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Am I Too Lazy for Chickens?

 
wynn williamson
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I don't know why I can't find an answer to this question? Maybe it is assumed that anyone thinking of owning chickens has some level of responsibility - perhaps much like it is assumed for any human parent?

I have a relatively large plot of land and would really like to have chickens, ducks, etc. The problem is that we travel quite regularly and also often get back home from the City late at night (12 am, 1 am, etc.) and are often away from home during the day. Plus, we have four children which are pretty demanding in their own right!

Right now we don't have any pets but we'd like to start incorporating SOME animals into our developing garden. We are vegetarian (borderline vegan) and don't like the idea in general of penning up animals, clipping wings, etc.

I've learned from our plant experience is that we have had the most luck when we spend a bit of time thinking things through, designing, putting in concentrated effort and then let things manage more or less on their own (e.g., automatic watering system, swales, etc.) I suppose this doesn't apply to animals?

Sorry, long ramble, basically wondering if there are any "hands off" ways to raise chickens or similar. If I don't clip their wings it's not like they can sleep at night in the trees or anything, right?
 
Dave Burton
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Animals can manage themselves just fine without human intervention. You can be as active as you want or as lazy as you want in managing your animals. A food web and system of connections will naturally arise when enough pieces are thrown together. That's part of the beauty of permaculture and ecology. If you have plants or forage growing, the animals will come and survive. As my APES teacher stated, "If you build the right habitat and the organisms are anywhere nearby, they will inhabit the area and thrive,". If there is any prey, a system will become established; maybe a little messy at the start. Just making a place they can call home is all that is needed.
 
Angelika Maier
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If you are vegetarian you will have a problem. What will you do with chicken which are not laying or all the unwanted roosters? The latter ones you
can give away to be eaten by someone else but an old soup chicken, this is more difficult.
If you often stay out late or are away you need something very secure fully enclosed or the fox will get the chickens, but this is the best way anyway.
Children usually like animals and one of our girls cares for the chicken since she is 8, including the broodies without a lot of intervention.
Chicken are really little work and if you have four children at least one will take over the care.
But I like your approach of thinking things through first.
Chicken are very good in orchards too.
It is very easy to find someone to care for chickens while you are away because they are getting the eggs.
 
wynn williamson
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thanks guys. the plot we have has a great fence around it as the previous owner bred dogs and put in some serious hardware which goes down into the dirt a meter or so. the concern i have is that foxes, etc could go over the fence no problem especially since there are lots of trees.

i am more than happy to let nature takes its course and let the food chain develop but i also dont want a slaughter.

don't chickens naturally fly up into low branches to protect themselves at night. is this a silly scenario to bear in mind?
 
Galadriel Freden
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wynn williamson wrote:

don't chickens naturally fly up into low branches to protect themselves at night. is this a silly scenario to bear in mind?


Chickens will do this, but some nocturnal predators can climb trees. Foxes, for instance, are pretty good at climbing.

 
Tina Paxton
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Half my small flock of hens sleeps in a Camellia tree at night instead of the coop. They get up high enough that I can't reach them to get them down. So, yes, they can do this. BUT, as was mentioned, it does make them more vulnerable to predators.

Chickens are pretty low maintenance. You can fill feeders and waterers and they are set for a few days. You do need to collect the eggs daily.

I'm a pretty hands-on type of person and would not be comfortable leaving my flock unattended for longer than a day but I'm sure there are others who are much more hands-off than that. Birds are definitely less maintenance than, say, rabbits! or pretty much any other livestock I can think of....so they are a good "gateway animal" if you aren't used to keeping livestock.
 
Burra Maluca
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I can't find the photo now, but I seem to remember a member here made a fly-in coop that the chickens went into at night but that the local predators couldn't get into.

Aha - found it!



Here's the link to the post - fly-in chicken coop post

 
wayne fajkus
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If you have a coop, and keep them confined to it for a couple weeks, they will go back every evening to roost. I've never seen the high entry on the previous post. Pretty innovative but it would have to be raccoon proof, so nothing on the walls that they can climb.

Automatic doors are out there. They open at dawn and close at dusk. The chickens will go in by themselves. Past that is enough food and water to last while they are away.

Not having roosters may be a good idea. I don't like the idea of cracking an egg to find a deveoped chick in there. It will keep the the ratio of chickens to coup area in check also.

If you have the coup with a small run for the day with a fenced top, this may be better. You can let them out of the run during the day, but when gone you can keep them more secure and give them room to move around.
 
wynn williamson
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thanks guys for all of the suggestions! The fly in coop sounds like something right up our alley. I'll look into this a bit more!

I like the permaculture ethic of putting lots of intelligence and initial design in initially in order to be lazy in the long term. I'm always surprised because it seems that animal incorporation always looks like a crapload of work (plus I feel that people are often penning up and/or exploiting the animals which doesn't quite seem right to me but that is a separate point).
 
wayne fajkus
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Chickens are a real good starting point. Not just ease of keeping them, but the benefits (eggs, fertilizer, bug control, use of kitchen scraps) as well as the peace and joy they create from just being around.
 
Michael Cox
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Burra's already posted what was going to be my suggestion.

If you are going free range/low management you can expect a reasonable loss rate to begin with - your local predators will get the stupid birds. If you are planning on keeping chickens though you need to carefully consider your vegetarianism; are you vegetarian because of welfare concerns and would you eat chicken that you had raised yourself to be healthy and happy? How will you cope with roosters? If you are buying female chicks then you are simply passing the problem on to someone else to deal with. A rooster will help protect your ladies and keep the flock together.

Also have you looked at chicken tractors and rotational pens? I know you want a lazy method but if you let hens scratch a yard without a break they will take it down to bare earth pretty quickly. Having, say, three permanent pens and allowing them access to one at a time should prevent the worst issues. Likewise, positioning your compost heap in their run area has advantages for both hens and the compost.
 
Angelika Maier
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Our neighbour has his chicken roosting in trees. He has even a guard dog underneath. Guess why we have so many so well nourished foxes.
If you have such a great fence yet you only have to build the upper part. Building fences is no fun but it is not an overly big task as well.
Another option is to have a small fully enclosed run were there is a small night house, this for the days you are away. Otherwise you would use the bigger run.
Chicken are really very little work, eat scraps and left over school lunches. They are certainly less work than any vegetable garden.
I would think of ducks too. You could maybe have both. Ducks lay as well as chicken and the eggs are great for baking pancakes etc.
And the meat which you are not interested in is far better.
 
Peter Ellis
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wynn williamson wrote:I don't know why I can't find an answer to this question? Maybe it is assumed that anyone thinking of owning chickens has some level of responsibility - perhaps much like it is assumed for any human parent?

I have a relatively large plot of land and would really like to have chickens, ducks, etc. The problem is that we travel quite regularly and also often get back home from the City late at night (12 am, 1 am, etc.) and are often away from home during the day. Plus, we have four children which are pretty demanding in their own right!

Right now we don't have any pets but we'd like to start incorporating SOME animals into our developing garden. We are vegetarian (borderline vegan) and don't like the idea in general of penning up animals, clipping wings, etc.

I've learned from our plant experience is that we have had the most luck when we spend a bit of time thinking things through, designing, putting in concentrated effort and then let things manage more or less on their own (e.g., automatic watering system, swales, etc.) I suppose this doesn't apply to animals?

Sorry, long ramble, basically wondering if there are any "hands off" ways to raise chickens or similar. If I don't clip their wings it's not like they can sleep at night in the trees or anything, right?


Some thoughts - there's an assumption that people wanting to raise any animals will have a level of responsibility, because by choosing to raise animals you are taking responsibility for them. You are, by choice, responsible for the animals.

Just what does that mean with chickens? You need to provide them with the necessities of their chicken lives -food, water and shelter (which primarily, but not only, means protection from predators).

I work a day job that takes me away from my home for over twelve hours a day five days a week - and I had chickens for the past year (recently lost all three to an unidentified predator). My wife also works, although not as inconvenient a schedule. And we like to travel on weekends and are not particularly home bodies.

When we started out with our birds, we let them free range in our fenced in back yard. This proved to be hard on our vegetable garden, as the chickens liked scratching in the garden and were not above eating seedlings or fruit (they like tomatoes). And despite our yard being fenced, we were chronically having to convince the chickens to get back in our yard. Relations with neighbors were not good.

We had no choice but to contain them more effectively, and they were confined to a coop and run, with netting over the top to prevent them flying out.
I made a feeder from a cat litter bucket that holds probably 20 pounds of feed. That needed to be refilled perhaps monthly - not much more. I never got a "good" watering system set up, but there are low to no care options for that as well, although not quite as easy and inexpensive as the feeder.

With the birds contained, we would check on them in the morning before I left for work, collect eggs, give them some water, any table scraps that we happened to have, and away we went.

I built a coop from free pallets and although it had a door we could close to keep them in and predators out at night, we very rarely closed it. Until this past month, we had not experienced predator pressure. When it came, it took all three birds before we could figure out how to stop it

If you are thinking that you can just let the birds free range and roost in the trees at night and they will be ok with that, I suggest you not get chickens. They will tear up your garden, poop on your lawn furniture (or wherever else is least convenient for you) and be a free lunch for your local foxes, raccoons, owls, hawks, weasels, cats and dogs.

If you are prepared to set up a coop and run, then you can get automatic doors for the coop, automatic feeders and waterers, and the chickens will take care of putting themselves to bed at dusk whether you are home or not, and they will head out to do their thing in the morning without you needing to tell them to do it.

The "lazy option" that is also responsible involves a significant amount of infrastructure, preparation and planning - but once that is done, you can be very minimally involved. When planning, it is worth thinking about "paddock rotation" and how you might implement a system to either move their run around or switch them back and forth among a number of run areas.
 
Matu Collins
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I would not recommend starting with animals until you have someone with some time to stay home and care for and observe them. Your work and home and family obligations sound like enough. Even a simple animal care scheme involves plenty of attention and care.

If you would like the benefit of the presence of birds, I recommend creating bird habitat to encourage wild visitors.

If you were able to get used to chickens and their care for a while and then wanted to switch to a more hands off approach, that would make sense to me. Taking on the responsibility of the lives of animals can be a burden. I have children and chickens and rabbits and I'm not taking on the care of any more creatures whose poop I have to manage!
 
Angelika Maier
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Chicken must be confined unless you have an orchard which is fenced. It is so easy to find someone to care for the chicken as long as there are eggs.
Chicken are less work than the veggies.
 
Mike Cornwell
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I am finding that the amount of work with an animal directly relates to how intensively they're used, and particularly confined.

Other than filling up a 5 gallon water bucket (I have a larger tub I could use, but don't) for my goats, I don't have to do anything but move them every few days. if I used 3 fences instead of my usual one I could keep them in the same spot for well over a week, and only having to go out there to water them.

The same goes for chickens, if not more so. I would look into having larger than normal water and feeding systems and having a coop/tractor that has an automatic door shut at night. There really isn't that much that is necessary to keep animals good to go, and if desired a few steps (like larger water/feeders) you could really start to go hands off for days at a time.
 
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