CHICKENS: THE SUSTAINABLE LIVESTOCK
Chicken Coop Chatter©
Chickens go way back in history, maybe as far back as 10,000 years. As a domesticated livestock, they go back at least Six thousand years.
The Egyptians and the Chinese were both hatching eggs in controlled environments six thousand years ago. Obviously they knew even then the value of poultry for nourishment and sustainable farming endeavors.
No single domesticated livestock can provide you as much in a small space as chickens. They provide not only the eggs and meat, but they can also provide entertainment, mental and physical therapy with the least amount of feed to table food ratio, compared to all other livestock.
Of course we love all farm critters, and each has it's individual attributes, but for most, it is not feasible to have other farm animals or simply not the space to house the larger animals. Chickens are the gift that keeps on Giving. They provide the eggs for breakfast, the meat for the supper table, and the cycle continues with chicks to increase egg and meat production.
Chicken eggs and meat are the perfect balance of Vitamins, Minerals, calories and nutrients to sustain life. You merely add some home grown vegetables, fruits and grains and you can be self sufficient, healthy and energetic in a relatively small environment, even a small backyard within a metropolitan district, which is impossible with other domestic livestock due to ordinances within county or city limits.
A few guidelines in planning and preparation for raising chickens. First and foremost you will need a shelter for your chickens. This can be as expensive or as inexpensive as you desire. Obtaining free materials from your area to build a coop may require only the purchase of some nails. Many times you can find chicken wire or hog wire, free or very inexpensive in your local classified ads. You may even find free chickens in those ads. At times coops or hutches are available for free if you haul or inexpensive, even if it may need a little handiwork on your part. I have seen wood pallets used to build chicken coops and those are obtainable free from many warehouses. Fencing that is being torn down, yet still useable wood is another option. Coops need only be as large as the number of chickens you intend to keep or are restricted to keeping. You will want to obtain chicken wire or hog wire to protect the chickens while they are out of the coop during the day. This again can be obtained free in many areas, where someone has a left over roll or is tearing down a fenced area. The fenced area needs to be larger than the coop area, providing no less than 2 square feet per adult chicken. You can provide more space of course, but not less space because this can create a crowded environment and you may experience pecking or fighting issues within the flock when crowded.
Next, find a source to obtain your chickens, whether those are day old chicks, or young layers. Always look for a reliable and reputable source to obtain chickens, so you are less apt to have illnesses in your flock. There are reputable breeders nearly everywhere in the country, and hatcheries sell their day old chicks in spring or from your local farm store if you intend to start with chicks. If you intend to hatch your own chicks, of course Just Fowling Around is a reliable source for those hatching eggs and if local, we are a great source for Healthy, Active, Heritage and Rare breed chickens, that we raise for hardiness, preservation, health and vigor. Knowing what your personal needs are, such as egg layers, winter hardiness, dual purpose meat and eggs, will help narrow down the breeds of chickens that will provide for your needs. It is recommended that you have at least 2 chickens for each family member to supply enough eggs. If you want dual purpose chickens, you will need to figure the number of times you may serve chicken meat on a monthly basis, which will give you the number of chickens to raise for a meat source.
When you locate your source and plan your visit or your order, you will need to have your coop, brooder or incubator ready prior to receipt. A bale of straw or hay for bedding, A waterer and a feeder, along with a good quality feed from your local farm, granary or farm store. The average cost of the items mentioned are about $40.00 depending on what your individual needs are. A brooder can be as simple as a crate, plastic storage container, cardboard box or even a play pen, with a reliable heat source, again, very inexpensive or a few dollars, depending on your choice of brooder environment. For coops and wire fencing, the costs can be anywhere from free to several hundred dollars. Your own research will be necessary to locate your materials and figure your local prices.
Not only are chickens the ultimate, sustainable livestock, but their byproduct of waste is perfect for your soil for gardening endeavors. They will also rid the garden of destructive insects, mice, snakes and other pesky invaders. The egg shells can be recycled for calcium that chickens need to produce their nourishing eggs. While canning, the peels can be given to the chickens, which they will love and any spent fruit from the bushes or fruit trees are always a special treat. Chickens are carnivores, but will eat vegetation, seeds, and weeds for a balance to their system, so there needs to be no kitchen waste of left overs.
We recommend spending time researching chicken breeds, the environmental needs and food needs of chickens before you commit to raising them. Like all domestic animals, this is a long-term commitment and all family members need to be on board with this endeavor. Raising chickens can and should involve the entire family and is one of the most rewarding experiences while raising children, as they become educated and learn responsibility, nurturing and respect for their own food sources, their own environment and the environment of domestic animals. We encourage raising chickens and involving children in the process. If possible getting children involved in a local 4H, FFA or other children's programs involving livestock will provide a lifelong appreciation, good morals, pride and happiness because of their individual rewards.
Here at Just Fowling Around, we're always happy to answer your questions concerning chickens, so feel free to ask. We've been raising chickens well over 20 years and our early formative years were on a farm where livestock, gardens, fruit orchards and grains were a part of our daily living, nurturing and learning format. Information we offer is practical, common sense information, not the newest or fanciest trend, just good useable information to help with your endeavors.
We wish you many happy years ahead, being self-reliant and sustainable with chickens, whether that is your backyard or small acreage.
(Shared on Homestead Blog Hop-October 22, 2014) http://www.theeasyhomestead.com/homestead-blog-hop-1/
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