My wife wants a small chicken flock for eggs, and I want some rabbits for meat and fertilizer, so we are going to compromise and get both. At the planning stages now. We have had chickens before, but in a hotter climate.
Thinking 3-5 hens, and 3-4 rabbit cages will meet the needs for our family.
We are in Southern New Hampshire, Zone 5. 1.5 acre property, about half wooded, half lawn. I don't have enough lawn, nor the time to be moving tractors every day, so this will be a stationary setup.
I'm thinking of setting up a chain-link dog pen, about 8'x12', with an Ondura corrugated roof. We have a lot of predator pressure here, and no livestock guardian dog.
My goals are to keep external feed costs down, and setup a smoothly operating integrated system that we can run, with some help from the kids for daily chores.
I suspect we will need a separate system of summer and winter, and I'm OK with supplementing pellet feed during the cold months. I can grow fodder in the basement year round.
I haven't figured out the chicken run situation; in prior chicken-keeping they quickly turned their run into a dust-bowl so I don't know how much they were able to forage. I have seen some people letting them scratch a compost pile which provides some forage for them. We generate ~5 gallons of kitchen scraps a week and I can dump them straight into the chicken run, and shovel out the litter when it has broken down, for the garden.
I have read some discussion of suspending rabbit cages over the chicken run, and letting them pick at the worms, but I suspect the worms won't regenerate fast enough to feed 5 chickens.
I haven't figured out what to do for a winter setup. I have read about the deep-litter method inside a coop, hoping the worms and grubs will populate the litter and provide for for the chickens. I'm afraid that system would freeze in the coldest months without any supplemental heat.
When I butcher rabbits, is there any way to recycle the entrails for the chickens? I don't know how much they will pick at raw meat. I have read a bout the maggot bucket, and...thanks but no thanks. Black soldier flys are appealing as a protein source, but they would have to be purchased every spring, as they don't naturalize here. Meal worms? Can I do that outdoors in the coop?
You plan is sounds very good. I'm going to offer my advice.
1. A Radio. This for me is one of the greatest things to reduce my predator pressure. I just have it playing 24/7 in or near the chickens and rabbits.
2. Paddock switch system. If you have that few animals and 1.5 acres you should be able to design a few paddocks to move them around too. (maybe every few days.) You could even have a mobile chicken/rabbit house to put in each paddock, or have a sunflower pattern with the coop in the middle.
3.) With the left over bits of the rabbits you could make a maggot feeder. It's pretty much 2 buckets with the bottom bucket with small holes so the maggots fall out with the rabbit meat bits inside.
4.) Winter Months I would add LEDS to your coop, and come up with a master plan for frozen waters. As long as chicken can roost and are not in the wind they can deal with some pretty cold temps. (Mine are in a barn that I've seen as low as -12F)
I like the radio idea; may even see if it spooks the deer in addition to livestock predators
Paddock shift system is not feasible on my property. Very few flat spots, and those are alotted for the kids to play soccer, etc. Plus the grass only grows 4 months of the year here; I still need a permanent winter setup for animals. Some sort of coop and run
Yes I plan to use LEDs to extend egg-laying season. I have a solarLED light on my shed so I may get a second one of those for inside the coop
I had meat rabbits in zone 5, they were in an outdoor colony from March- November, and into the barn in hutches Dec-Feb. I pulled out my buck in early October so no winter litters (too much rat pressure in my barn). Rats were my biggest rabbit problem by far, so my breeding colony was hardware cloth. I have raw-fed dogs so they ate most of what I didn't when I butchered. Whenever I processed a bunch of grow outs, I ended up with SMALL bucket of dirty water and just intestines and a bit of fur left. I dug a hole in my garden and dumped it in, new hole every time I processed, which was about 3x a year. Rabbits are quiet and easy. Over winter I used straw packed in their hutches ,and a wire bottoms with a tarp under. No odor in the cold, big clean out when they moved to colony in the early spring. I was able to feed them on forage in the colony most of the year. Some pictures of my set up and different generations of little ones. I did have a grow out pen as well for when the colony population was getting too big and processing time was approaching. Colony style made feeding/watering SO much easier than individual cages/ pens.
Normally I set the dial to the middle. Loud enough to hear it clearly when your stand 2 feet away, but no so loud to be blaring at night when everything is peace and quiet. During this time of year I have fans going in the barn, and I can barely hear the radio over the fans. The radio outside is set to around the same level as the barn radio.
I keep a radio in the bunny barn, the coopenheimer (where the chickens, ducks and guineas sleep overnight), and a outside radio near the chicken tractors.
john mcginnis wrote:"When I butcher rabbits, is there any way to recycle the entrails for the chickens?"
Well one idea that is done quite often is to use the guts as part of pig swill. With neighbor nearby it might be pushing the zone so to speak, but there it is.
Chickens are crazy about anything meat. Just chop the entrails up a bit and they'll make short work if it. You'll quickly get the hang of how much they can eat at once, so if you have loads, just divide it up into portions in Ziploc bags and freeze.
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