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Permaculture/Sustainable Chickens

 
          
Posts: 16
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I was wondering who is completely self-sustainable with their chickens?

What I mean:

1. Purchase 0% feed

2. Breed all your chickens AND all of your breeders were born on your place - minimum of two generations were born from your stock

Just curious.
 
Isaac Hill
gardener
Posts: 356
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
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Could the ancestors of the chicken come from outside the circle? If not, which came first?
 
          
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Obviously one has to start with getting chickens.

I'm just saying, minimally, one's current breeding stock were born on their place.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Not me, but that is my goal.  I'm hoping to be self-sufficient in feed by the end of this growing season.  I'm getting a few more chickens this year, but already have the core of a breeding flock.

Kathleen
 
suomi--Nicola Lloyd
Posts: 51
Location: Finland
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We are self+sufficient, grow our own chicken feed and hatch our own chicks, we use an incubator along side one or two hens hatching their own clutch.
Right now we are on our third generation of hens.
We have killed and eaten the cockerels and we sell the eggs localy.
The winters here are pretty cold so we use alot of straw for insulation and bedding,its all home grown.
 
          
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Kathleen and suomi - that's really cool.

I'v read a lot about being "self-sustainable" but almost everything I read about chickens says "buy..."

We just got 4 chicks - first timer!  We live in the city so no roosters and definitely won't be self-sustaining, but I do plan on planting things for them in the garden.

We are having a lot of fun with them. 

I'd love hear from others and see pics of self-sustaining chicken raisers.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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My flock right now consists of eighteen hens and three roosters.  I have a mix of several breeds and some crossbred birds.  The last couple of years I've had broody hens and have hatched out some chicks (I didn't let them hatch any last year, but did buy a few new birds).  I could continue on with just what I've got now, but am adding a few more birds.  Then I hope to maintain a closed flock (and the Silkie rooster that I have now needs to go as I don't want any more Silkie blood in my flock -- he was the only rooster I had last year which is why I didn't let any hens hatch out chicks). 

My flock is semi-free-range (they forage freely on our place, but we don't have enough land to feed them completely that way).  I do supply them with layer pellets and some rolled oats, but they also get a lot of kitchen scraps and sometimes get surplus milk, whey from cheese-making, and so on.  There'll be more dairy products for them soon -- all three of my does are dry right now.  They also pick up spilled alfalfa fines that the goats leave, which means that their egg yolks stay nice and orange even in the winter.  If I have dead baby bunnies, the chickens get those, as well as the offal from butchering.  This will be the first year that I'll be growing a small patch of grain just for the chickens; it won't be enough to completely feed them, so dairy products from the goats will help pick up the slack.  Plus I'll be putting in some root crops for the goats, chickens, and rabbits, hopefully enough to cut the amount of hay I buy in half.  That's my goal, anyway.

Kathleen
 
                                
Posts: 62
Location: Western Pennsylvania
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No, I don't qualify.  Mother Nature hasn't been kind to me with hatching eggs.  I have tended to many broodie hens over the years, and I average an 80% - 85% rooster rate.  I did have one year where "broodie" went through like a virus.  After one hen sat and hatched the others decided that is what they wanted, and I had 8 hens at one time with peeps, and three hens that tried it, but didn't really take is seriouslyin the end.  Lots of cute peeps, but alas, 85% were boys for the freezer!!

If I had more land for seed crops I could probably be fully sustainable, but my property isn't big enough or fertile enough for 25 hungry hens.  I bring in hay and feed.  I am trying to source local seed crops to mix my own feed though.  Too many farmers are GM corn and soy only.

Tami
 
Max Kennedy
Posts: 478
Location: Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada
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Can you wild harvest feed for raising chickens?  We have an abandoned farm right behind us and I'd like to raise a brood this year for meat.  Haven't any idea of what is involved though.  Live in NE Ontario Canada.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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one of the reasons I haven't started chickens here yet, want to be able to provide as much food as possible before I buy them
 
                          
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We fall short that ideal as well.  Our chickens are completely free-ranging but we do offer a locally grown and milled non-GMO corn and soy free mash a few times a day to keep them friendly.  Our original stock was from unwanted birds, some bantam, so we really were just providing a home.   For the last 4 four years the hens have brought up as many clutches of eggs as we would allow.  You may not agree with it, but any hen that we do not want brooding, we put in a cage (large enough to walk around and flap her wings) up on a tripod of logs, with fresh water, ample food and two sides of shelter and a roof for a few days and nights until she gets over the urge.  The sooner the broody hens go in the less time it takes for them to snap out of it.  We butcher the cockerels and give them to chicken-eating neighbors and use the eggs as a type of currency.

We've planted persimmons, mulberries, pears, raspberries, strawberries, medlar, honey berry and such but we are waiting for substantial fruit set from the trees and shrubs.  We do buy crushed oyster shell as well...so I guess we need to focus on forage that provides ample mineral content for strong egg shells.  Any suggestions?

Prompted by one of the barnyard chicks hatching with a severely crossed beak, this last April 2011 we actually paid money for three varieties (Partridge Chantecler, Welsummer and Barred Rocks) that we will keep separate for breed purity and for replenishing our mixed-breed barnyard flock annually. 
They came from local breeders in Oregon and Washington through Naomi's Organic Farm Supply.  I tip my hat to them and their efforts.  http://naomisorganic.blogspot.com/

The Chantecler and Welsummers have been kept over night in a predator proof coop because we were especially worried that the barn cat would make a meal of them as chicks.  During the day we let them out and witnessed the goats chasing the cat out of the area they share with the chickens.  We  haven't lost one yet and it's been two months already.  We also have red tail hawks nesting in the tall weeds (Doug Fir) which have claimed the lives of many a chick.  It seems the llama and goats are proving to be useful in yet another way.

At the last new moon we broadcast BioMaster peas on a somewhat weedy and branchy but warm slope, lightly covered them with fluffy mulchy material and hung some plastic bags on dead branches in hopes of deterring wild birds.  Littering, but it seems to be working.  Given that they grow and produce seed, I'll just leave them in situ for the chickens to forage this fall and winter and hopefully enough will overwinter to provide a healthy germination come spring. 

Sunchokes and Cereal grains are next on the list to establish for fall/winter chicken forage.

     

              Purchase 0% feed---perhaps this should read: grow or barter for 100% feed   

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Posts: 16
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Thanks!  I love the stories about efforts to be self-sustaining.

As I posted earlier, we just got our first chicks - l love them!  I've never had a pet - they are great.  It's very theraputic to see them eat a bug.

2 barred rocks - Tinkerbell and Dorothy
1 red sex link - Mary Poppins
1 turken - Turkey Lurkey (she's freaky looking)
 
Max Kennedy
Posts: 478
Location: Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada
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Are there non-human feeds that are suitable for chickens.  One of the things I'm thinking of is a hedge plant I've seen all my life here in Canada.  In the fall it has seed pods that look like small pea pods, can't think of it's name, it might be caragana (siberian pea shrub) but the online images don't look right.  Another is the lupins.  Things of that nature that aren't really good as people food but sometimes animals have evolve mechanisms to handle them.  Both of the above are available for the picking around here.  Anything that might look good and be avoided I would also appreciate being mentioned.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
Posts: 985
Location: Near Klamath Falls, Oregon
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Caragana would be excellent feed for chickens and any other livestock.  Do some more research on the lupines, though.  I don't know about chickens, but goats that eat lupine pass the toxins through their milk, and people, especially small children, have been made sick from drinking the milk.  This may not affect eggs, but do some checking and make sure.

Kathleen
 
John Polk
master steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Another good plant to grow around their coop/run is mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris).
The hens do enjoy eating it, but its real value lies in its lice repelling ability.
 
                                              
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TFox wrote:
  We do buy crushed oyster shell as well...so I guess we need to focus on forage that provides ample mineral content for strong egg shells.  Any suggestions?


Ive got a few.... one they can eat their own eggshells, but some say that causes issues because they then try to eat other eggs. I dont know...

another thing you could do if you raised fish also, is have mussels and snails wit your fish. and use their shells

One that can work for anyone though, is to find some sowbugs AKA pillbugs AKA rolly pollies... there are lots of ways to easily grow these. Ive got what must be a few thousand growing in a 5 gallon bucket of dried cow manure that i dampened, and put in layers with leaves and such in there.

Chickens love them also. they are not an insect at all but a crustacean that adapted to land. thei shells are the same components as the shells of the water based cousins of theirs. Like I said super easy to culture, and Im sure Im not doing it the best either.
 
                          
Posts: 56
Location: Bremerton, Washington
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John Polk wrote:
Another good plant to grow around their coop/run is mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris).
The hens do enjoy eating it, but its real value lies in its lice repelling ability.


I've often wondered if it might be a good idea to plant many herbs just outside a fenced chicken run, or pen where other grazers were kept.  Herbs often grow very lush with little attention, and many types are said to be good for medicine.  If they were grown near enough that the animals could get a taste now and then, but not rip up and eat the whole plant, might not that be beneficial for them?
Maybe it could even influence the flavor of the eggs or milk?
 
John Polk
master steward
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Posts: 8016
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Herbs would be good around a chicken run.  Tansy will repel flies, gnats, ants and other things, mugwort repels the chicken lice.  I would think a variety of mints may also help to repel some things, plus sweeten up the air.  Most Mediterranean herbs grow like weeds, requiring little care.
 
Max Kennedy
Posts: 478
Location: Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada
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More possible wild feeds, rose seeds (removed from the hips which we use as teas and vit C supplements), burdock seed heads.  Fairly confident with those 2.  We have a plethora of pin and choke cherry, are these suitable?  Am also cleaning up a multitude of Spruce cones that dropped over the winter and are now opening, should be some good in them.  Not sure what else is on the property as it was gotten in the late fall last year.
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
Posts: 382
Location: South West France
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I've raised our current flock of chickens for 18 years and only ever brought in a new cockerels to ensure that there's no inbreeding.

Our chickens are completely free range (I grow some plants in cages and cover some plants to protect them) and the chickens almost feed themselves on anything they can find in the garden or in the woods.

We've usually got about 50 chickens and we let them sit naturally, although I do select the eggs we want hatched and sometimes get eggs from friends to change the breed. All our flock are inter-bred and we kill about 50 chickens a year. We get three or four meals from a good sized chicken and as many eggs as us and our neighbours can handle ! 

Here they are helping me to clean up the garden before I plant and mulch.



Feasting on the Amaranthus



Trying to get at my lettuce



Pecking lice and ticks off our newly shorn goats



A new boy in town - our Brahma cockerel in front of our best ever chicken house



Cleaning up a hugelkultur bed before I plant in it



They have a good life here, although the fox does take a few from time to time.
 
                          
Posts: 56
Location: Bremerton, Washington
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Those are fantastic pictures!  Thanks for sharing!
 
John Polk
master steward
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Posts: 8016
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Nice looking hen house.  Looks very functional (and rustic!)
 
Max Kennedy
Posts: 478
Location: Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada
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Just going with the sustainable chicken food idea a bit more.  Duckweed, easy to harvest if you have beaver ponds and supposed to be high in protein.  Wondering if the small seeds in cattail heads would be useful??
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
Posts: 382
Location: South West France
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Thanks John. I've been keeping chickens for a long time and built a few henhouses and this one is my ultimate design for the best house ever.

You could grow food like Amaranthus, Comfrey etc. inside their run and cover it until you want them to eat it.

Our chickens are all free-range but they'd eat all my comfrey in the winter so I cover a few plants until the spring when they leave it alone because there's a lot more choice of food.



I know a lot of people can't let their chickens free-range in the garden but if you let them have access at certain times of the year, they'll really appreciate it and add nitrogen to your mulches as they work.
 
Max Kennedy
Posts: 478
Location: Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada
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Another wild chicken food that might be of use in raising these little beasties and is very plentiful right now or in the near future, depending on where you are, is the male alder catkins.  They are a recognised survival food for people due to the high protein content of the pollen.  Tag alder is plentiful and easily collected in our area.
 
Max Kennedy
Posts: 478
Location: Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada
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Not sure if this should be another topic but it's related so I'll put it here.  Chickens like the bugs and weeds in lawns but aren't the most interested in grass.  Thinking along permaculture lines would it be possible to keep a goose, which are the bane of large lawns and park area's, which eats grass in with a smaller group of chickens (5-10).  All being raised for meat not eggs.
 
Irene Kightley
pollinator
Posts: 382
Location: South West France
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Mekennedy,

We've ten geese which keep our grass really short and they get on well with the chickens when they're outside of their house but we made the mistake of locking them up together in the evenings inside the shed and there was a lot of fighting. (The geese won.) 

Now they have separate sheds and as long as there's plenty for them to eat, they're fine.



Ps.The white goose in the photo has "Angel wing" because she was overfed cereal when she was young - we got them as rejects from a foie gras factory.

You'll need a pond for geese if you intend to have goslings form the heavier varieties.
 
Max Kennedy
Posts: 478
Location: Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada
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Are pin cherry and choke cherry viable feed for chickens?
 
                                          
Posts: 59
Location: N.W. Arizona
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My one acre desert rancho is not able to support and sustain my dozen lay hens and one rooster.  Nor does the very dry climate allow hatching even if a hen get broody.  Even an incubtor wont work here unless it has good humidity control.  But here are a few feed suggestions that help.....after seperating goat milk to make cream/butter put a couple drops of rennet in the skim and let set a day to make cottage cheese.  Chickens love it and it will keep them in protien and calcium so they wont peck eggs or each other.  Another feed suggestion is toss your completed compost in the chicken yard and let them dig through it and eat the bugs.  When harvesting rabbits let tehm eat the innards and place the skin, feet skull in a hanging bucket to attract flys and maggots will drop thru holes .  To keep the smiell down put layers of hay over and under.  Also place an old piece of plywood on the ground in their yard and turn it over and move every day, pill bugs and roaches will harbor under it and give a good snack. 
I brought in a couple of dozen silver laced wyndotts this spring to replace my laying flock.  They are a heratige breed and may actually get broody and hatch chicks.  At least half will be cockrels for the freezer.  They may be good foragers but our smallish garden would not survive it with out netting all the rasied beds.
 
Max Kennedy
Posts: 478
Location: Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada
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mekennedy1313 wrote:
Are pin cherry and choke cherry viable feed for chickens?


Speaking with locals that free range chickens both appear to be acceptable to chickens.  Local natives indicate Jams and jellies are human consumable but they need a lot of sweetening.
 
                                    
Posts: 1
Location: Florida
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Blaptica Dubia roaches seem to be an excellent feeder, according to this guy.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJvbOGx1ZAU
 
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