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Raising the Humble Chicken

By PorcoRosso in Culture
Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 10:14:29 PM EST
Tags: Focus On... (all tags)
Focus On...

For the last two summers I have maintained a flock of chickens. The results have been ... interesting. More eggs than I could eat, interesting evenings, and a freezer full of what I consider very healthy meat. I plan to share my experiences in this article with the hope that somebody might be inspired to raise a small flock.


With the questionable safety of the meat products available at the grocery store, my wife and I decided that we should try to create a supply for ourselves. We had four acres of property and minimal cash to spend, so large animals like pigs or cows would be out of the question. We decided that something like rabbits or chickens would work out well. We ruled out rabbits (for the time being) for several reasons including higher maintenance, higher initial costs, and the fact that I had already raised rabbits as a kid.

We settled on chickens for the following reasons:

  • There is a lot of information available on the web
  • They are cheap to purchase
  • They can provide both meat and eggs
  • You can let them roam around so their poop isn't concentrated in one place

We were surprised by a few unexpected benefits:

  • Insect control - our small flocks of chickens eliminated most of the pest insects around the house.
  • Greener grass - the chickens' scratching removed the dead undergrowth and mixed in their poop. They also liked to eat small weed seedlings and dandelions.
  • Entertainment - chickens are just goofy and amusing to watch.


Our plan was to pick up a small flock of chicks in the spring, raise them to egg producing age, collect the eggs, and then butcher them when it starts to get cold.

You can purchase chickens through the mail order or through a local feed mill. Other less desirable options include county fairs or a local farm. I prefer a local feed mill.

When buying through a feed mill, you can look at the chicks to get an idea of their health. Often, you will get one or two chicks that will die through mail order. A fair will get you good chicks, but they usually are scheduled for the summer. You won't get eggs until well into the next spring.

Farms that have chicks are few and far between nowadays. Most hens have had the brooding instinct bred out of them. You might have good luck if you can find a farm that keeps antique breeds.

You can buy sexed chicks or straight run. Buy sexed hens. You probably do not want any roosters - they are loud, and if you have more than one, they will fight to the death once mature. Some folks buy twice as many straight run chicks and butcher the roosters once they start crowing or fighting. I just buy hens. Some people will try to tell you that you won't get eggs without a rooster. This is a myth. An egg is produced by the chicken's menstruation cycle. You only need a rooster to help produce chicks.

We buy our chicks on St. Patrick's day. That way, we can calculate how old they are (usually they are already 2-3 days old). This will put egg production starting around the beginning of August. Hens start producing eggs at 18-20 weeks.

To get started (assuming 12 chickens) you will need the following:

  • Chicks - $15/dozen
  • Water fountain - $3
  • Starter feed - $10/25 lbs
  • Feeder - $3
  • A small pen - an old laundry basket works well, cardboard box will work until it gets wet
  • Heater light - $15
  • Wood shavings - $5/bale (no sawdust - it can cause respiratory problems)
  • Possibly two clean 1-quart glass canning jars for the water fountain and the feeder - one of your relatives is bound to have these laying around.

In all, you are looking at about $50ish dollars to get started. These supplies will last for about a month. The food shouldn't run out and the equipment shouldn't wear out. Your chickens will outgrow it.  During that month, you will need to buy/make the following:

  • Full size feeder - $7-10
  • Full size water fountain - $7-10
  • More food - $10/25 lbs
  • 5 bales of wood shavings - $25
  • 3 5-gallon buckets - free or $5-8 at a home center
  • A 4'x8' chicken coop - as much as you want to spend

The coop is probably the biggest sticking point. Our first year, I just caged off a part of our garage. We only had four chickens. The next year, I built a coop out of scrap lumber and some corrugated roofing purchased at the home center. You can google for plans. The following are some suggestions based on my experience.

Make the coop 4'x8'. Chickens need 2 square feet each and plywood comes in 4'x8' sheets. This will minimize cutting and waste. Create a post and beam structure. Basically 4 upright posts with a rim of wood around it. Create a shed roof. A shed roof is easy. Do not use treated lumber or anything you wouldn't want to eat yourself. I had the great idea of using rigid foam insulation. 12 chickens had a 4'x8' sheet picked to nothing in three days. Find a nice 4'x1" thick branch to use as a roost on the high end of your shed.

You probably also want to use some leftover plywood to create a ramp up to the roost. Make sure you have some footholds on the ramp so your chickens don't slip (basically, some thin strips of wood spaced approximately 3"-4" apart).

Make sure that the coop can be closed securely at night. Do some research online, get some construction books at the library. This is an easy project that a beginner can tackle in a weekend or two.


So you have the initial supplies and a bunch of peeping chicks - now what?

Once you get everything home, find a quiet place away from dogs/cats/small children/whatever for your new chicks to reside. The area should be free from drafts and readily cleanable. These guys are messy. Make sure that there is nothing that the chicks can get hurt on if they get out. Once they start escaping, it is time for the coop.

Set your pen on the floor, place 1-2 inches of wood shavings down, and fill their food and water. Go ahead and put the chicks in while you set up your heat lamp. Chicks tend to be self-regulating as far as the heat lamp is concerned. Place it so that they can get totally under it but also be able to back away entirely. You shouldn't have to bother with a thermometer with this type of setup.

Check their water and food at least twice daily. Fresh, cool, clean water is the most important thing for chickens. Keep their litter clean. I usually will dump it on the compost bin every other day. One bale of shavings should last until they are ready to go outside.

Once the chicks get most of their feathers in or are consistently escaping from their pen, it's time to go outside. You got that coop done, right? Use several bags of wood shavings and fill the floor to 6"-8". This litter will need to be raked to mix in the poop once a week (or when it starts to smell) and replaced around once a month (or when mixing doesn't fix the smell any more). Get the chickens out early in the morning and you may be able to last longer. The used litter makes a great mulch for your garden. Once it gets out in the open, it won't smell anymore. I use it under shrubs and raspberry bushes.

You will probably still have most of your bag of food left from the indoor days. Use it until they eat it all. Once it is gone, you will want to buy "grower" food. It has less protein than the chick food. After one bag, move on to "finisher".

One note on food: Keep it sealed airtight always. The first year I simply rolled up the bag and kept it in the garage. I had a huge infestation of moths that lasted for over a year. Since then, I buy 1-gallon ziploc freezer bags and divide the entire bag into these. One bag will usually fill the adult feeder, so this works well.

Keep the heat lamp in the coop until you see that the chicks don't use it any more.

Once outside, check their water and food levels. I find that I need to fill/change them both every other day as they grow to adult size. A 25 lb bag of food will last around two weeks once they get to adolescent size. Let them run outside as much as possible. Bugs are free food!

Chickens like to be let out early and will come home to roost around dusk. Once they are all inside, you will want to secure them for the night. This should keep them safe from raccoons, dogs, foxes, and other animals.

We have had some trouble with raccoons. People will trap them in the city and release them by our house. These animals can be very aggressive. I have had one growl at me through the screen door. We had a pack of three raccoons that I ended up having to trap and euthanize.

With any luck, August should roll around and you should have a dozen healthy, amusing animals running around. One morning while checking food and water, you will find a little egg in a small depression. The egg will be really small - it's called a pullet egg. It is fine to eat and will be followed by larger eggs. Our Rhode Island Reds consistently gave us double-yolked eggs and some triples!

Once you see the first egg, take your three 5-gallon buckets and fill them to the top with clean wood shavings and place them upright and out of the way (not under the roost) in the coop. They will use them for nesting boxes. You will need one bucket for four chickens. My chickens preferred buckets over the nesting boxes I built. The birds will kick out what they don't want. If they don't seem to be too interested, you can scoop out a couple of inches and make a small depression (like a nest). You will sometimes find three full size chickens squeezed into one bucket.

Check for eggs a little after you let them out in the morning and before you put them in for the night. At full production, you should get around 10 eggs/day. The eggs will keep in the refrigerator for 6 months - no joke. We put a basket in the fridge, and collected enough eggs to last until February. We also gave a lot away.

I find fresh eggs to be really strong so I let them sit in the fridge around 1 month and they start tasting like store bought eggs.

Final Disposition

Eggs are real nice to have, but with the cooler weather and shorter days that autumn brings, egg production will start waning. Once spring comes and the days get longer, they will molt their feathers and will not produce eggs until well into the summer.

Because we don't want to take care of chickens in the freezing winter as well as pay for heating and food when they aren't producing eggs, we butcher the entire flock around the beginning of November.

We have found a small farm that specializes in butchering poultry and rabbits. They charge about $1 per bird. I have done butchering in the past, but the mess is worth a dollar a bird. We drop the birds off Sunday night and pick up the meat Monday night.

The meat is very flavorful. It is, however, very easy to overcook as water (and who knows what else) is not injected into the meat. I recommend doing a slow-cook casserole-type dish.


One of the more difficult things to deal with is what to do with a sick or injured bird. Usually the most humane thing to do is quick euthanization. Often, if chicks are sick, they will succumb before you can do anything. Other times they will pop back and be fine. I don't usually euthanize a chick unless they have a broken leg or wing. The quickest solution is to wrap the body in a towel and decapitate quickly with a sharp knife. That is really the worst case scenario and I hate putting down chicks.

Decapitation is usually best for adult birds, too. Last year I had a rooster (sometimes you will get one even though you buy all hens) who broke his leg. He was limping around when I found him and you could see the bone trying to work it's way out of the skin. I quickly placed him in a paper grocery bag, dug a hole in the back lot and placed the bag in it. When I had summoned up enough guts, I opened the bag enough to let his head through. When he popped his head through, I popped it off with my .22 rifle (garden branch shears work well, too). He flopped around for a little while (hence the bag). Once he was done, I filled in the hole, went inside and cried.


Chickens are a very enjoyable animal to have around. The gentle clucking is very comforting to listen to and their antics are enjoyable to watch.

If you can stomach some of the unpleasantries involved, the chicken can provide a good source of healthy food for your family.


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o Never 1%
o Certainly 13%
o Too much work 8%
o I won't eat animals 8%
o Perhaps 19%
o I don't have enough land 26%
o Zoning restrictions 8%
o I'll just go to KFC 10%
o Get lost, hayseed 4%

Votes: 84
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o Also by PorcoRosso

Display: Sort:
Raising the Humble Chicken | 172 comments (148 topical, 24 editorial, 4 hidden)
Brilliant! +1 FP (1.05 / 18) (#6)
by undermyne on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 11:55:51 AM EST

"You're an asshole. You are the greatest troll on this site." Some nullo

Make editorial comments editorial [nt]. (none / 2) (#95)
by mcherm on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 08:55:58 AM EST

[ Parent ]
+1, this is great and you tell it well. [nt] (1.10 / 19) (#8)
by tzanger on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 12:42:47 PM EST

Make editorial comments editorial [nt]. (none / 2) (#96)
by mcherm on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 08:56:06 AM EST

[ Parent ]
+1 FP Excellent Article (1.08 / 24) (#13)
by haplopeart on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 01:08:13 PM EST

A very good article, I'll vote it up when it coes to it.
Bill "Haplo Peart" Dunn
Administrator Epithna.com

Very good article! (2.83 / 6) (#14)
by DoomHaven on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 01:22:06 PM EST

We used to raise chickens on the farm, but just kept them for 3 months or so for the meat. We never kept them for the eggs. We didn't do what you did, but I can understand what you are doing and why it works. Quite good :)

My bleeding edge comes from cutting myself on Occam's Razor.
Thanks :) (none / 2) (#17)
by PorcoRosso on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 01:34:22 PM EST

This is just based on what my experience has been. We had friends that just did eggs and sold the birds after 2 years. I always felt bad for the chickens as they were always caged indoors (400+ birds - stinky too).

Our first year wasn't so great - we ended up with one very lonely, frightened chicken at the end of the summer and no eggs :/ ... Last years batch was really fun, though.

They really are interesting animals and you can raise them on the cheap w/o much fuss and little to no stink.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Question on Chicken's Instincts (2.71 / 7) (#19)
by tzanger on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 01:49:43 PM EST

I live right off a 2-lane fairly busy highway (my front porch faces it, the house is about 30' back from the road) -- I'd like to do something similar (let them run around outside) but I'm concerned about them heading for the road.

The lot is about 150' deep, with the barn about middle of the lot with TONS of room between the house and barn and barn and back 40 (I am surrounded by grain fields on the other 3 sides) -- will the chickens stay away from the road?

nope - they're stupid (3.00 / 7) (#22)
by PorcoRosso on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:05:56 PM EST

Chickens are not bright animals. It seems that they tend to range farther and farther as they get older.  we had a problem with them going across the street (55 MPH countryish road) to the neighbors corn field near the last few weeks that we had them.

You would probably have luck building a pen for them, but fencing, etc. costs money.

You might be ok if you just get a meaty variety and keep them until they are "fryers" - I believe that is three months old. Or perhaps getting a smaller bantam variety which probably wouldn't range as far. Their eggs would be small, but still good, and you wouldn't get much meat from them.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Hmmm (none / 2) (#25)
by tzanger on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:14:13 PM EST

I was thinking more for meat, yes, but maybe keeping a couple around longer for the eggs.  

All in all, a great article.  I can't get "Chicken Run" out of my head, though.  :-)

[ Parent ]

they're fairly cheap ... (2.75 / 4) (#33)
by PorcoRosso on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:39:40 PM EST

try it ... maybe just get 4-6?

you will probably want to decide betwee a meat variety, an egg variety, or a dual purpose.

The meat variety is mostly a waddling meat sack and some that my sister had endedup being so heavy that a couple dislocated their hips. she should have had them butchered earlier.

The egg variety is usually pretty scrawny as all of the food energy goes into egg production.

I usually get dual-purpose varieties. Barred Rocks, and Rhode Island Reds. The Reds are ehat I think of when I think of a chicken - both personality-wise and appearance-wise.

The bantams are more of a "toy" bird, but I have seen egg varieties and meat varieties in catalogs,  so you may be able to find something to meet your needs. You might even look into quail?

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Yes they are stupid (none / 1) (#129)
by pyramid termite on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 08:17:19 PM EST

A long time ago, I had neighbors who raised chickens and didn't keep them penned up - not only would they cross the road, they'd hang around in our driveway. I would chase them back, but I had to keep at it and follow them all the way - the second I stopped chasing them, they'd forget about me and start wandering around aimlessly.

Further proof of chicken brainlessness is that they take a couple of minutes to figure out they're dead after you cut their heads off.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
I'm sure there's a joke here somewhere... (none / 2) (#101)
by Milo Minderbender on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 09:55:43 AM EST

This comment is for the good of the syndicate.
[ Parent ]
So the story in your diary... (2.66 / 6) (#20)
by Fon2d2 on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 01:58:37 PM EST

What happened to those chickens? Did only one end up coming back after the raccoons attacked?

only one returned (3.00 / 6) (#21)
by PorcoRosso on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:00:20 PM EST

It was very sad ... we fed her and let her have the run of the garage. She would peck at her reflection in the basement window glass.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
we raised chickens growing up (2.85 / 28) (#26)
by circletimessquare on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:15:37 PM EST

  1. it's pretty neat to go out the coop, get an egg and fry it... it's also pretty neat to find the odd double or triple nucleus egg... or the um, odd fertilized one (see that little red glob in your omelette? ;-P )
  2. i had to mow the lawn once... the mower hit a rock, the rock went flying out at light speed, and hit the rooster square in the head... the rooster's head plopped to the side, dead, but the body ran around for a good fifteen minutes completely autonomously own until we caught it and put it out of it's misery
  3. roosters are evil pieces of shit to hens... their day consists of strutting around, and occasionally chasing, mounting, raping and lashing with it's beak into the hen's back until the hen is bleeding profusely... sated, the rooster nonchalantly struts away... rpeat ad nauseum all day
  4. when i was 2 years old (this is recounted by my mom) i took a little play toy tomahawk and went playing in the bushes, where the chickens scratch out little cooling pits in the dirt... there i came face to face with howard, the maddest baddest rooster in the flock... he looked at me, i looked at him, and i promptly thwacked him on the head with my toy tomahawk... the next 15 minutes consisted of me being chased and pecked and wing thrashed by a rooster all over the lawn... yes, folks, i, circletimessquare, was raped by a chicken at a tender age ;-P
  5. i was in the philippines for a month in january of this year... there i watched for the first time in my life, a genuine rural sabong, or cockfight, popular throughout rural southeast asia (where domesticated chickens are from in human history, btw)... the first rooster began taunting the second profusely, the second took dim notice of it, then suddenly reared up, and slashed the first one's throat completely, and the first promptly bled to death on the spot... the second calmly strutted away like nothing had happened (they attach razor sharp barbs to the rooster's feet)... now that's a badass rooster

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

LOL PWNT BY ROOSTERS [nt] (1.33 / 12) (#35)
by James A C Joyce on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:41:38 PM EST

I bought this account on eBay
[ Parent ]

How odd (1.43 / 16) (#28)
by godix on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:18:16 PM EST

A giant pig talking about chickens. I feel like I just walked into Animal Farm.

Thank god I'm worth more than SilentChris

It's interesting (none / 0) (#75)
by godix on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 11:30:00 PM EST

to note that just by the ratings I could take a healty guess as to who's an anime fan and who isn't...

Thank god I'm worth more than SilentChris

[ Parent ]
chickens (2.00 / 5) (#31)
by eudas on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:29:07 PM EST

chickens have a really annoying habit of making noise under your window at 6am, whether male or female. being male just makes it worse, as they crow every 30 seconds at nothing at all.

chickens are funny, but can be pretty fuckin' irritating, too.

"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat

depends on the breed [n/t] (none / 2) (#34)
by PorcoRosso on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:40:58 PM EST

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
which breeds are quiet? [nt] (none / 1) (#63)
by Fuzzwah on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 08:18:48 PM EST


The best a human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. - God's Debris
[ Parent ]

Reds and Barred Rocks (none / 2) (#87)
by PorcoRosso on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 07:10:52 AM EST

Have been pretty quiet. My sister had cornish hems - they "honked" all the time - wierd birds.

I think the fact that we close them up in the coop at night and don't let them out til we wake up helps too. They don't get to see daylight until we are ready for them to ...

All in all, though, I would get the Rhode Island Reds again - the Barred Rocks seem skiddish.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Quick question (2.80 / 5) (#32)
by GenerationY on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:31:12 PM EST

Excellent article by the way.

Is it the case that a chicken is a chicken is a chicken, or are certain breeds better/easier to live with than others? I'm a suburbanite myself so I most confess that I know nothing about these sorts of issues. I'm just imaging turning up to buy "some chicks" and being asked "what type?" and not having a clue like if I went into a pub asked for "a pint of beer" or a "single measure of spirits" etc.

google them ... (3.00 / 7) (#37)
by PorcoRosso on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:46:57 PM EST

there are many different varieties. I have direct experience with Cornish hens (stupid, loud destructive - butcher after 3 months), Barred Rock hens (quiet, skiddish), and Rhode Island Reds (I like them. They have that nice cluck without the loudness) ... My sister just got some bantams for her kids (bantams are miniatures) and they seem real nice and gentle.

Here's a link to a chart. I try to get a differet breed every year. Generally you have meat, egg, and dual-purpose varieties ... the Reds are dual purpose - good egg production and you still get some meat off them.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Well I would (2.50 / 4) (#44)
by GenerationY on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 05:15:47 PM EST

but I wanted to know what you thought given you'd written an article about them :-) Cheers!

[ Parent ]
ah - you want an opinion (3.00 / 4) (#45)
by PorcoRosso on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 05:32:37 PM EST

I like the Rhode Island Reds ... They are easy to get ahold of, have a good disposition, lay well, and give a fair amount of meat.

If you are cramped for space (1-2 acres or less), you would probably have good luck with the various bantam breeds. I don't have much experience with them, but you can get decent layers (baby eggs), a little bit of meat (probably around 2-5 lbs/bird?), or just something pretty to look at.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Darn. Sorry PorcoRosso (none / 1) (#53)
by GenerationY on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 06:27:53 PM EST

This should of been a topical comment thread to retain your answers properly. Anyway, thanks for answering my query (twice!) really useful info. My parents are very, very vaguely considering it atm (don't know if anything will come of it to be honestn but still).

[ Parent ]
Awww you admins guys! (none / 2) (#64)
by GenerationY on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 08:30:58 PM EST


[ Parent ]
I'd love to keep chickens ... (none / 2) (#49)
by alby on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 05:59:47 PM EST

... but there is a forest nearby and a huge urban fox problem. Is there a really fierce breed out there? Or are the foxes gonna win every time? My godparents are farmers and even they can't manage to construct something that'll keep a determined fox out.

[ Parent ]

We have foxes too ... (none / 2) (#54)
by PorcoRosso on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 06:30:52 PM EST

in our neck of the woods, they tend to be very nocturnal (although raccoons are supposed to be, too and we had them sniffing around around 6 pm). I made sure our coop was basically a sealed plywood box. I covered the vent windows with ½" poultry wire mesh and then a layer of metal screen to keep out the insects.

If you are good about closing them up at dusk and install a secure latch, you should be able to keep the critters at bay - ymmv.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Wimps (none / 0) (#94)
by spasticfraggle on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 08:45:21 AM EST

If you want to beat the foxes, it's easy. You just have to be ready to take it to the next level.

Unless you have scary-ass foxes of course. Then I can only recommend they nuke [*] their farm from orbit.


[*] Hold on, there's someone kicking at the door.

I'm the straw that broke the camel's back!
[ Parent ]

Chickens are great! (3.00 / 7) (#76)
by Deagol on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 12:23:58 AM EST

As someone who has raised chickens for 4 years now, I'll share my family's experience.

After 3 batches of birds (ordered as chicks in spring of 2001, 2003, and 2003), our preferred breeds are Red Star (Rhode Island Red / Leghorn cross, IIRC), American Araucana ("Americana"), and White Leghorn.

Your Leghorns are pretty much your industry standard white egg layers. They faithfully lay one good-sized egg per day until they reach about 2 years, then it suddenly trickles down a couple of eggs a week. They're scrawny, skittish, and "dumb as dirt" (as my wife likes to say), and they forage poorly -- egg-production is their only good quality.

The Red Stars lay beautiful, huge brown eggs. They're good-sized, fairly-meaty birds, with good temperment. These are my family's favorite breed. Our first Red Star is still laying fairly reliably, even going into her 3rd summer of laying.

Our Americanas are great little sturdy birds. They forage very well. They don't lay as frequently, but they tend to lay more steadily throughout the year, where the other two breeds slow down quite a bit in the winter. Plus, they lay green eggs, which is pretty cool. Our Americanas tend to be the most broody of our hens, probably because they haven't had that trait bred out of them as much as more canonical American breeds. If we had to pick a single breed, we'd pick the Americanas. Like out first Red Star, our first Americana is still laying pretty regularly in her 3rd season.

About the other breeds we've had... The first year, we raised a batch of meat birds (don't remember the breed -- cornish rock, maybe), but we didn't get eggs from those. :) We've also raised Rhode Island Reds, Black Star, and Black Australorps.

The latter 3 breeds listed were okay layers, but the eggs were small(er) than the 3 we prefer (except the Aruacanas). Thinking they had some relation to the Red Stars, we had high hopes for the Black Stars. They were smaller and didn't lay nearly as good as the Red Stars. The Black Australorps are a hefty breed, which made for a fair amount of meat when we decided they're eggs were too small. The Rhode Island Reds were well-tempered, layed like clockwork, but the size was too small. My father, after being inspired by my family, got himself 6 of the Rhode Island Reds, and he loves 'em.

Anyone who's interested in chickens should check out McMurray Hatchery, the place where we ordered our very first batch. They have a great site, and an informative catalog (both their online and dead-tree format).

The first 2 years we had our hens hidden behind our house (relative to the street) in a stationary pen on a 1/8-acre lot in an urban neighborhood less than a mile from the Utah state capital building. I'm certain our area wasn't zoned for animals. :)

For the past 2 years, we've lived on a half-acre in a small rural town, zoned for animals. My wife built a "chicken tractor" -- a mobile pen which is moved to a new spot in the yeard each day during the warm months, when there's grass to graze on. Google on "patured poultry" for the benefits of such a practice.

So long as the hens' roost is semi-enclosed (wind and rain protection, mostly), they do fine in our area all winter without supplementary heat. Simply adding light (we added a 15-watt compact flourescent our first 2 years) will keep most chickens laying well all year round. However, we deicided to "give 'em a break" in the fall/winter months, so we have enough birds to provide enough eggs even through the winter.

If nothing else, chickens make great little pets, ridding the yard of bugs and weeds, amusing as hell to just sit and watch. Plus you get eggs.

We've started raising rabbits for meat (which I'll disagree with the OP and say are far cheaper in the long run to keep), and we recently bought a small, bred Jersey cow (for milk and meat).

For the health conscious, raising your own food is a great idea. For kids, I think it's healthy that they know where food comes from (a living creature we must respect, not the local grocery chain) and that they know full well that these animals live and die for our benefit.

Don't let my opinion of breeds swap you too much. I'm sure the hatchery you get them from affects the qualities even among the same breed. If you want to try, order from a good mail-order place, and order a bunch of varieties for your first year. See how they work for your siutation, then cull the ones you don't want, and order the ones you like the next year and stick with them.

Hrmmmm... that post got a little long-winded. :)

[ Parent ]

any chance ... (none / 2) (#88)
by PorcoRosso on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 07:17:47 AM EST

of going into cheap ways to do rabbits?

I have recurring nightmares of carrying festering 5-gallon buckets of rabbit $#!+ out to the back yard every Saturday <<shudder>> ... it was great when you'd stumble and some of it would slop over on your pants.

I also remember the mother's chewing the babies legs off ... I guess that can be mitigated with some raw bacon placed in the hutch.

I remember seeing a PBS program with this farmer who would raise chickens and rabbits together in am arched greenhouse structure over the winter. The rabbits would be caged off the ground and the birds allowed to roam. He would save money b/c the  chickens loved to scratch through the rabbit poop and the kicked-out food.

Once spring hit, I think he would butcher the chickens and rabbits and move the greenhouse. Then he would pen it and toss a pig in for the summer. I think in late fall, hed butcher the pig and plant there the next spring ... I guess all of the farmers near by wouldn't believe that he didn't use chemicals on the crops he raised.

Supposedly he had a brisk business selling organic meat/produce to the restaurants. I could never find anything more about it ... I think he was in the northeast (like Vermont) or something.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Cheap organic meat & eggs (none / 2) (#114)
by Deagol on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 01:11:40 PM EST

any chance of going into cheap ways to do rabbits?

My wife is the expert on this, as she's been researching rabbits for a few years, in preparation of breeding angora rabbits. However, based on the few rabbits that we have (one breeding pair of your generic 5-to-7 lb domestc rabbit, and one breeding pair of angoras), feed and caging requirements are pretty darned cheap. I can't really break it down, as we haven't logged the costs all that carefully. However, comparing our 4 rabbit to our original 4 hens, food is slightly cheaper per 50-lb bag, at least in my area. It's about $7 for small timothy/alfalfa pellets, vs $8-to-$10 for hen scratch or lay mash/pellets (depending on protein content in the lay ration), plus we buy crushed oyster shell for calcium supplementation, but that's cheap and goes much longer than the actual feed.

Breeds like German Angora or Brittish Giant can get 8-to-12 pounds! The trick in efficient meat breeding is to get a very large breed, then slaughter at just-weaned age. Sure, the mother's feed consumption goes up as she nurses her litter, but it's much cheaper than raising smaller rabbit breeds to the same slaughtering size with feed. With the giant breeds, you'll get around 10 "fryer" sized rabbits in 8-to-12 weeks with little feed investment.

Note to the faint-of-heart... I find killing rabbits much more difficult than chickens, both the mechanichs of it (larger, stronger, harder to subdue) as well as the emotional toll. However, a swift blow to the head with a mallet does them in, then you hang them by their feet and either cut the throat to bleed them or remove the head entirely (easier said than done -- much thicker necks than poultry).

Of course, some of the above is still in the theory stages, as we haven't found a local source of these large rabbits yet -- shipping rabbits is prohibitively expensive. We just raise our generic large breed rabbits to maturity then slaughter them.

Also keep in mind that we are masters at recycling and maximizing use of everything we own. Most of our breeds are multi-purpose. The angora rabbits yield wool and meat, the chickens eggs and meat, andd the cow will give milk and meat from the calf. My wife's an avid gardener, so the manure from all three critters is worth its weight in gold. We also supplement our chicken's feed with grazing the lawn, table/cooking scraps, grass clippings and weeds from the garden. Our rabbits eagerly await their daily routine of getting an entire dandelion plant (roots, leaves, and flowers) for each of them -- good for ridding the yard of weeds. Rather than mow down all of the tall spring grass that's cropping up around the edge of the yard and garden, we take garden shears and cut down maybe 5 lbs of the stuff and feed it to our cow, who doesn't have any pasture (only high-quality hay). The chickens like fresh-cut grass, too. The average yard is full of free food for you and your critters, if you know where to look: dendelion, chicory, mallow, lamb's quarters (a form of amaranth, I believe) are just a few. But know what you're doing. For example, "miner's lettuce", which looks a lot like dandelion, is toxic to rabbits.

I guess it all depends on what you're willing to put into your critters, too. Our first chicken "coop" was built with 4 5-foot metal T-posts in a square, chicken wire wrapped around them, then using the 6-foot-diameter kiddie pool we used to brood them in the basement with for a top. Cost was maybe $20. Our chicken tractor cost around $200 to build, due to the cost of lumber and the wheels. Rabbits, like chickens, just need to be kept dry and out of the wind, so their caging requirements aren't all that demanding.

BTW, check out this random site for some rabbit breeds.

If I'm right, the guy on PBS was Joel Salatin, owner/operator of Polyface Farm in Virginia. He's written four execelent books (search for him on Amazon by author), the title Pastured Poultry Profits being the one which inspired my wife to construct her "chicken tractor".

Again, if anyone's into this stuff (don't be afraid to try this stuff on a discreet small scale in the suburbs -- screw the zoning, raising your own food should be a basic right!), there are great resources out there. Our favorites are 2 magazines (Countyside Magazine and Backwoods Home Magazine) and the book The Encyclopedia of Country Living, which my wife and I like to call "the great big book of everything" (anyone with kids will probably catch this reference to a decent kid's learning program). We've learned about 80% of what we know from these sources, another 10% from the local library, and the rest from just jumping in and doing it.

Sorry for such longs posts in this thread, but I do get such joy out of this stuff -- and I love sharing my (still-green) knowledge and encouraging people to try some of this stuff. I wish I knew of a quality blog focusing on this topic.

[ Parent ]

excellent! (none / 0) (#117)
by PorcoRosso on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 01:44:22 PM EST

Thanks ... I have been trying to find out more on that guy for quite some time.

Butchering rabbits is not fun. I took a job when I was 15 butchering rabbits. I lasted one day. I could do it if it was the only way for me to eat. I have someone else do my butchering. We would karate chop them on the back of the neck to knock them cold. Your hand would be sore by the end of the day.

I will look more into your suggestions and probably pick up some rabbits at the fair this August.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
I'll second the Ameraucanas (plus some tips) (none / 0) (#115)
by Trevasel on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 01:11:53 PM EST

More info:

We also have Rhode Island Reds and the Ameraucanas are not nearly so stupid (although they couldn't be construed as smart by any means), they're nice-looking birds, and ours have been laying for three years.

It is important to check for eggs at least twice a day, or more often in hot weather (I live in Texas, and we check three or four times a day in the summer). Learn how to tell a rancid egg from a good one (a simple but not perfect method is to see if the egg floats. Float = bad, sink = good. This actually measures the amount of evaporation from the egg, but this typically correlates with the amount of time since the egg has been laid.) Otherwise google for 'egg candling'. You can always just crack each egg individually into a cup before using it and see if it smells alright. You probably won't have quite so much to worry about i f you live in a cooler climate.

Older hens will lay larger eggs -- the quality is still the same, but the shells will be thinner.

Make sure you store your eggs in an odor-free environment, or they will pick up the odors.
-- That which does not kill you only makes you stranger - Trevor Goodchild
[ Parent ]

Layers (2.75 / 4) (#36)
by tzanger on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:42:46 PM EST

I've been doing some research (and talking to my mom, who raised chickens for a few years) -- It seems that chickens take 26 weeks to get into the laying phase, and another 2 or so to get into the regular "egg-a-day" routine...  Are Rhode Island Reds that much different that you can have enough eggs for 6 solid months with a growing season of only 7 months?

It seems that if you get them in March and they're in the freezer by November they'd be hardly laying by the time they went to that big roost in the sky.

dunno (none / 2) (#38)
by PorcoRosso on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:53:50 PM EST

We got the Reds March 17th and had our 1st egg the beginning of the second week of August. It wasn't until the end of August that everyone was laying regularly. Everything I've read says 18-20 weeks but I guess it must vary between breeds. Our barred rocks never laid.

By September, we were getting 8-10 eggs/day. October and November, we usually got 10-12 a day. We had them butchered just before Thanksgiving.

Say 10 eggs/day in Sep, Oct, Nov: 91 x 10 = 910 eggs (Adding the Aug count to the end of Nov) ... that's a lot of eggs.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
You can (none / 0) (#50)
by puppet10 on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 06:19:45 PM EST

Supposedly you can store eggs without refrigeration in a cool area in waterglass - Recipe

Haven't done it but with the number of eggs you're getting it may be worthwhile looking into it.

[ Parent ]

figures (none / 1) (#51)
by puppet10 on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 06:23:28 PM EST

I found a better link approximately 10 seconds after posting :)

[ Parent ]
how many chickens (none / 0) (#91)
by speek on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 08:26:56 AM EST

I must've the part where you said exactly how many chickens you had. 900 eggs would feed me for a year.

al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

a dozen [n/t] (none / 1) (#92)
by PorcoRosso on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 08:29:39 AM EST

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
The economics of chickens in first-edition D&D (2.89 / 19) (#39)
by Conspir8or on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 02:56:14 PM EST

A friend of mine once related the tale of how he, even a a mere 10-year-old, applied the power of monopoly economics to his ongoing Dungeons & Dragons game.

During character generation, he had gotten several score gold pieces. While scrutinizing the equipment lists, he noticed in the livestock category that chickens were only something like 2 copper pieces each. Not sure how the conversion ratio is in 3.5 D&D, but in 1st-ed it was 200 copper = 1 gold. So he had thousands of copper pieces.

His plan was to buy up ALL the chickens in town, at two cp a head, and thus become the only source of chickens. He could thus charge well over 2 cp per bird. His exact quote to the Dungeon Master was, "I could corner the chicken market!"

For decades thereafter, when this player exerted excess munchkinism, we would accuse him of "cornering the chicken market."

I enjoyed the article and hope it corners the front-page-vote market.

If I remember right (none / 2) (#43)
by IHCOYC on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 04:35:47 PM EST

1 gold piece currently equals 100 coppers. GodDAMN creeping decimalism!
Nisi mecum concubueris, phobistę vicerint.
   --- Catullus
[ Parent ]
that sounds right (none / 0) (#55)
by mikpos on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 06:53:00 PM EST

I don't know if we played by the full rules, but for 1st edition (and 2nd edition), we played by (IIRC) 1 platinum = 5 gold; 1 gold = 2 electrum; 1 electrum = 5 silver; 1 silver = 10 copper.

In any case, I remember generally setting up some sort of ludicrously impossible business every now and then. e.g., (I don't know if this actually happened, but may have), someone finds some tome or other magical item to grant them superhuman cooking powers, and so between adventures buy up millions of eggs and sell magic omelettes for enormous mark-up to rake in some extra coin.

[ Parent ]

pp (none / 0) (#56)
by eudas on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 06:54:20 PM EST

don't worry, IIRC 5 gold = 1 platinum still.
but there's no more electrum.

"We're placing this wood in your ass for the good of the world" -- mrgoat
[ Parent ]

BEST COMMENT EVAR! (nt) (none / 1) (#59)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 07:56:47 PM EST

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown
[ Parent ]
You missed a trick: (3.00 / 7) (#79)
by Kasreyn on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 01:09:14 AM EST


You're welcome.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
=1 fp, an important topic. (1.63 / 22) (#47)
by rmg on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 05:44:45 PM EST

as a culture, we often take our chicken mcnuggets and egg mcmuffins for granted. we forget the source of these delicious, family-oriented foods and in so doing, we forget our connection to our roots. we were all once agricultural people who tilled the earth and made our livelihoods upon its bounty. we once got our chicken and eggs out of our own front yard. now we our chicken comes from cookie cutters at mcdonalds.

it is important that we learn about our agricultural heritage. with a republican victory a virtual certainty this november, we will need our ancestors' skills to survive in the post-apocalyptic wasteland our generation will inherit. world war three is a inevitable and is sure to be the bloodiest, most radioactive war our world has ever seen.

chickens will surely play an important role in the aftermath. their resistance to radiation is legend in the ukraine. folklore also tells of the suitability of mutant chickens for mobile shelter. these chicken houses were supposedly able to achieve speeds of 45 miles per hour on the open road and with fuel efficiency of some 97 city miles per child.

print this article and keep it well! it may be your only salvation!


dave dean

rmg, I'm concerned... (none / 1) (#69)
by gilrain on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 10:08:35 PM EST

I feel like your posts have been going downhill recently? Are you sick? Or perhaps you have hired cheap, Mexican labor to replace you while you take a vacation. I'm not sure of the cause, but I am sure I don't like it. I used to look forward to rmg and rmg ninja posts, but now they are leaving me unsatisfied and hunting for better.

Get well soon,


P.S. Don't make me look to James A C Joyce for solace -- but don't think I won't if you keep up these poor posts!

[ Parent ]

these? (none / 0) (#70)
by rmg on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 10:20:39 PM EST

in my opinion, this has been my only low quality post in some time.


dave dean
[ Parent ]

Huh. (none / 0) (#72)
by gilrain on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 10:35:12 PM EST

Really, I could have sworn there was another one that was bothering me. Can't find it now. But, uh, one is enough to ruin a reputation, you know?

[ Parent ]
I remember now... (none / 0) (#73)
by gilrain on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 10:39:53 PM EST

It was the comment where a troll was like "I don't like this article so I'm posting this..." and it was a hugely long bit of something I didn't bother to read. I voted 0 on it, and I really try to avoid that. But it was really an artless, unamusing troll. I thought it was you, but maybe it was Joyce or someone. It sucked.

[ Parent ]
yeah, (none / 0) (#74)
by rmg on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 10:55:39 PM EST

that was joyce. i can't vouch for the quality of his work.

i will say that there is actually another of my recent comments which i was not particularly happy with, but i won't say which one.


dave dean
[ Parent ]

Catching a chicken (3.00 / 9) (#52)
by imrdkl on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 06:25:13 PM EST

Can be real problem if there's open area with things to run behind. Even if you clip a wing, they can get airborn in a snit, enough to outrun just about anyone. They're not impossible to catch, but they can be damn evasive. The trick, if you're near someplace with hay-bales, is to grab some baling wire, double it over so you have length about 4 ft., then bend a short (6-8") hook at the folded end. Flatten the hook at the end so it's as wide a chicken leg (1/4-1/2"), and open the rest of the hook up like a V. The resultant hook looks something like a funnel, then.

Take this contraption, approach the bird slowly, and slip the V in front of it's leg, and pull back gently to snare the leg in the narrow end. Wah-la, you've got your bird, and you don't look like an idiot chasing it around the farm (or backyard, or wherever)

Good story, btw.

Suggest using your brain (none / 2) (#65)
by blakdogg on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 08:35:42 PM EST

We raised chickens, and I recall catching them being a bit easier. They are not the smartest animals, and they are not that scared of people. The majority would roost outside the backdoor when it became dark, from which they were picked up and taken to the pen with minimal fuss. In cases where someone decides to roost I would advise patience, or cutting off the angles.

Woe be onto the United Nations, there nothing but a front.
[ Parent ]
Perhaps you are smarter (none / 2) (#82)
by imrdkl on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 03:49:21 AM EST

Or perhaps you simply have more time to waste.

[ Parent ]
lovely, except the euthanasia is weird (3.00 / 8) (#58)
by livus on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 07:54:52 PM EST

and kinda "cruel and unusual" - I mean, burying it in a hole with its head sticking out ?! And then shooting it?! Jesu. Unless you belong to the Viet Cong, I'm not seeing the attraction to doing this.

If you grab it and force its head under its wing, within a short space of time it will calm right down and then it will fall asleep. Then you can kill it without the body flopping about. The best way is to break the neck, though if you prefer you can sort of put the whole sleeping bird on a block and sever the neck with an axe or something. Much more humane.

The other thing I would add is that it's much easier to buy the chickens with their mother, that way they stay warm and protected and can be taught basics by the parent bird.

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

Not really .... (none / 1) (#61)
by PorcoRosso on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 08:05:14 PM EST

It was in a paper grocery bag placed in the hole. That way I didn't have it flopping or bleeding all over the place. No attraction, it just needed done.

Have you ever tried to force a chicken's head under its wing?

Even if it is asleep, it will still flop. Cutting it's neck will get blood everywhere. Blowing it's brains out is instantaneous. The bag keeps it under control and then you just fill in the hole when everything is done. I've not found a cleaner/quicker method - I never said it was tasteful.

BTW - I have never seen chicks sold with the mother. My understanding is that hens that go broody are fairly rare any more - it isn't a desirable trait for the big processors. The breeder would be loathe to lose such a hen.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Stepford Chickens?! (none / 2) (#80)
by livus on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 02:47:06 AM EST

Of course I have forced their heads under their wings. Why would I give advice I wouldn't follow?

"My understanding is that hens that go broody are fairly rare any more - it isn't a desirable trait for the big processors."

Woah. It's perfectly normal here. I think you just live in a different part of the world to me. A creepy, artificial, alien part of the world!

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

Whatever works (none / 3) (#77)
by Deagol on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 12:44:11 AM EST

I've tried simply breaking the neck, chopping the head clean off, and slitting the throat.

In my experience, binding a chicken's feet together, hanging it upsidedown from a nail on a tree, then quickly slitting the throat and letting it bleed was by far the least traumatic on both myself and the bird. They don't flop as much (they will flop about no matter what you do, short of tying them down), and they just seem to go down more peacefully.

Never occured to me to use my .22 on one, though.

Trust me -- it's not fun, and I hate doing it. But the goal is to do it as humanely as possible, and I do the best I can. But it needs to be done at times (for meat or for mercey), so you just gotta roll up your sleeves and take care of business.

My wife and I have a deal. I dispatch the birds, and she dresses them for the freezer/stockpot/oven.

And I must say that baby chicks are the most instinct-driven creatures I've ever known. They pop out of the shell (or box, in our case) just knowing what to do. Dip their beaks in water once to show them where it is, then they're off on their own. They eat, scratch, and instinctively go after any small, moving object they see (toss a cricket into a brooder with week-old chicks and watch the hilarity ensue). I'd say that, except for the need for artificial heat, baby chickens don't need Mom at all.

[ Parent ]

Hmm, I've never tried that method (none / 2) (#81)
by livus on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 02:51:33 AM EST

it sounds a bit like Chicken Bondage but if it works... might give it a go next time. You definately get the best part of your deal with your wife.

You have a point about chickens (the babies I mean)   , but I can't imagine having to deal with a whole heap of the little things by myself. I'm just old fashioned. I knew a hen once that wouldn't roost (in trees), had no common sense, just went to sleep on the wet ground, and everyone said it was because it had never been "taught". Maybe it was just retarded or something.

HIREZ substitute.
be concrete asshole, or shut up. - CTS
I guess I skipped school or something to drink on the internet? - lonelyhobo
I'd like to hope that any impression you got about us from internet forums was incorrect. - debillitatus
I consider myself trolled more or less just by visiting the site. HollyHopDrive

[ Parent ]

chicken executions (3.00 / 5) (#140)
by bloodnose on Sat May 01, 2004 at 03:54:35 PM EST

method we used:

place chicken neck on a stump. use a small rope to loop around the head to pull it out, and have a friend hold it taut. this prevents you chopping your thumb off. hatchet = chop.

burly (non-internet) troll method. grab a chicken by the head and swing it around until it flies off. you can do two chickens at once in opposing rotational swings with this method and soon your yard will be covered with brainless chickens running around with geysers of blood spurting out of them.

// too bad this comment is staler than 2 days, so no one will see this comment.

[ Parent ]
lol... This is great (2.25 / 4) (#60)
by Run4YourLives on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 08:03:57 PM EST

What a great article to read before I go home... I know you're not trying to be funny, but I've been chuckling here since I started...

I question though.. Where do you live, city suburb or rural area? I'm assuming suburb, but just wanted to check...

Great original article on something you have first hand knowledge of.

It's slightly Japanese, but without all of that fanatical devotion to the workplace. - CheeseburgerBrown

Semi-rural, turning into suburbs (none / 3) (#62)
by PorcoRosso on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 08:08:42 PM EST

It used to be all farms (10 years ago), but it's quickly being eaten up by allotments. There is still a 30 acre farm across the street and a 150 acre farm a little ways down. Otherwise, everything is split into 2-5 acre lots.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Better Idea (2.00 / 4) (#66)
by kaboom108 on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 08:39:08 PM EST

Good article, but I suggest practicing with Harvest Moon before you raise real chickens.

I'm loving HM:AWL (none / 1) (#71)
by gilrain on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 10:25:40 PM EST

I was surprised the poster didn't mention the necessity the snuggling your chickens every day. He won't be seeing a golden egg anytime soon! And remember: don't keep more than six in your second year, or you'll miss out on keeping ducks.

But seriously: I loved the article. I would say this is the best thing on K5 in months and months. Very refreshing. :)

[ Parent ]

roosters (2.46 / 15) (#67)
by horny smurf on Thu Apr 29, 2004 at 08:50:22 PM EST

if you have roosters, you can chop off their nuts (when they're young) to get capons. Also, you can charge your neighbors to watch them fight and make extra cash on the side.

Depending on your neighbors, you could also make a few extra bucks renting out your hens by the hour.

Renting those whore chickens out... (none / 0) (#105)
by tap dancing lenin puppet on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 11:00:41 AM EST

Depending on your neighbors, you could also make a few extra bucks renting out your hens by the hour.

But what if your neighbours prefer their chickens frozen? kuro5hin.org].

[ Parent ]

Heh. (2.83 / 6) (#78)
by Kasreyn on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 01:08:27 AM EST

I find fresh eggs to be really strong so I let them sit in the fridge around 1 month and they start tasting like store bought eggs.

So now we know how long it takes the system to get them to us.

Good read, +1.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
what a good idea... (none / 3) (#83)
by dimaq on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 05:09:28 AM EST

if you have a cat!:)

adult chickens will peck the hell out of a cat n/t (none / 1) (#85)
by PorcoRosso on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 07:00:17 AM EST

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
then perhaps you should have a lynx. or a fox. (none / 0) (#109)
by dimaq on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 12:04:15 PM EST

[ Parent ]
eggs only (none / 3) (#84)
by kerp on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 06:46:58 AM EST

my parents decided to get 8 chickens for eggs only.  2 were roosters, so we swapped them for rhode island reds (much different personalities than the previous breed (not sure what they were... white with black spots on their neck/back)).  anyway, we used them for eggs only.  they survived for 4/5 years - laying almost constantly.  we had a light installed in their pen to keep them laying during the wintertime.  fantastic fun.

Thank-you (1.00 / 29) (#86)
by unmovic on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 07:02:47 AM EST

Too often, people claim that they're don't eat meat only because they think giant factory farms are cruel to the animals.  Thank-you for writing this to expose the fact that even smalltime operations are incredibly cruel.

(By the way, the next time you do this, use a better  excuse to make it look like you actually support cruelty!  Saying you're doing it because homegrown chicken is safer than storebought chicken is obvious hogwash, as stores do multiple safety checks while homegrowers do none!)

Let me guess - you're a PETA member? [nt] (none / 3) (#89)
by bgarcia on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 07:38:18 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Not a good guess. (none / 1) (#93)
by unmovic on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 08:40:53 AM EST

If you had read my comment and knew anything about PETA, you'd realise that guess wasn't a very good one. I know that keeping animals is inherently wrong. PETA knows this too, but they often use an argument they don't even really believe: that FACTORY FARMING, with all its BLATANT and OBVIOUS cruely, is somehow especially wrong. While this may be an easier argument to promote, as it's much less radical, it's intellectually dishonest because it doesn't actually represent PETA's beliefs. Not to mention it's wrong.

[ Parent ]
Did you know (none / 2) (#102)
by wiredog on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 10:03:10 AM EST

that chickens really do run around with their heads cut off? Funny as all get out to watch.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
I'll bite (none / 2) (#98)
by anno1602 on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 08:57:51 AM EST

Fully aware of replying to a troll, I ask: What part of the article would you call "cruel"?
"Where you stand on an issue depends on where you sit." - Murphy
[ Parent ]
If god did not want us to eat animals, (none / 2) (#111)
by nlscb on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 12:32:39 PM EST

he would not have made them taste so good.

Comment Search has returned - Like a beaten wife, I am pathetically grateful. - mr strange
[ Parent ]

I agree (none / 2) (#128)
by Lockle on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 06:41:37 PM EST

And if god didn't want us killing the animals so easily, he wouldn't have given us trigger fingers :-)

[ Parent ]
And if god had wanted Americans to live... (none / 2) (#134)
by Ayn Rand the Objectivist on Sat May 01, 2004 at 03:27:17 AM EST

he would not have created obesity and heart disease.

[ Parent ]
Read this (none / 0) (#164)
by egeland on Wed May 05, 2004 at 12:15:30 AM EST


Some interesting quotes
[ Parent ]
As if your average chicken ... (none / 1) (#130)
by pyramid termite on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 08:32:39 PM EST

... is smart enough to give a damn. Free clue - they aren't.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Isnt death almost always painful? (none / 2) (#142)
by tilly on Sat May 01, 2004 at 05:56:07 PM EST

I mean my death and yours will likely be a nasty affair, too!

So, I think, without being certain about it, that the animal rights movement should be concentrating on making the lives of livestock less miserable rather than taking on the quixotic task of convincing people to become vegetarians.

I dont feel morally comfortable at all about eating meat and I do not eat mammalians. But I find it very hard to diet and to keep weight off without the lean proteins provided by chicken and fish.

If the chicken is allowed to be a chicken and enjoy its life on the grass, doesnt she have it as good as any of us? So, at least, I tell myself.

[ Parent ]

A few suggestions (3.00 / 14) (#90)
by willie on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 08:15:35 AM EST

I've raised chickens (or chooks as we call 'em here in Australia) since I can remember, and I this article reminded me of what it used to be like.

As a kid, my parents bought me some as a present, and it because my primary source of income for many years.

For anyone who is doing this for money or wants to be as cost-effective as possible, here are some things to consider:

Don't buy day-old chicks, buy point-of-lay (18 weeks). Buy them at the start of May (in the southern hemisphere at least), and replace your flock every year at the same time - resist the temptation to keep your flock for longer, even if they are doing alright.

Make sure their beak is clipped, or they'll peck at various things (like their own eggs or other chooks). This has to be done at day-old, so don't buy them if it's not done.

Clip their wings if you have trouble keeping them down, but eventually you will forget and the feathers will grow back. A better solution is have a yard with a 1.5-2m (depending on the breed) high fence and keep them in there. This also helps keep them away from danger or other things.
It's still worth shutting them in a sperate area at night to keep predators (we have foxes here) away.

The best breed I have found to be the "Isabrown", which will give nice dark brown eggs, although they require slightly more protein in their food (which is a little more expensive). We consistenly get 70+ gm eggs from our entire flock.

Buy the right food for your breed. Different breeds have different requirements. We get food from the supplier of the chooks. It's cheaper and it's the right type for the breed.

If you are going to eat the chickens when you are finished with them, they are really only good for soup. You'll need to buy a different breen, feed them differently and raise the differently if you are expecting to enjoy a decent tasty meal of chicken.

Buy "shell grit" and sprinkle some around the floor of where-ever you keep them, they will peck at it and it will strengthen their eggs. Some straw on the floor is usually preferable as well, the droppings get spread out and can be used as fertiliser.

The easiest way to kill the bird if you aren't planning to eat them, is to grab their head in one hand between your middle and index finger, and their legs in your other hand. Hold really tight and pull their head/legs apart hard, bending their neck back slightly and it will snap. They'll die instantly, there's no blood, and you can control their movement, because you've got the whole bird in your hands.

If you'd like to eat the bird, tie their legs together, put the head between a couple of nails on a chopping block. Use a nice sharp axe, and hang the bird up as soon as it's head's been cut. Stand well clear, and wait till all the blood has drained until you will start working on it.

Cruel (none / 0) (#163)
by egeland on Wed May 05, 2004 at 12:04:10 AM EST

Make sure their beak is clipped, or they'll peck at various things (like their own eggs or other chooks). This has to be done at day-old, so don't buy them if it's not done.

Overcrowded chickens will peck, happy chicken will establish a social pecking order, which they will obey.

If you have too many chickens, your answer should be to keep less chickens in the same place, rather than mutilating them. The beak has a lot of sensitive nerves and de-beaked birds are typically in chronic pain for their entire lives. I assume the same is true for clipping their wings.
Pain releases all sorts of hormones - do you want to eat pain?

And no, I'm not a hippy, nor a member of PETA, nor a vegan, nor a vegetarian.
But I am working my way towards a more vegetarian diet. I recommend others do the same, if not for the animals, then for your own health.

Some interesting quotes
[ Parent ]

Sorry, they're free range (none / 0) (#166)
by willie on Thu May 06, 2004 at 09:32:57 AM EST

Nope, try again. I had a problem with pecking chooks when I only had 19. They lived in a 3m x 3m cage at night, and in a large yard (about 15m x 15m during the day.

There is plenty of room, it's nothing that can be helped. At one stage (before I knew about clipped beaks) we had one one bird pecked, which left its brain exposed. Now that's what I call chronic pain.

As I mentioned, clipping the beak has to be done at day old, so that neuromas (a common problem in de-beaking) doesn't develop.

That said, I never buy birds with beaks clipped too far, only slightly (which is far more common anyway). It's more natural and it would start to impact on the natural life of the bird to peck for food with almost no beak.

Clipping the wings relates to clipping the feathers so they can't fly, not the wing itself. The feathers grow back, and it's a constant process.

It's ok to have a problem with these things, just make sure your reasons are valid. But seriously, I'd have a problem with a lot more cruelty to animals before I'd worry about clipped beaks.

[ Parent ]

roosters or all hens? (none / 0) (#167)
by PorcoRosso on Thu May 06, 2004 at 10:00:54 AM EST

my sister had two roosters that pecked the crap out of everyone else. I've had all hens with no problems at all ... go figure.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Just hens (none / 0) (#169)
by willie on Fri May 07, 2004 at 08:43:02 PM EST

I've never owner a rooster, the whole breeding thing never excited me. Selling eggs was really just an easy way for me to make money.

It's got a lot to do with the breed as well. The problem actually happened when I bought half the flock a week later than the first half. A stupid mistake, but it still caused a lot of problems. I never take any chances anymore.

[ Parent ]

upset social order (none / 0) (#171)
by egeland on Tue May 18, 2004 at 02:46:01 AM EST

When you introduced a new bunch into an already established social order, of course they pecked, you'd just upset their whole world..

Some interesting quotes
[ Parent ]
cost? (3.00 / 6) (#99)
by TearsInTheRain on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 09:29:07 AM EST

Great article, very interesting. Just wondering how the economics works out? So it seems to cost about $70-100 in 1-time costs, and then how much over the year to maintain the chickens? Just trying to figure out how it compares to just buying the meat and eggs. If ya get 900 eggs per year at a cost of $100 in food and supplies, plus ya get 20 lbs of chicken meat, thats a great deal!

let's see ... (3.00 / 6) (#100)
by PorcoRosso on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 09:50:48 AM EST

12 chickens @ 1.50ish ~$20.00
1st 2 months food ~$20.00
7 months food thereafter @ 1 bad / 2 weeks ~$150.00
bedding ~$90.00 (I was talking to my wife, we only used 2 bales/month @ ~$5/bale)
Leakage and seepage and losses $40 (being conservative - ca ca always happens)

$320 total / 12 birds = ~$27 a bird
Gets you around:
  4-5 lbs of meat / bird (varies wildly based on breed)
  75 eggs / bird

I can get a dozen eggs for around $1.20 at the store and meat for around $1.50/lb

so the equivalent amount of food would cost $15.00 at the store. Now thats mass produced stuff at our local bargain closeout-type place.

Now, I can't afford the organic stuff so I don't have a cost estimate there, but I bet this way would be cheaper. I do it more because it is a (mostly) pleasant hobby that is entertaining and provides good food.

I would also wager that you could feed and bed the birds cheaper than I can if you put more effort into it and scrounge around and ask at a sawmill for bedding and figure out a cheaper food source (although letting them range saves money - bugs, worms and weeks are free).

Our food bills also were elevated b/c we had such raccoon/moth problems that I had to throw out half bags of feed that were spoiled.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Organics are pricey (3.00 / 4) (#119)
by Deagol on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 01:55:01 PM EST

I'm not sure what the actual guidelines for organic certification are, but if are chickens raised the way we seem to do, I'd guess they'd qualify as such (even if the feeds aren't certified organic) -- at the very least they could be called "chemical free".

We did the math once. We're pretty sure that we -- at the very least -- break even, as compard to regular store-bought eggs. We come out ahead if you price out organic eggs. If you price those fancy "Omega-3 rich eggs", you'll definitely come out ahead. If you let chickens (or any animal -- cows, pigs, rabbits) eat grass, they naturally have a high omega-3 fatty acid content, as opposed to purely grain-fed animals your typical mass-produced ones are.

I go so far as to sell our excess eggs at work for $2/dozen. I don't know if the folks at my office are just humoring me for the novelty of it all, or if they truly perceive a better value of my eggs, which are twice the going rate of regular store-bought eggs. I do think it's the latter case, though, because if I slack off and don't bring eggs in for a while, people actively hunt me down and bug me about when my next batch will be in. :)

As for keeping feed in good shape, we use those plastic trash cans with the handles that flip up and lock the lid onto place -- about $15 each around here. You can fit 2 50-lb bags of feed into one of those, and they keep moisture and critters/bugs out.

A suggestion for bedding material. In the fall, once the grass dies down, we stop grazing the birds and they need to have bedding all winter. We've found that the leaves from our trees make excellent bedding. We'll pile the leave in about a foot deep -- the hens love them for some reason -- and when they're all broken down and fouled from the manure, we just pile on more. Firstly, it keeps you from needing to bag the leaves and send them off to the landfill (pile 'em up and cover with a tarp). Plus, the leaves will comppost slowly all winter, providing a little heat for your ladies. In the spring, you shovel out the stuff onto the compost pile. The nitrogen-rich chicken manure is a perfect match for the carbon-rich dried leaves. Our compost hit 160 degrees (F) 2 weeks after piling ths mix onto the compost pile this spring -- it was beautiful.

[ Parent ]

OT - Daegol (none / 0) (#133)
by zaxus on Sat May 01, 2004 at 01:07:55 AM EST

Aren't you dead? Heard you were killed for some ring a while back...

"If you loved me, you'd all kill yourselves today." - Spider Jerusalem, Transmetropolitan

[ Parent ]
that was his brother, Smeagel [n/t] (none / 0) (#143)
by PorcoRosso on Sat May 01, 2004 at 06:57:43 PM EST

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Cost isn't really an issue to me (none / 0) (#141)
by bmph8ter on Sat May 01, 2004 at 03:58:11 PM EST

We all spend money on things we could be saving. I cycle. I've got more tied up in a mountain bike and road bike than I've spent on cars. Part of raising the chickens (for me at least) would be raising the chickens, so regardless of savings (or loss) I'd be happy. Oh, and great article!

[ Parent ]
Gotta Own a Gun (2.87 / 8) (#103)
by Waldo on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 10:20:21 AM EST

A point that's worth driving home is that if you have livestock, you need to own a gun.  It's a tool, like any other, that you need in order to be a responsible farmer.  That's not only in case you need to put an animal down, but also in case they're attacked, whether by raccoons or by a coyote, a bear, a fox, a possum...whatever.  A .22 should do the trick, unless you live in grizzly country, in which case you've got bigger problems than chickens. :)

-Waldo Jaquith

Yeehaw! Gotta Have Me a Gun!!! (1.50 / 10) (#124)
by NeantHumain on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 04:08:59 PM EST

I gots to protect me 2nd Amendment rahts!!! Bang! Bang! Bang! Yeehaw!

I hate my sig.

[ Parent ]
Of course there's an alternative to guns ... (3.00 / 8) (#131)
by pyramid termite on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 08:38:08 PM EST

... you put up PETA flyers throughout the fields and forests so the foxes, possums and coons can realize the error of their ways and become vegans. It's just a matter of raising their consciousness - they'll see the error of their ways once you teach them.

On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Too hard... (none / 1) (#135)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Sat May 01, 2004 at 04:05:22 AM EST

That never seems to work. Just teach you chickens self-defence and to stand up for themselves. No one has ever messed with my kung-foo chickens, and by god, feel the wrath of he who tries!

[ Parent ]
Actually (none / 0) (#159)
by Anonymous Hiro on Tue May 04, 2004 at 12:38:53 PM EST

You could get one of those fighting roosters and stick blades to his spurs.

Those roosters will kill almost anything that can bleed or be willing to die trying. They're really brave.

IIRC a rooster with bladed spurs (for a cockfight) killed a boy. Actually I  believe he died mainly due to lack of proper medical attention.

But you really don't want to annoy one of those roosters. When I was a kid, a rooster punctured my bicycle's front tyre with a peck. Was one of those BMX tyres too - reasonably thick rubber.

[ Parent ]

Hmmmm... (none / 0) (#162)
by SoupIsGoodFood on Tue May 04, 2004 at 06:48:05 PM EST

Not exactly chicken are they.

[ Parent ]
Ooh! I love kung foo chicken! (none / 0) (#160)
by Rhinobird on Tue May 04, 2004 at 02:22:22 PM EST

I love Kung Foo chicken. I think the sauce is what makes the dish though.
"If Mr. Edison had thought more about what he was doing, he wouldn't sweat as much." --Nikola Tesla
[ Parent ]
no (2.50 / 4) (#136)
by crazney on Sat May 01, 2004 at 05:12:26 AM EST

You really don't.

In fact, most farmers in Australia don't have guns. They get a long fine.

Replace 'Australia' with any country bar America.

Bloody redneck.

[ Parent ]

Wrong (none / 2) (#148)
by Waldo on Mon May 03, 2004 at 12:35:26 AM EST

You really don't.

In fact, most farmers in Australia don't have guns. They get a long fine.

Replace 'Australia' with any country bar America.

Bloody redneck.

Spoken like a man who has never stepped foot on a farm.

For starters, farmers in Australia have considerably less need for guns (for protective purposes) than farmers in the United States.  They have considerably fewer predators to deal with, with the major problem being the European red fox, a recent import, and, to a lesser extent, dingos and wild dogs.  It is for this very reason (along with the need to eliminate the unbelievable rabbit problem) that the exception to Australia's gun ban is for farmers, who may own semiautomatic weapons.  

In the U.S., farmers have to contend with wolves, coyotes, bears, possums, raccoons, dogs, foxes, and rattlers, among, of course, others.  This is a considerably larger problem in the U.S. because so much farmland has been carved out of and is adjacent to habitat for these animals, so interactions are frequent.

Do you seriously think that Australia is a land of magic and wonder, where the dingos and the sheep lie side by side, basking in the glory of Down Under™?  Or that the farmers nicely ask the foxes to, please not eat their chickens?  Perhaps they chase off the wild dogs with a pocketknife?  Maybe they tickle the bunnies into submission?

Use your head.

-Waldo Jaquith

[ Parent ]

Chickens are okay. Quail are better (3.00 / 6) (#106)
by gibichung on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 11:17:09 AM EST

Chickens are nice birds, but you can't match the economy of the big farms. Not even close.

If you want the same experience, more or less, but with a lot less costs and space, you can always raise quail. You could keep a half-dozen breeder hens and three cocks in a little all-wire cage. With the right breed, six hens would probably lay 30-35 eggs per week. With one incubator and 3-4 cages, you could raise two dozen birds every three weeks for meat and still have plenty of eggs left over. You could do it all in your back yard, or even in your garage. They don't really smell as long as you have good ventilation and clean up every couple days.

I did this for years as a kid, so I have a few tips. First, they won't lay eggs under natural light. You'll need a timed light bulb that you can put together for $10 at any hardware store. You can keep baby chicks together when they're little, but as they get bigger, try and partition them up into smaller groups or they'll bunch up and die at night. Adults don't seem to have this problem, but I still wouldn't recommend putting more than a dozen or so together. Do 2-3 hens to each cock. Build your cages out of wire. Obviously, you'll need to use small gauge for small birds. Quail don't need much headroom. If you use plywood put it on the outside of the cage, beyond the wire walls. Round off the corners, and don't put heating lamps right in the corner and space them out if you use more than one. Use lined pans to catch droppings. Slant the floor in breeder cages and make a provision for an egg-catch. Use external feeders. The worst predators are domestic cats.

When you start, like someone below said, you're better off buying birds right before they're to be slaughtered for a number of reasons. Find someone who sells the meat and ask him if he would mind saving a few live birds for you. You'll get the picks of the brood for probably less per bird than the meat. Avoid the "gamey" breeds like the bob white; use common quail. We called them "Pharoahs" but I think they're usually called Japanese or Coturnix. They lay a lot more eggs and are much tamer.

Try them. If you don't like it, you can always eat 'em.

"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt

can they range? (none / 0) (#113)
by PorcoRosso on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 12:44:19 PM EST

I like to watch the birds goof around outside, will quail stick around? I've always wanted to keep quail and pheasants.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
No, they won't (none / 0) (#121)
by gibichung on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 02:48:50 PM EST

In nature they'd travel over a large range; I don't think they have a concept of "home." Though, the pharoah quail can't fly.

Quail are also much too vulnerable to predators like hawks, cats, dogs, etc anyway. You can keep them in large, outdoor cages, but those are better suited for the more "gamey" or wild varieties, like bob whites, pheasants, or chuckers.

"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]

That's what I've read (none / 0) (#116)
by Deagol on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 01:35:01 PM EST

My wife would like to try quail some day, just for the reasons you outline. From what I've read, the feed-to-meat ratio is much more favorable than chickens. I just can't fathom how you'd dress a quail, though -- chickens are hard enough, and it's easy to get your hand up into a chicken to scoop out the various innards.

[ Parent ]
Feed to meat ratio (none / 0) (#122)
by gibichung on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 02:58:57 PM EST

It isn't better than chickens. Nothing is better than chickens. The feed for game birds is also more expensive.

Dressing them is real easy, just like a chicken. Use your fingers instead of your hands. I'm not sure what the problem would be.

"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]

Reptiles? (none / 0) (#158)
by Anonymous Hiro on Tue May 04, 2004 at 12:29:09 PM EST

The feed to meat ratio should be better with most reptiles.

Would reptiles grow faster if you keep em warm? Use a greenhouse or something.

I mean people keep saying certain reptiles taste like chicken :). Then again that's probably coz most people have only tasted meat from few different types of animals.

[ Parent ]

Reptiles? (none / 0) (#165)
by gibichung on Wed May 05, 2004 at 05:37:25 PM EST

Maybe. But as far as warm-blooded, domestic animals go, nothing beats the chicken.

"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt
[ Parent ]
aww (2.50 / 4) (#108)
by reklaw on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 11:37:40 AM EST

We have found a small farm that specializes in butchering poultry and rabbits. They charge about $1 per bird. I have done butchering in the past, but the mess is worth a dollar a bird. We drop the birds off Sunday night and pick up the meat Monday night.

If I'd been keeping chickens for that long then... well... I wouldn't want to do that. It'd be like making your dog into a roast dinner or something.

it can be hard (none / 1) (#112)
by PorcoRosso on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 12:42:52 PM EST

You have to go into it with the "as nice as they are they are food" attitude. It makes you appreciate what you eat more. It's also easier when you find a hen scratching up and pooping on the roof of your nice shiny car ;)

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
MLP (none / 0) (#127)
by nooper on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 06:15:22 PM EST

Sad Times, and Rainbow Bridges

[ Parent ]
Chickens for the yellow alert (2.83 / 6) (#125)
by mcgrew on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 05:31:41 PM EST

A dollar a bird for cleaning? Geez, that's a great price.

My grandparents had a small farm, and I still feel the sting of the boiling-hot feathers as we kids helped Grandma pluck the chickens.

But first she would chop their heads off, and this was a great performance. The head would lay on the stump with its eyes blinking and its beak opening and closing as if it were trying to scream, while the body ran down the hill flapping its wings until it collapsed.

A friend of mine now has a small animal farm, with chickens, pigs, and turkeys (and dogs and a goat). He say sthese are the last of the pigs, as the feed has skyrocketed.

I loved the fresh eggs Grandma made, and when I visit Mike I make sure he fries a couple for me. I can barely eat store-bought eggs; they're tasteless as a store-bought tomato.

Having your own hens has two advantages you didn't mention, both related to the abysmal state of the filthy corporate farmed animals. In the US ("Lousiana- Third world and proud of it"), because of the corporate farms' filthy conditions, one in three chickens and eggs have salmonella. Your chickens won't.

If you like your steak rare, try frying rare chicken.

And, if you have a hangover you can make real eggnog. Take three egg yolks and put them in a glass, add milk, sugar, and (optionally) cinnamon and nutmeg, and stirr well.

The yolk of a chicken egg contains an emzyme that will rid you of your hangover, so long as you also drink a glass of water as well (some hangover symptoms are actually symptoms of dehydration).

This emzyme is destroyed by heat, so the pasteurized eggnog you buy in the store will have no effect whatever on your hangover. It doesn't taste as good, either.

"The entire neocon movement is dedicated to revoking mcgrew's posting priviliges. This is why we went to war with Iraq." -LilDebbie

how would you know... (none / 1) (#132)
by r1chard on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 09:15:31 PM EST

how would you know if you got your own birds back or someone elses ? :) RG

[ Parent ]
Brining. (2.83 / 6) (#126)
by SnowBlind on Fri Apr 30, 2004 at 05:59:23 PM EST

You need to brine the chicken before cooking, that will fix the overcooking problem. 3/4 cup salt per gallon, soak for a couple of hours or so.

There is but One Kernel, and root is His Prophet.
Actually, (1.20 / 5) (#137)
by benxor on Sat May 01, 2004 at 08:51:48 AM EST

It's a 'peep' of chickens, not a flock. Or a clutch of chicks, ... YOU FUCKING PHILISTINE!!!@@!!!#!!! =P

all generalisations are false - including this one
This is the best online discussion... (2.25 / 4) (#139)
by Futurepower on Sat May 01, 2004 at 02:19:20 PM EST

This is the best online discussion I have ever seen! Many people contributed interesting observations. There was little anger.

wow, I really enjoyed that piece (none / 1) (#144)
by davros4269 on Sun May 02, 2004 at 03:20:15 PM EST

If I didn't live in the city I'd really consider trying this.

Does anyone know the details of what goes into chicken food, especially the protein? Is it plant-based protein?

I'd like to raise animal protein, but do it using as little animal protein as food as possible. I've read that per acre, veggies are much better at resource utilization and that animals are comparatively very wasteful...

If I retire to the country to become a philosopher, can I raise chickens, say, from mixing lawn clippings with earthworms and drying into pellets or something?? Oh, and I can I do it "safely", or, will it reduce the quality of the meat? I have no desire to feed chickens feathers and blood...
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.

most is grain (none / 0) (#145)
by PorcoRosso on Sun May 02, 2004 at 04:49:30 PM EST

Most of the feed is just cracked grain (I'd look at the ingredients if I had a bag) ... I wouldn't feed them other chicken parts, It ain't too cool to eat relatives :/

You probably want to stick with feed, but by letting them roam around in the garden/field/woods wherever, the will pick up a lot of bugs and plant material that will sigificantly cut the feed consumption. They are really good at scrounging for food (at least the breeds that I've kept).

They also sometimes like kitchen scraps, but I would not leave something like that out for long as other local critters do, too (esp. city critters) ...

You could probably keep 1 or 2 small bantam hens in the city. I wouldn't show 'em off to the neighbors, but you could keep them from being pests, they have to be quieter than some of the macaws and whatnot that people keep.

Maybe you could make a little "chicken tractor" (see comments below) so they could go in your yard to pick for food without being pests.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
we DO have bugs, lol (none / 0) (#149)
by davros4269 on Mon May 03, 2004 at 12:45:11 AM EST

Thanks man, I'll consider that - not likely this year, we are moving shortly, but I may just try it in the city after all...

The thing with grain - I'm concerned about the land space the grain takes vs feeding it to animals instead of direct consumption. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a purist or anything, I eat meat with the best of them, and plenty of it ;)

But if ever raise an animal in numbers, which I'd like to do at some point, I want the food product to be almost as efficient as if the grain would be directly consumed by me instead of through the chicken, if that makes sense...

If they get enough protein from woods, say, fenced in to keep critters out, do they need grain to be healthy, or, can they get enough from weeds? What if their diet is mostly protein? What if I raise crickets or worms on waste from another project, and then feed the worms/crickets to the chickens?

I don't know if worms can take chicken poop, I know they don't like dog and cat poop, which is too bad, since I have plenty of it ;) I wonder if raising worms on yard waste, chicken poop and house scraps would produce enough worms to significantly offset the grain the chickens need, say, by a factor of 2/3 or something?
Will you squirm when you are pecked? Quack.
[ Parent ]

well ... (none / 0) (#151)
by PorcoRosso on Mon May 03, 2004 at 07:28:53 AM EST

It seems to me that the assumption that meat is more energy consumptive is valid only with the way most farms are run (chemical fertilizer, etc.)

I would think that if everything is composted (I mean everything) that the energy goes back into the land and closes the cycle.

If we can get our house sold soon, we plan to experiment with this lifestyle, so there will probably be a couple of articles that spring from the experiences.

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[ Parent ]
We're trying that, too (none / 0) (#153)
by Deagol on Mon May 03, 2004 at 11:47:11 AM EST

I bought the 2nd Edition of the Humanure Book about 9 months ago. We built, and began using, a bucket-based toilette system based on plans in the book. This was about 6 months ago. We figured that if we can shovel and place cow, rabbit, and chicken crap into the compost bin, we may as well add our as well.

Plus, we get that warm fuzzy feeling of saving a few gallons of potable water each time we "contribute" to the compost bin. As Utah is the 2nd dryest state in the country (Nevada being #1) in its 6th year of drought, that means a lot to us.

Yeah, it might give some people the heebie-jeebies, the thought of having to deal with their own shit, but ponder this:

The author of the aforementioned book likes to repeatedly point out the harsh reality that each of us (in more "civil" nations) piss/crap in 20 or more gallons of drinkable water each and every day. How's that for an absurd notion? No wonder so many 3rd World citizens hold us with such contempt.

[ Parent ]

how has it worked out? (none / 0) (#155)
by PorcoRosso on Mon May 03, 2004 at 01:21:59 PM EST

We will be moving and using the bucket loo for a while while we build a house for ourselves. Any experiences you'd like to share?

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[ Parent ]
The good and the bad (none / 0) (#152)
by Deagol on Mon May 03, 2004 at 11:35:19 AM EST

Chicken feed usually comes in a few varieties.

First, you have "chick starter" for (unsurprisingly) baby chicks. This stuff is pulverized grains with other protein sources added. Unless you look very hard (and we've never looked hard enough ourselves), chick starter usually comes "medicated". There's some substance that prevents disease (I don't know if it's antibiotic or not). Then there's some additive that's "addictive" (according to the feed store staff) to make the chicks consume more food. Remember, nearly everything you buy at feed mills (at least the pre-bagged stuff from Purina or other vendors) is targetted towards a more-or-less commercial endeavor. My wife were appalled by the idea of intentially hooking baby chicks on an addictive substance, but you only need the stuff for the first few weeks of their lives, so we let it pass (for now).

Once they're no longer "chicks" you have low- and high-protein feed and "laying ration". These come in the form of "mash" (pulverized stuff), "crumbles" or "crumbs" (stuff the size and consistency of Grape Nuts cereal), and "pellets" (looks like small rabbit or hamster pellet feed). The purely feed stuff is for fattening up meat birds, or simply maintaining adult birds. The laying ration is formulated with extra calcium and phoshorus for egg production. Aside from various grains in these mixes, there is inevitably animal protein of sorts like blood and bone meal. This is reality, as captive chickens need high-protein protein foods.

Then you have "hen scratch" or "scratch grains", which is usually a combination of wheat, corn, and sorghum, usually the corn being cracked while the others are whole (being small anyway).

While the fomulas are considered "complete" (in fact, research shows that mixing in other stuff like scratch grains disrupts the optimal balance of nutrients, reducing overall feed conversion), we like to add variety to our birds' food rotation. So we treat them to scratch grains, whole oats (usually sold for horses), and "cob" (rolled Corn, Oats, & Barley) or "sweet feed" ("cob" mixed with molasses). They also get to graze in warm months in the chicken tractor, getting fresh greens and bugs/worms.

I found this excellent site with a ton of great links about poultry feed and practices.

Concerning the veggie vs meat efficiency argument... On one hand, it is correct. I think we've all seen that energy "pyramid" from high-school biology, where each succeeding level has 1/10th the energy mass of the previous level (for example, to yield 1 ton of whale meat, it had to consume 10 tons of krill, which, in turn, had to consume 100 tons of algae). So, the argument goes, if that's the case, people would be better off utilizing the 100 tons of algae for food than the 1 ton of whale meat.

I personally believe that the argument is a valid, sound one. However, it doesn't take into account the idea that many animals, particularly ruminants, can utilize food that're just not compatible (or downright unpalatable) for humans. Cattle, goats, deer, and other ruminants can turn high-cellulose foods, worthless as people food, into meat that we can consume. Properly managed in areas where human food crops are not practical, raising such meat animals would seem, to me, a very efficient practice.

And, as PorcoRosso hints at, major inefficiencies are introduced for the mass production of crops. I'll save some space here and not get into sustainable, permaculture practices of food raising. Modern farming can do a lot more to "close the loop" than they do now, but that would cost more. I've read in several sources that in a well-balanced system, all of the necessary food for a complete diet for an adult human (meat and veggies) can be grown in something like 1-to-2 acres. For reference, a city block (1/8th of a mile squared) is exactly 10 acres. I read part of a book (before I lost it) called Five Acres and Independence, which goes into detail. Using more recent high-yeild practices like those of Joel Salatin and in Square Foot Gardening, I believe you can get land requirements down to 1/4 to 1/2 an acre per person.

[ Parent ]

excellent book ... (none / 0) (#157)
by PorcoRosso on Mon May 03, 2004 at 01:30:40 PM EST

5 Acres and Independance is excellent ... another really good one is Solar Gardening: Growing Vegetables Year-Round the American Intensive Way

Listen to Deagol, he obviosly has more experience at this than I ... Thanks for the insights, Deagol :) You've handed me back much to absorb.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
I read this story... (none / 2) (#146)
by skyknight on Sun May 02, 2004 at 08:27:15 PM EST

with more interest than I have read any K5 story for a long time. Great work. Now if only I didn't live on the 11th floor of an apartment building...

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
The taste of fresh raw eggs (none / 1) (#147)
by krkrbt on Mon May 03, 2004 at 12:31:49 AM EST

I find fresh eggs to be really strong so I let them sit in the fridge around 1 month and they start tasting like store bought eggs.

Store bought eggs?  Why would you want them to taste like those?  I know - you probably cook your eggs, and that'd be the source of the problem.  There's nothing I enjoy more than a half-dozen fresh free-range/bug-fed raw eggs.

If not for taste... (none / 0) (#154)
by Deagol on Mon May 03, 2004 at 11:56:20 AM EST

Then for the ease of peeling hard-boiled eggs.

Your average store-bough eggs have been sitting around for weeks (probably even months). In that time, they loose water and the inner membrane surrounding the egg pulls back from the shell. Hard boiled store-bought eggs are relatively easy to peel.

However, fresh eggs (anything under a month old, in my book) are a major pita to peel. :)

[ Parent ]

mostly ... (none / 0) (#156)
by PorcoRosso on Mon May 03, 2004 at 01:26:14 PM EST

i just find them too strong to eat by themselves. I gagged on a fresh, hard boiled egg and couldn't eat it. Scrambled w/a little cheese was fine, and I could tell a positive difference in cooking - esp. anything that needed a lot of yolks (the yolks from our eggs were vivid orange) ... I am very picky as to what I eat.

Buy scented bookmarks from my wife's store.
Perhaps you could use a freelance LAMP programmer?

[ Parent ]
Awesome story (none / 1) (#150)
by JackStraw on Mon May 03, 2004 at 03:28:06 AM EST

Of all the articles on kuro5hin, these do-it-yourself type articles are always my favorites. Whenever I can't find anything useful on google, I turn to kuro5hin, and there always seems to be a perfect article--whether on weight lifting, computer programming, or chicken growing.

Thanks for writing something non-political and really interesting!

-The bus came by, I got on... that's when it all began.

Just got some chicks myself. (none / 1) (#161)
by A55M0NKEY on Tue May 04, 2004 at 04:51:53 PM EST

I've never raised chickens, but my wife just got some mail order ones so we will be raising them for the first time this year.

I am very suprised you don't like fresh eggs! I remember them from when I was eight years old ( which was the last time I ever tasted them. ) The yolks are ORANGE not the pale washed out yellow of store bought eggs. Strong? I wouldn't say they're strong, only yummier.

Anyways, she bought a variety pack w/some Rhode island reds & black stars and also some japanese bantams. I wonder if the bantams will lay tiny eggs. Might make good ( bite sized ) pickled eggs. We'll see..

Good story by the way.

Minimum purchases (none / 0) (#168)
by A55M0NKEY on Thu May 06, 2004 at 09:03:17 PM EST

Were do you get your chicks? The only internet hatcheries I've found require a minimum of 25 chicks. I'd like to get a few more black stars, since we got 4 males and one female.

Eggs through winter, it's definitely possible! (none / 0) (#170)
by Chakotay on Tue May 11, 2004 at 05:25:02 AM EST

Kind of a late reply, but I hope there will still be people who read this :)

My parents have had chickens for as long as I can remember. Usually they have two or three hobby breed hens with a matching rooster for the fun and the occasional eggs, and two or three "professional" brown leghorn hens for consistent egg prodution.

We kept them in a coop of about 1m square, with a window in one side, a large door in another side, and a small chicken door in the third side. Along the backside (with no doors or windows) we put a plank at about 50cm height (with a chicken ladder leading up to it) and a roost above it - the plank will catch the excrements and needs to be cleaned once every month or so. Under the plank, we put the nesting boxes.

Anyway, we used to have a 10m square run delimited by 1m50 tall chicken gauze - until we had a VERY tame white leghorn who consistently broke out, roosted on the top of the coop, walked all around the garden, and even into our living room! It was great fun to see the chicken running around the garden, the cat chasing it, and the dog chasing the cat :) It stayed in the run after we put up another meter or so of chicen gauze...

And then we had a family of buzzards coming to dine on our chickens once in a while... In three years, we lost six chickens and three roosters to them - the roosters all died defending their chickens from the attacking carnivourous birds. So we put a "roof" on the run with a net. But once every while a buzzard would find a way to get into the run anyway, and feast on one of the small hobby chickens... Never the leghorns - they were too big for their tastes.

So now my parents have two brown leghorns, and two large black chickens - even larger than the leghorns - that lay green eggs (great for Easter!). And an impressive black rooster to go with them - the beast is so big that it could peck at your balls without even sticking its head out too far - luckily, it's a very gentle beast, not agressive at all, but it doesn't too much like the dog though.

Anyway, so how do they manage to get eggs in winter, even in the Netherlands, where the winters are cold and wet, and the days in winter are very short? Easy: a lamp with a timer inside the coop. Time it such that it switches on at dusk, off again at around 22h, on again at around 5h or 6h, and off again at dawn. You won't get the full egg a day deal, but 3 to 4 eggs per chicken per week is a good average.

Linux like wigwam. No windows, no gates, Apache inside.

flavorful (none / 0) (#172)
by soart on Tue Jun 28, 2005 at 12:37:54 PM EST

The meat is very flavorful. It is, however, very easy to overcook as water (and who knows what else) is not injected into the meat. I recommend doing a slow-cook casserole-type dish.
Raising the Humble Chicken | 172 comments (148 topical, 24 editorial, 4 hidden)
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