Regarding the health of a small flock - we feed our kombucha mushrooms and kefir grains to our birds which incorporate good bacteria into their systems. I also keep a bottle of applecider vinegar ACV with garlic cloves in it - I use one tablespoon of this in a gallon of water and use this water for our chicks. Plus I give all the birds any extra whey, milk kefir, etc.
Besides DE I haven't ever used any wormer, mite or medication treatment and we have never had a sick bird in eight years. No feather loss, hen pecking, egg eating, nothing. I've keep some of the birds for up to 5 years before culling for sentimental reasons, but in a small urban flock you need a rotation plan - a two or three year plan works well. However, we haven't yet culled one of our ducks, they still lay as well as ever going on 5 years now. If it wasn't for the great composting our chickens do for us I would have probably moved to ducks only a couple of years ago.
Two days ago we went to a small organic/natural chicken farm and helped with the culling of 500 birds - 250 Cornish cross and 250 heritage breed. It was great, a lot like the video of Joel Salatin's operation for processing his birds.
I agree with Paul's video - housing is not so much important when keeping a small flock in an urban setting. A dry location, A clean location, A wind-free location. Plus fresh water and complete nutrition that includes a good oil source, protein source, mineral source and live-green source. Of course if you have extreme weather having a coop you can walk into will not only give your birds a shelter but provide you some convenience and comfort doing your chicken duties.
Permaculture Wisdom: The truth is the more you confine/keep an animal the more work you make for yourself, and the more potential for disease due to bad bacteria overload in their environment. If you have to have housing start simple, figure out what's going to work best for you and your situation before you plan a lot and spend a lot. You'll be very glad you did in the end.
There are some benefits to confining chickens at least part of the time, though. Most of mine are free-ranging now, and roosting in the goat shelter, mostly on top of rabbit cages. Only two of the cages they can get to are occupied, but it's still not a good thing. I'm working on a permanent coop for them. Then I'll keep them confined 24/7 for a week or so, until they learn to use their new roosts. Once they've learned that, they'll be allowed to range during the day, but will be shut up at night to protect them from raccoons. I'm getting the garden and yard fenced, now, too, so won't have to worry about them getting into the garden.
Jami McBride wrote: The truth is the more you confine/keep an animal the more work you make for yourself, and the more potential for disease due to bad bacteria overload in their environment. If you have to have housing start simple, figure out what's going to work best for you and your situation before you plan a lot and spend a lot. You'll be very glad you did in the end.
I don't think its that simple. The higher the concentration the bigger the risk, but most diseases come from exposure to the outside world. That is actually what pushed commercial pigs inside on to concrete, keeping them away from wild/feral rats carrying Trichinella.
Well, I'm not surprised that you don't agree Emerson I don't think keeping animals using any method is simple at all. There are many things to consider and much to plan for, but from my personal experience and that of my friends on farms, the more one can capitalize on the animals natural skills the less work involved for the rancher.
I know what you mean Kathleen, totally free brings it's own issues. I was speaking about small quarters as compared to having the room to roam, and meet some of their own needs. If they can forage some of their own food and move away from some of their own droppings all the better.
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