Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.
People have moved quite a distance away from agriculture. Agriculture has been stereotyped as dirty, gross and fly ridden…it wasnâ€™t for the progressive and cultivated (pun intended). Anti-farm philosophy hit all time highs with legislation being cast to prevent people from farming. And thenâ€¦this changed.
People began to look at their food. They began to wonder just “what was going on?” Documentaries illuminated what was going on! Yikes, indeed. But, we arenâ€™t here to climb on a soapbox. We are here to get you ready to be successful chicken keepers. Letâ€™s get going! Those chickens ainâ€™t going to raise themselves. Here are the top 5 “most asked” questions about raising chickens.
- Rooster and egg question:Â You NEED to have a rooster in your flock â€“ if it is allowed in your community. Roosters are part of the natural social structure of any flock. They are beautiful, clever and very loving. You must have them to provide a natural living arrangement. Roosters protect hens, they police the flock and they insure everything runs smoothly. If you havenâ€™t hugged a giant rooster â€“ add that to your bucket list. Order your chicks straight run (as they hatched), or add in a few roosters.You will experience far fewer predator losses when running roosters with hens. These male birds are hard-wired for vigilance, and they keep hens safe while the females forage. You may even get more eggs because stress is reduced in the flock. Roosters do not crow incessantly. Crowing frequency reduces as the bird matures.Tip: Purchase a “No â€“Crow” collar if you do not like crowing.
Are chickens dirty?
No. Like all birds, chickens are fastidious, they must keep their feathers clean as a primary survival point (and they don’t do this by licking them!). As prey animals they have no scent detectable by humans. Chickens smell like sheets hung out to dry (it really is that nice). However, as with any animal, husbandry is important. Never crowd birds, house them in unsanitary conditions, or neglect basic cleaning. Expect to pick up and compost manure twice a day â€“ every day. Livestock manure is a valuable fertilizer. Installing a droppings board in your coop can greatly reduce time spent cleaning.
3. What do chickens eat?
Chickens are omnivores requiring a variety of foodstuffs. They will eat 4-6 ounces a day. Foraging is essential for their health and mental happiness. Animals engaged in natural behaviors do not experience chronic stress or behavior issues. Purchase an organic laying feed. Buy the highest quality you can afford. Chickens are what they eat â€“ never skimp on feed quality.
Provide fresh, washed vegetables and fruits. In cold weather offer â€œheatâ€ foods like nuts, sunflower seeds and corn. Never feed raw meat or
spoiled food. Mycotoxins in spoiled grains are deadly.
Healthy antioxidants and other superfoods are important in our diets â€“ they are for chickens too. You will want to supplement their diet with protein and â€œgoodiesâ€ that supply nutrients,Â probiotics and phytonutrients. Consider Seabuck 7 or kelp supplements. These nutritional additives are used by large farms as preventatives and health enhancers.
Note: Be wary of grain that promises â€œyellowâ€ yolks through coloring agents like marigold petals. You want yellow yolks from REAL nutrition sources, such as omega sources, grass and vegetation. High polyunsaturated fats in eggs come from a good diet, and that means healthier eggs for you too.
4. How big a coop?
As big as you can go. Coops should be shed or barn sized. NEVER waste money on rabbit hutch coops. These were never used to house chickens and horror stories are trickling in from these purchases â€“ ranging from really unhappy keepers to dead birds. The minimum sized coop for standard breeds is roughly 6×6. If you are restricted to your coop size due to HOA rules, be sure that you can at least provide an adequate run for the birds to roam. Free range whenever possible.
A real chicken shed has many purposes and it is worth any money you spend. Expect them to last 50 years or more. They enhance your property and have resale value as re-purposed tool sheds, etc. This short video shows all of the things you will need in your coop. Obviously, size matters.
â€¢ You should be able to walk into the coop AND move around in there comfortably.
â€¢ The coop must have room for roosts, nesting areas, and preferably supplies (grain bins, shelves, trash bin, cleaning tools and shavings bags). Of course these can be kept in a separate structure if necessary.
â€¢ The coop needs good ventilation. It will need to be cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The bigger the coop = better air circulation. Design varies by your zone.
5. Can I train my chickens?
Absolutely! Chickens are visual/verbal thinkers and observational learners. Their brains are geared for socializing. They are precocious, meaning they hit the ground ready to learn.
Their cognitive functions rival those of primates, and include empathy, forethought, abstract thought (including trickery, comprehending
mechanical processes and mathematics), language learning and more. These little brainiacs are so easy to teach. They will be training you before you train them! Never underestimate a chickenâ€™s observational skills. They are far easier to train than dogs.
Expect a chicken to understand a lesson after one session â€“ without any repetition. I’m preachin’ to the choir here. In the words of Mr. Foghorn Leghorn, “we know this, I say, we know this – the scientists were a little slooow on the uptake on that one. Slooow like they had molasses in the brains, I say, that’s molasses in the brain folks.”
Well, we’re done cluckin’. Share your tips and know-how! What are your 5 top chicken raising answers?Â People want to hear from you! Get on your soapbox or orange crate and send us a shout…literally. It’s hard to hear over these roosters.
Featured Image Courtesy: Flickr/J. Shimon & J. Lindemann