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Saturday, July 16, 2011

So You Want to Raise Chickens?

I think for people who want to raise their own chickens and haven't had much experience you should start small.  You can go to TSC and get 6 chicks its the minimum number they require you to buy.  Start the little guys on chick starter (I use medicated).  You can also buy this feed there.  You can buy a large number of chicks if you prefer from Murray mcmurray or another hatchery if you so desire.  TSC doesn't carry all the breeds hatchery's do; and I know I like weird chickens.  So when you get the chicks home they will need a light for heat, food and water.  Make sure the light is keeping them warm if they huddle under it they are not warm enough; at the same time you don't want them to hot or they will cook.  My set up for my 6 chicks was a fish tank with a couple of old oven racks on top with the light clipped into them and when they got older set on top of the racks.  Make sure if you put down paper for them instead of shavings it's down tight so none of them get under it and get crushed.  You can buy brooder set up kits.  This may be the best idea for the novice chicken grower. 

Once the chickens are big enough to go outside make sure you have a shelter where they can get in at night.  If there is no shelter you will lose some to predators.  Right now my chicks are 2 months old and living in a big dog carrier in my garage.  I let them out in the morning and shut the garage door down then open it at night and they go back in their carrier and I shut that so they don't wander around our garage.  The garage doesn't have our cars parked in it either.  It's not pretty but until we get the barn fixed up it works so I don't have to worry about predators.  To keep our feed bill low I let them go outside and eat all the bugs and grass they want.  I love seeing them spread a crossed the lawn chasing bugs or picking grass.  My old blue Cochin seems to enjoy digging in the ant hills.  I have smashed some of the corn Nick brings me home from work.  I know I have an advantage since my fiance job allows him to bring me home corn that's been dropped on the floor and whatnot. 

Chickens are great though they know who feeds them and tends to follow that person around.  They can be pretty nice pets.  I always enjoy fresh eggs with there lovely orange yolk.  Chickens are a pretty cheap start to having some sort of self sufficiency.  I like to think mine are cutting down on the bugs biting me and eating my plants.  In the winter they need cover and food provided for them.  We feed ours a lot of scrap food to.  I figure if they will eat it, it will cut down on the corn I feed them.  We had our roosters in a dog kennel with a calf hutch in NY and that worked great.  They never froze there combs and it seemed to keep them warm with the chickens we had in there.  We usually put a tarp or something over the door in the winter to keep the wind out.  Where they were was pretty sheltered.  It was a cheap house for the birds we didn't want.  I know your asking me why didn't you kill them?  No one in my house kills things.  I know there goes half the value of chickens, the meat.  If you want to raise your own meat birds I'd make sure you get a heavier breed a Cornish x or something along those lines.  After a year in age they get rather tough so unless your making canned chicken you want to kill them young. 

So think of it this way chickens pretty much fend for themselves if you have some lawn for them to run around on.  You'll get fresh eggs.  You can get your own home raised meat.  They're nice to watch running around.  If you get some and don't do well you haven't lost a ton of money on them.  Chickens are pretty reasonable at TSC.  They usually start selling them in April and they don't sell for a long time.  Usually they have a mixed variety of bantys, sex links (which are usually Rhode island red leghorn crosses or something along those lines).  The hens will be red roosters will be white if they're a sex link.  They usually also have broilers which are a meat bird a Cornish cross. 

So good luck if you decide you want to raise your own chickens and have fun with it.  We used to feed our little guys spaghetti to watch them run around with a small noodle (we cut them small) and the others chasing the one with a noodle in his mouth.  Remember you can always keep them in a pen and just pick them a handful of grass or weeds from your garden as a treat.  Any questions leave me a comment or email me!

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