolverine try to dig in, and we had mountain lions finally eat all our chickens.

We had all different kinds. We had a bantam rooster, and lots of different hens. We had three guinea hens. They were so pretty, like birds of paradise, and they laid eggs that were tan with purplish hues.

The rooster is a completely unnecessary part, but he is pretty and does protect the roost from predators (sometimes that will be your ankles too). And forget the tv ideal of a dawn cry. He will wake you up at two a.m. every morning for the next several years. But the good thing is he will also make noise any time critters are trying to raid the coop. Then again, any ranch dog worth his bed will do the same.

The downside of a rooster is that there'll be blood spots (baby chicks) in some of your eggs. But roosters sure are pretty and grand.

For feed, I don't know too much about this one, perhaps @Skittlebisquit would know more.

But what I do remember is that the hens have a tendency to get anemic, and lay soft eggs, so you'll have to supplement minerals. I never knew anyone who actually bought the minerals. Every old timer I ever saw would grind up eggshells into a powder so fine, that the chickens won't know it's eggshells.

Do you remember the Tori Amos lyric "When chickens get a taste of your meat."? Well, if they discover one little eggshell fragment in the supplement, they will forever after cannibalize their own eggs. So it has to be ground fine like farina. We used an old fashioned hand cranked Porkert corn mill for this, but I'm sure a food processor would do the same.

Also.. RATS. Yes I said RATS. And any other burrowing animal too. They love coops. There is always the gristly means of getting rid of them. They always have at least two entrances to their burrows. So what you'll have to do is put a garden hose down one hole and turn it on full blast. Next you'll need a big sheet of plywood and lay it over the other holes. have people stand on the plywood to hold it down firmly. The burrows will be flooded out, and eventually you will feel the desperate clawing under your feet, as the rats try to frantically save themselves. But you have to stand there and let them drown. Ugh.... but you have to do it. Country kids start young having to do things like this.

Oh! And so important! You're going to want to keep the wings trimmed. And keep on it too! Do you know how hard it is to get a hen out of the top of a Eucalyptus tree? You don't want to know. They'll keep hopping higher and higher up that dang tree, just to play with your mind, as you're trying to get it down.

So, for their own good, you're going to want to hold the hen firmly, long sleeves and garden gloves are good for this part. Also a buddy certainly does help too. Stretch out the wing and with two fingers, hold it about an inch after any bones or flesh, and then use shears to cut away the excess feathers. You don't need to go too short. But it'll keep them happy and safe in the coop.

You only want to cut the long feathers. Some of the shorter ones are called "Blood feathers" and the poor little love will bleed really bad if you cut a blood feather.

To shock the hens back into egg production, my grandfather would isolate the hen that wasn't producing into a separate crate in the back of the coop. It was built high enough, that you could reach into it without bending down. He wouldn't feed the bird for a certain amount of time, and it would shock it back into laying again. I don't know if this practice is humane, or necessary, but it's effective.

Also, that back crate will be used to isolate sick hens, while you're treating them for whatever illness. There ideally should be two isolation crates. That's what we had. So you will want to wash out that crate really, really well after each bird uses it, and sanitize everything, so that an epidemic doesn't spread thru your colony.

Do you remember the part about building the coop tall, and burying the chicken wire deep? Well, one night, the dogs were going nuts outside, and my dad said to us that NO ONE was to go outside. He was so firm about that, it frightened me. The next morning we found mountain lion tracks all over the place, and a trail of feathers up the mountain. It was gristly. All our flock was gone. So awful. But it happens a lot. Quite common.

I hope this helps. I don't know much more. I just gave you my lifetime's knowledge. I know a little more, so if you have questions, I think I might be able to help, and I know there are current ranchers on the site who probably could help more.

Good luck! And have fun!
 
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Unclewolverine

Active Member
If you have room we built a movable chicken tractor so we can move them all around the yard. It protects them fine for us but we only have coyotes and hawks for predators. Home range eggs are much better tasting than store bought eggs but they do take some work, and with the price of feed raising astronomically it may be a wash on weather you would actually save money.
 

Magna

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Trigger warning: Don't read onward if you're vegan or don't want to hear about raising chickens for meat consumption and the processes involved.

Great info, YD! I started with 51 chicks on Sept 8th. 2 of them didn't survive the first week. That happens. Out of the remaining 49, 16 of them have gone to my dad for "harvest" (he says that sounds less gory than butchering). So I have 33 living blissfully in my greenhouse. They're Cornish Cross Jumbos. I've fed them Organic feed and leftover veggies from the garden and grass (chickens actually eat a lot of grass). They love zucchinis as long as you split them in half, open-faced. They're fed twice per day, morning and night and always have fresh water to drink.

They'll be nine weeks old next weekend. I will be very busy the next 2-3 weekends since they're bred to be "harvested" between 8-10 weeks old. I will be harvesting them completely by myself as I did last year.

Nothing goes to waste. Their innards will be composted. Their feathers and blood will be turned into the soil in the greenhouse. I make bone meal out of their bones and that gets turned into the soil. I have a makeshift coop inside the greenhouse assembled triangle style with wood pallets and cardboard for them to sleep. I pamper them by still having a heat lamp in their coop at night. Wood shavings are added to the inside of the coop regularly and once they're gone, it will be forked into the compost bin I have in the greenhouse and then turned into the greenhouse soil for next year's fertilizer needs for the veggies in that greenhouse. They are "free range" and have full run of the inside of the greenhouse and are safe in there.

What do we do with the chicken? Eat it of course, but in what ways do I process it?

  • The dark meat is cut up in pieces and frozen in vacuum sealed packages.
  • The white meat is cut up into tenders and also ground.
  • I bread huge batches of tenders and fry them outside in a turkey fryer with a propane burner. Then they're bagged and frozen. The kids love them of course.
  • The chicken backs that don't come with a package of chicken in the store? I roast them in the oven then I pressure cook them in water to make broth ("liquid gold", my mom used to call it). I also roast the breast bones of the breasts that I take the meat from (for tenders and ground). I then pressure can the broth in pint and quart jars. Shelf stable and the basis for our soups throughout the winter.
  • I de-bone the backs and breast bones. The "good" bits of meat from that I use for making chicken salad since most all the flavor it out of it by then. The remainder of the odd bits of meat are usually fed to our dog who loves them of course. The leftover bones from that process are what I grind up into bone meal for the greenhouse soil.
I know what our chickens eat. I know how they live and how for the time they're alive they live the dream life of a chicken.

It's a cycle. The chickens provide the fertilizer and nutrients to the soil in the greenhouse for the vegetable growing. The leftover veggies help feed the chickens and the greenhouse provides them a huge area to roam in shelter and I'm able to get more use out of the greenhouse by utilizing it in the "off season".

The one thing I would like to do is grow, grind and mix their rations. Organic chicken feed is expensive. It's $28.95 USD for a 50 pound bag. Those chickens will have eaten 800 pounds of feed by the time they're gone. Also, I ferment their feed before they eat it rather than give them dry feed. This is done by soaking portions of the dry feed in water in food grade buckets. The feed is strained out in a colander as needed for each meal. The remaining ferment water, full of enzymes, is used as "starter" for the next batch. I have five pails of fermented feed mash brewing at a time.

For a great online forum that's all about chickens (keeping them as pets, laying hens, meat birds, etc) check out: www.backyardchickens.com
 
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Yeshuasdaughter

You know, that one lady we met that one time.
V.I.P Member
Feed is really important.

I knew a very low income family. They were given hens by their church so their kids could have eggs in the morning. The father worked fast food and would bring home a bag of old buns after work to feed the hens.

They laid really soft eggs when he fed them that way, and then stopped laying all together. But they had no other feed for them.
 

tree

Blue/Green
Staff member
V.I.P Member
Feed is really important.

I knew a very low income family. They were given hens by their church so their kids could have eggs in the morning. The father worked fast food and would bring home a bag of old buns after work to feed the hens.

They laid really soft eggs when he fed them that way, and then stopped laying all together. But they had no other feed for them.

My uncle used to augment his hen's food with road kill.
 

ucrenegade

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Yeah we are doing alot of research before we just jump in we only have 2 acres so not sure how many chickens we should start with or how fast they multiply.
 

Magna

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Yeah we are doing alot of research before we just jump in we only have 2 acres so not sure how many chickens we should start with or how fast they multiply.

Chickens should have at least 3 square feet of space per bird at minimum in their pen area. Right now my chickens have over 40 square feet per bird to roam around in.

If you'll have a rooster and collect the fertilized eggs that your hens lay, your chickens won't multiply at all, obviously (unless you incubate and hatch the eggs yourself). Also, if you only have hens with no rooster, they'll still lay eggs, but having no rooster to fertilize means the eggs will never hatch/multiply. You probably already know that, but I'm mentioning this for the benefit of others that may have no knowledge of chickens whatsoever.

Also, most municipal areas, suburban areas that allow chickens to NOT allow a rooster in the flock. The only reason for that is that...roosters crow; hens do not. Residents of urban and suburban areas in general do not appreciate hearing a rooster crow incessantly before sunrise and throughout the day. Some roosters only crow in the morning. Other roosters will literally crow all day non-stop. Our neighbors raise chickens as well (for eggs) and they had such a rooster. That rooster crowed on repeat all day. They gave that rooster away for free and no longer have it as a result. They couldn't stand it themselves.
 
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Tom

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
I know why the chicken crossed the road. I have seen several doing it, so this is no conspiracy theory but is based on eyewitness evidence. But I have decided humanity is nor yet ready for this knowledge and will take the secret to the great beyond with me.

;)
 

ucrenegade

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Chickens should have at least 3 square feet of space per bird at minimum in their pen area. Right now my chickens have over 40 square feet per bird to roam around in.

If you'll have a rooster and collect the fertilized eggs that your hens lay, your chickens won't multiply at all, obviously (unless you incubate and hatch the eggs yourself). Also, if you only have hens with no rooster, they'll still lay eggs, but having no rooster to fertilize means the eggs will never hatch/multiply. You probably already know that, but I'm mentioning this for the benefit of others that may have no knowledge of chickens whatsoever.

Also, most municipal areas, suburban areas that allow chickens to NOT allow a rooster in the flock. The only reason for that is that...roosters crow; hens do not. Residents of urban and suburban areas in general do not appreciate hearing a rooster crow incessantly before sunrise and throughout the day. Some roosters only crow in the morning. Other roosters will literally crow all day non-stop. Our neighbors raise chickens as well (for eggs) and they had such a rooster. That rooster crowed on repeat all day. They gave that rooster away for free and no longer have it as a result. They couldn't stand it themselves.


Well my town population as of 2020 was a little over 400 people. Are thier certain rooster breeds that are quieter than the others?
 

Magna

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Well my town population as of 2020 was a little over 400 people. Are thier certain rooster breeds that are quieter than the others?

I'm not sure on that but I bet if you posted on backyardchickens.com they'd have answers.
 

tree

Blue/Green
Staff member
V.I.P Member

Magna

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
The Quietest Chicken Breeds For Every Purpose -
Article above mentions Orpingtons as being quiet.

I used to have Black Australorps aka Black Orpingtons and as I think about it,
they really weren't noisy. At the time, I was impressed with them
because I could go into the chicken yard, and the roosters didn't bother me.
I could turn my back on them or squat down to the ground for something
and it was ok.

The Top 10 Quiet Chicken Breeds You Should Raise • New Life On A Homestead

Thanks for this info. I thought about getting Buff Orpingtons because they're a dual purpose chicken that are supposed to work well as layers and also as meat birds. That's the only downside about getting hybridized chickens like Cornish Cross. If they're bred and then the brood is raised, they don't "breed true" (ie the offspring don't grow up as a true Cornish Cross and could instead grow up with problems).
 

tree

Blue/Green
Staff member
V.I.P Member
@Magna

Buff Orpingtons I have had and they were gentle and
good natured. The hens were inclined to get broody, too,
which was ok with me.
 

Magna

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
@Magna

Buff Orpingtons I have had and they were gentle and
good natured. The hens were inclined to get broody, too,
which was ok with me.

I have certain criteria that would need to be met, ideally based on my area. I would like a large chicken that would be broody enough to hatch their own eggs. Bantees are out because they'd be too small as a size and not worth raising as a dual purpose bird for me. Also, I can't have breeds that have large combs or wattles because they get frostbitten/freeze in the very cold winter conditions we have.
 

RESleight

Well-Known Member
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