If you watch the news, you are well aware of food recalls. This seems to practically happen every day. Poultry is one of those foods that have been recalled due to problems with the food the chickens ate or the injections they were given while being raised. You can avoid these problems and know what your poultry contains by raising your own chickens.
Raising chickens is not hard. Your grandparents didn’t have the local Wal-Mart supercenter to run in and buy a package of chicken breasts: they raised their own. They probably gathered their own eggs as well. You can do the same thing, and you don’t have to live on forty acres to do it. Many people are returning to living off the land, and raising chickens has increased in popularity.
Why Raise Chickens
In addition to knowing what your chickens have ingested and what types of medications and supplements your chickens have been given, you will also have fresh eggs. One hen can provide you with about 200 eggs a year. You will also have a protein source that is organic and pesticide free. You won’t have to worry about going to the local grocer when you need chickens or eggs.
Start Your Chicken Coops and Nesting Boxes
Before you run to the local barnyard auction or farm to buy chickens, you need to make sure you have their house ready. Chickens don’t require a lot of room, but you need to have some type nesting area for the hens to lay eggs and a coop area for scratching and exercise.
Start out by making your nesting boxes. Hens like dark, dry places that give them enough room to stand up; a 12 x 12 x 12 is a reasonably sized nesting box. Just remember to adjust the size if you have a larger breed of chicken! You should put wood shavings or pine straw in the bottom to absorb moisture and keep the box warm. When you build your box, add a roost bar to the front of the box. This gives the hen somewhere to jump as they are going into the nesting box. When you build your boxes, make sure you add a lip or front edge to keep the hens from pushing the bedding out of the box. Finally, pitch the roof to keep the hens from roosting on top and making a nasty mess. You don’t have to raise your chicken coops off the ground, although many people do. If you choose to elevate your nesting boxes, don’t put them too high off the ground and make sure you have enough roosting bars or steps to help them get into the box.
Your chicken coop is also easy to make and very inexpensive. You have probably seen chicken condominiums that take a lot of time and money to build. These are not necessary to raise chickens. All you really need to make a chicken coop is some chicken wire, wood, and straw for the bottom of the coop. This coop is just an enclosed area for the chickens to live in; the nesting boxes will be utilized for egg laying.
Once you have your nesting boxes and cops, you are ready to buy some chickens. You can find some chickens that are layers and fryers, meaning egg producers and good for meat. However, the majority of chickens are either layers or fryers. You may want a few of each. You should also make sure you have a rooster in the mix. A good rule of thumb is one rooster for every twelve hens; however, this number varies depending on whom you ask. Watch your hens, and if you see them becoming bare backed, you have too many roosters.
Feeding Your Chickens
This is noteworthy as it plays a role in the taste of your chicken and eggs. You need to make sure your hens have plenty of food and water. Some food and water tips you can use in your chicken-raising venture are included here.
- Water: Fresh, clean water is an important part of raising chickens. One hen can drink about two cups of water daily. Your job is to make sure they have an ample supply and that it is clean.
- Food: Chickens have a simple diet that consists of three basic foods: protein, grains, and greens. Protein typically comes from bugs that your chickens pick off the ground. If you are concerned that they aren’t getting enough protein, you can add fishmeal, worms, soybeans, or milk to their diet. Greens are easy to provide. You can fence in a patch of grass and let your chickens feed daily, or you can toss them some greens from the kitchen. Keep the trimmings from your vegetables and give it to the chickens. Finally, all chickens need wheat, corn, and oats. Many people call this chicken scratch and buy a mixture at the local feed and seed. However, you can use the following recipe for a healthy chicken food that you make at home.
Homemade Chicken Feed
Mix the following ingredients in a five-gallon bucket with a lid.
- Corn Meal – 2 parts
- Soft White Wheat – 3 parts
- Red Winter Wheat – 3 parts
- Oat Groats – 1 part
- Split Peas – 1 part
- Lentils – 1 part
- Sunflower Seeds – 2 parts
- Flax Seed – 1/2 part
- Quinoa – 1 part
- Kelp – 1/2 part
Mix well and feed your chickens daily. This is a terrific alternative to buying scratch feed at the local feed and seed.
Caring for Your Chicken
Chickens don’t require a lot of care. You will need to make sure they have food and clean water daily. When your hens start laying, make sure you gather eggs. You should also keep a close eye on your rooster-to-hen ratio. If you start seeing bare patches on your hens, you should consider having chicken for dinner soon. Too many roosters can upset the hen house.
Raising chickens for eggs and meat is not difficult. You can make a small chicken coop in your backyard with very little expense involved. You may never go back to commercially raised chicken again. Your chicken will be clean and chemical free. Do your family a favor and get busy with those nesting boxes.
©2012 Off the Grid News