How to Raise Chickens
Raising chickens is relatively simple and easy. The biggest thing you have to worry about when raising chickens are predators. You will also want to make yourself aware of the many different breeds of chickens that are available. Jersey Giants are a fine breed; largely due to the fact that they are large (as the name suggests), gentle, and not too fond of flying. Their poor flying skills greatly inhibit their ability to escape both you and predators.
If you live near town or have close neighbors you may want to avoid having roosters. Roosters can make a great deal of noise and irritate even the earliest of morning risers. Some towns and cities such as Seattle have outlawed roosters within city limits. Hens will lay eggs regardless of whether or not they are in contact with roosters. When it comes to laying eggs, hens have about two good years of laying eggs. After that their ability to lay eggs will begin to dramatically decrease. When this time comes you may feel that it’s time to retire them #stewpot.
You can find many reputable chicken breeders online who can send you chickens overnight. However, sexing chickens is difficult. There is about a 10% error rate when it comes to sexing chickens, which means that you may get a rooster. Before 1929 no one had a clue how to tell the sex of small chicks. However, in 1929 the Japanese develop an accurate method of sexing baby chicks. This discovery had a profound effect on the chicken industry and lowered the cost of eggs overnight. They actually have chicken sexing schools with a graduation rate of only 5-10%.
Heavy breeds tend to be more docile and have poor flying skills. They also tend to fare better in colder climates. Lighter breeds are smaller, more flighty, and tend to fare better in warmer climates. They also tend to lay more eggs than the heavy breeds. Heavy breeds tend to lay brown eggs, whereas the lighter breeds tend to lay white eggs. When it comes to finding the breed that works best for you, it might be advantageous to try more than one breed at a time. There aren’t any laws stating that you can only have one breed of chicken at a time.
When it comes to building a coop, all you really need is something that will keep the predators at bay. You will also want shelves or cubbies where the chickens can roost. You can use anything from a small shed to a large dog kennel. It all depends on the number of chickens you have/how ambitious you are.
A company called “Coop Queen,” came up with a great and affordable way to water your chickens. If you have raised chickens than you know that they will shit everywhere and anywhere. This includes, but is not limited to, their water dish, which means that you have to routinely clean said water dish. Coop Queen started selling a watering system that is simple a line of small funnels with a small bead at the bottom to trap the water. Water is released from the small funnel when the chicken presses up against the bead.(Click here) to checkout the Coop Queen watering
When you first bring your chicks home, it’s important to gently dip the chicks beak into their water dish. This will hydrate them and orient them to their water dish. It’s also important that you keep the water dish away from the heat lamp. This should go without saying, but it’s important to check their water several times a day to make sure they don’t run out.
Speaking of heat lamp, you will need one. The floor of their pen should be between 90-95 degrees F. The lamp should be about 6 inches off of the ground. You will want to make sure to raise the heat lamp as the chicks begin to grow.
When it comes to feed, use chicken feed that is meant for young chicks. Feed that is meant for fully grown chickens can be high in calcium. Calcium is important for egg laying hens, but it can make young chicks ill.
It will take between 8 to 10 weeks before your chicks will be ready to move into their outdoor coop. However, it’s important that you don’t make the transition too quickly, especially if you are experiencing cool weather. One should first acclimatize their chicks by leaving the chicks in their new coop for only a couple hours a day before bringing
them back in. After a week you can increase to around 4 hours a day. When your chicks become full feathered they will be ready to move into their coop full time.
So you have raised a bunch of baby chickens and treated them better than your own child. You have been attentive to their every need. One day you realize that one chicken in particular is acting like a total asshole. It attacks you every chance it gets and you don’t know why.
If the chicken is a Rooster then it might just be protecting the flock. In other words, he’s doing his job. However, more often than not, they are wrongly under the assumption that you are lower down on the literal pecking order. As a hard core, self-reliant, homesteader it’s pretty embarrassing to get your ass kicked by a chicken.
The first thing you want to do is make sure you don’t tell anyone. The last thing you want is for everyone to know that you are such a pushover that you can’t even stand up to a chicken… Talk about embarrassing.
The second thing you need to do is to establish your superiority. Don’t let that little bird brain chase you ever again. Try gently holding her down. Or you can carry her around for 10-15 minutes. The stew pot is also a tasty third choice. Whatever you decide, make sure that you do it in front of the other chickens. Publicly humiliate the hen and make it clear that you’re the last prison warden that they want to mess with.
Many breeds are bred to be non-broody. If you get a breed that’s non-brooding then good luck getting chicks. What you need is a brooding chicken. A brooding chicken is easily identifiable by their behavior. A brooding hen will be incredibly defensive and refuse to leave their eggs. They will sometimes tear out their feathers and use them to add insulation to their nest. They will also be reluctant to eat and drink water. Due in large part to the fact that they have more important things to do (like give the magical gift that is life). You can also just cut out the middleman (in this case hen) and invest in an incubator.
Commercial chicken farmers will usually keep hens around for 3 years. I have heard rumors that some backyard chickens have managed to stick around for as much as 10 years.
Chicken Eggs for the whole family:
On average, you can expect to get around 2 eggs a day from 3 hens. That means that you will need no less than 18 hens in order to get a dozen eggs a day. The best breeds in terms of egg layers are: Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds, Australorps and Orpingtons.
Chickens need at least 4 square feet per chicken. Of course you could be an asshole and run your coupe like a low grade commercial factory farm. You can also free range your chickens. However, you will want to make sure that you have a chicken proof fence to keep them out of your garden.
Cleaning chicken coop:
It’s important to have a relatively clean coop. A dirty coop can led to conjunctivitis which can cause cloudy and watery eyes. It can also sometimes lead to blindness. A dirty coop can also attract pests such as cockroaches that can cause “eye worms.” You will also want to make sure that your chickens have access to clean dirt so that they can “dust” themselves. This will help prevent fleas and mites.
You can make cleaning easer by putting barn lime on the floor of the coop in order to keep it dry. Cover the floor with straw. You can shovel the out the straw every couple of weeks and recycle it as either compost or mulch for your garden. Keep in mind that barn lime is a lot different than hydrated lime which should never be used.
You can also make cleaning easier by laying down a tarp on the floor of your coop and cover it with straw. When it’s time to clean, you can simply remove the tarp and straw. Throw your straw in the compost pin and hose down the tarp before putting it back in the coop.
Surprisingly chickens aren’t especially picky when it comes to food. They will eat fruit, vegetables, grass, grain, and seeds. They will also regularly eat insects, and in some extreme cases their own eggs.
Hens need a source of calcium in their diet in order to produce strong eggs with durable shells. As previously mentioned, you don’t want to feed calcium to young chicks since it can cause harm to their kidneys. Both oyster shells and broken up egg shells are a good source of calcium.
However, some people have claimed that feeding your chickens egg shells will encourage them to eat their own eggs. Both my friends and neighbors have been feeding their chicken’s egg shells for years and have never had an issue with their chickens eating their eggs.
Although commercially bought chicken feed has most of what they need, you will still need to make sure that they have access to other foods. Chickens need some variety in their diet. You can either let them free range around your property, or construct a movable pen. Your compost pile can be a great place to let your chickens peck around. You should also feed them table scraps and food waste. Be careful not to feed your chickens any avocados since they can be lethal.
You can also feed your chickens bread. However, you want to feed them bread in moderation. Although bread is a good source of carbohydrates, it consists mostly of “empty calories.” That is to say, you don’t want them to fill up on bread often at the expense of more healthy and vitamin rich foods.
If the chickens are kept in an area where they don’t come into contact with many insects, you may find it beneficial to feed them crickets. You can pick up crickets at your local pet supply shop. Crickets will provide your chickens with a much needed supply of protein. Mealworms are also a great source of protein.
How to raise chickens for meat:
Chicken breeds that are meant specifically for meat are much different than chicken breeds that are meant for laying eggs. First off, chickens that are meant as meat birds are bred to grow fast and to live short lives. They are meant to be butchered around 6-8 weeks after hatching.
There are several reasons why you don’t want to keep meat birds around longer than you have to. The first reason is money. The longer you keep a meat bird around after it has grown, the more money you will spend per pound of meat.
Another reason is that it’s cruel to keep them around for months and months. They aren’t bred for a long life. As such, they are much more likely to suffer from medical conditions such as heart failure after they are finished growing. I have even heard of some meat chickens suffering from broken legs because they can’t support their weight.
How to kill a chicken:
No one likes killing chickens, especially if it’s s chicken that you have raised ever since it was a young chick. I will never forget the first time I killed a chicken. I was a young lad of about 8 years old. I was told to go out back and catch a chicken for the stew pot. I had a great time chasing and diving after the chickens. However, it was quite
another experience to watch the chicken meet its end.
I am aware of two methods for killing chickens. These are known as the “chop and flop,” followed by the “slash and dash.”
The chop and flop: One person holds the chickens head and neck against a large block of wood. The other person then chops the chickens head off with a sharp hatchet. The person holding the chicken then tosses the chicken into a bush. The reason for the bush is that the chicken will flop around a great deal after being separated from its head. The first time I partook in killing a chicken it actually flew some distance after being killed.
The slash and dash: For this you will need a large cone and a sharp knife. You will first hang the cone with the narrow side facing downward. You will then put the chicken upside down so that its head is sticking out the bottom of the cone. You then slash the chickens’ throat with the sharp knife and step back to avoid getting caught by any spurts of blood.
Whichever method you decide to use, it’s of the utmost importance that you don’t hesitate. The last thing you want if for the chicken to suffer. If you hesitate, it will be at the expense of your chicken.
How to raise chickens in the winter:
- Don’t overdo it on insulation for your chicken coop. Your chicken coop should be able to “breath” without being drafty. The reason for this is that you don’t want moisture to build up in your chicken coop. A stuffy coop equals respiratory illness.
- Don’t heat your chicken coop. Chickens will naturally adapt to colder weather. Having a warm chicken coop might sound nice, but the reality is that your chickens will do just fine provided that they have an area where they can get out of the snow and stay dry.
- Be more vigilant when it comes to collecting eggs. During the winter months you will want to collect eggs more often due to the fact that they may freeze.
- Make sure that you chickens have access to water. I hate to be Captain Obvious, but water tends to freeze in the winter. As such, you need to be vigilant in making sure that ice hasn’t built up in your chickens water. You may find it advantageous to invest in a heated water system. Or you can just check their water throughout the day. If the Chinese can build a wall along their entire Eastern boarder than you should be able to figure out how to get your chickens’ water.
- Clean the coop. I know it can be a pain in the ass (especially when there is 3 feet of snow), but it’s arguably even more important during the winter months. The reason being that chickens will spend more time in their coop. As such, their coop will get dirtier faster.
- let your chickens get out and get some air. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that your chickens don’t need some fresh air.