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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.