Friday, December 23, 2011

How To Keep Natural Chickens

Raising chickens is an easy "gateway" into farming. Since getting chickens, we balk at the idea of buying factory eggs. We no longer have to pay $5 for a dozen eggs that we hope are raised in better conditions than the standard conventional variety. The kids love running out to the coop every day to check the eggs, and we all love guessing which hen was responsible for each unique egg. We bought a large variety of chicks (we currently have 7 different breeds) that lay different sizes and colors of eggs; none have white shells. We've gotten some remarkable eggs, the kind that are no doubt tossed before making it to any retailer when factory farmed. Double yolks (twins!), huge, oblong eggs, even a tiny one that held only a yolk, no room inside for the egg white. Loki, my six year old, considers it his responsibility to make sure the hens get their greens every day. Some days he forgets, but I love that he knows how important these vegetables are to healthy chickens and nutritious eggs.

backyard chickens
I think my kids learned the importance of greens in our diet from feeding our chickens grass and dandelion leaves.
raising chicks
There is nothing so sweet and tender as a child holding a baby chicken! It's worth raising them from chicks for this moment alone.

backyard chickens
Just feathering out, our chicks safely explore the outside for the first time.

Now that they are grown, the chickens get significantly less lap time. Though we still name each one, they are more farm animal than pet. They usually stop laying during the winter months when they don't receive enough daylight, but this year we took the plunge ($8 for the timer) and set up a compact fluorescent lamp in the coop that extends their "daylight" enough that we get an average of 2 eggs/day. Plenty enough to keep us from needing to buy any, so we maintain control of at least this aspect of our food supply!


fresh eggs, easter egger
A beautiful variety. The blue one is from our Easter Egger, a cross between an Ameraucana and an Araucana, which can lay a variety of different colored eggs. One of our favorite breeds, they're very beautiful birds as well!
I'm not big on cooking eggs on their own, so I usually make a huge batch of french toast, and recently I've been making egg nogs and ice creams with fresh eggs. Check out my ice cream recipe here, a great use of farm fresh eggs.

By the way, we ordered our day-old "sexed" chicks from mypetchicken.com, but check if there's a farm co-op in your area, where you may be able to go in on a group purchase from a local farmer, which is a way more sustainable way to obtain chicks... Well, anything, really, is better straight from the farmer. There are also local farmers who raise chicks to the "pullet" stage and sell them to people who don't want the hassle of brooding chicks.


For my articles on how we feed our hens, check out Sprouted Grains for Chickens, and Making the Most of Veggie Scraps for Your Hens

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49 comments

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December 24, 2011 at 7:51 AM

That is one beautiful photo of your son with the chicks!

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July 31, 2012 at 10:17 AM

Darling photo of your son! I've thought about raising chickens, but am a bit afraid it would get to be too much work. Some days I can barely keep up with the garden chores I have now!

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July 31, 2012 at 12:40 PM

Once you get the coop & run sorted out, whether building or installing them, there really isn't too much work. We feed ours twice a day, but some people install automatic feeders, automatic waterers, and even electronic door openers, so they really don't have to do anything except occasionally refill the feeder. Every once in a while, there is the big job of scooping out the run and putting it all in a compost pile... but it doesn't have to be done very often.

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September 28, 2012 at 6:56 AM

We have two hens in our city backyard. They have been laying two eggs every day all summer. I spoil them and let them roam the yard for several hours a day. I add lots of goodies to their feed. We love our fresh eggs. I agree the chick raising is worth it all.

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September 28, 2012 at 10:29 AM

Nice! They sound like happy chickens.

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October 1, 2012 at 2:27 PM

I found you through Homestead Revival. I'm a new follower and hope I can persuade you to link up to our Farm Girl Blog Fest: http://fresh-eggs-daily.blogspot.com/2012/09/farm-girl-friday-blog-fest-2.html

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October 2, 2012 at 6:24 AM

Love the photo of your son with the chick. Chickens have been an amazing addition to our home as well. I just started a new blog hop, and would love you to join! http://www.simplejoyfulliving.com/2012/10/backyard-farming-connection-hop-2.html

Gretchen

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October 2, 2012 at 7:41 AM

Thanks Gretchen, I'll check it out!

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October 2, 2012 at 11:16 AM

I think it's great that Loki is taking responsibility for his chickens. He's adorable. ☺

I would love to have you link up at the Clever Chicks Blog Hop! http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2012/09/clever-chicks-blog-hop-2-featured-post.html

I hope to see you there!
Cheers!
Kathy
The Chicken Chick

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October 2, 2012 at 12:02 PM

Hi, I came over from Simple and Joyful backyard farming connection. What kind of feed do you feed your hens? We've been using a commercial feed from our feed store but I'm sure there's something better.

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October 2, 2012 at 6:10 PM

Thanks Kathy, I'll definitely stop by!

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October 2, 2012 at 6:15 PM

In the mornings we give our chickens and rabbits sprouted grains, and for lunch they get organic Rogue layer pellets mixed with kitchen scraps. If we have enough kitchen scraps, I don't use any pellets. I prefer not to if possible! I also toss in crushed eggshells and flax seeds to their lunch. Here's those links:
http://alifeunprocessed.blogspot.com/2012/01/sprouted-grains-for-chickens.html
http://alifeunprocessed.blogspot.com/2011/12/making-most-of-veggie-scraps-for-your.html

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October 4, 2012 at 1:47 AM

Nice post! This is a great gentle intro for anyone starting out with chickens or thinking about it. I love having a variety of chickens too, a mix-and-match of breeds:)

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October 4, 2012 at 6:32 PM

I always enjoyed feeding the chickens and gathering eggs as a child...

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October 5, 2012 at 10:13 AM

What a great post! Thanks for sharing your great experience at the Riverton Housewives Round Up!

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October 7, 2012 at 8:33 PM

Oh so fun! I am a vegetarian and absolutely refuse to eat factory farmed eggs so that usually means not eating eggs at all. We are saving up to build a coop and get chickens hopefully next year!!! Love it so much!

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October 13, 2012 at 5:37 PM

I love chickens, we grow fruit &veg so it's our next step to get the chickens

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October 13, 2012 at 5:43 PM

They are the perfect addition to any farm!

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October 15, 2012 at 5:19 AM

Hi Mellow, I’m Anne from Life on the Funny Farm (http://annesfunnyfarm.blogspot.com), and I’m visiting from the Natural Living Monday’s blog hop.

I couldn't agree more! We got our first chicks last year and we're lovin' it! I like your idea about getting chicks from a farmer instead of mail-order, as I've learned what becomes of the cockarels of the layer breeds from the bigger mail-order companies.

Anyway, it’s nice to “meet” you! Hope you can pop by my blog sometime to say hi…

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October 20, 2012 at 9:17 AM

Thanks for sharing with Natural Living Monday Mellow! I hope you join us again this Monday!

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October 21, 2012 at 12:38 PM

Such pretty eggs! Chickens are definitely on my "to do" list now that we are in a house! Thanks so much for sharing on Natural Living Monday! I cant wait to see what you have to share this week :)

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October 31, 2012 at 6:26 PM

Try giving your chickens some hot pepper flakes (cayanne, jalapeno, etc) to increase egg production in the winter. I tried this last year and it worked great. I don't have any artificial light and was averaging 5-6 eggs/day out of 8 chickens. I've read it's the reduction in water intake because of shorter days that reduces the production.

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October 31, 2012 at 8:57 PM

Thanks for the tip- I've definitely never heard of that! I'll give it a try.

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November 27, 2012 at 5:23 PM

Thanks for sharing your post on Domestically Divine. So looking forward to visiting again.

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December 14, 2012 at 8:34 AM

I am bookmarking your site. We are hoping to move into a county that allows homeowners to have chickens, and I am ridiculously excited.

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December 14, 2012 at 11:51 AM

That's great! It's getting more and more common to allow them.

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January 2, 2013 at 11:13 AM

Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday! Can't wait to get our chicks, thanks for the resources! :)

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January 16, 2013 at 5:38 PM

I would love to have you join The HomeAcre Hop at:
http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/01/1213.html

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February 19, 2013 at 10:54 AM

Love, love, love our chickens.. though an "easter egger" would be a nice addition! Thanks for sharing your post with us at Eco-Kids Tuesday. Hope to see you back today! http://likemamalikedaughter.blogspot.com/2013/02/melt-my-heart-eco-kids-tuesday.html

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February 25, 2013 at 7:44 PM

Thanks for sharing at Fluster's Creative Muster. I'm looking forward to seeing what you link up next week.

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March 18, 2013 at 5:30 PM

What a wonderful and informative post ~ thank you so much for linking up at Project Inspire{d} ~ pinning to my party board http://pinterest.com/mbtm/project-inspire-d-party-pins/

Hugs,

Mary Beth

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March 18, 2013 at 5:36 PM

Wow, you're quick! Thanks Mary Beth.

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March 21, 2013 at 6:45 AM

I would LOVE to have chickens in our yard. Just not enough room or time. Your eggs look beautiful!

Thank you for linking up at Fabulously Frugal Thursday!

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March 23, 2013 at 7:33 AM

Great pics! Love the color of those eggs :) Thanks for sharing this on The Creative HomeAcre Hop! Hope to see your next project tomorrow at:
http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/03/the-creative-homeacre-hop-8.html

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March 25, 2013 at 8:59 PM

Found you via the link party at Adventures of a DIY mom! Happy that I did, too... I can't have chickens where I live, but it's a life dream to have a small flock of my own and what better way to learn than from actual chicken owners? (You might be the 3rd chicken blog I've followed... Haha!)

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April 6, 2013 at 4:28 AM

I love the idea of chickens, but our town doesn't allow for them. I live vicariously through others for them for now. I love the colors that yours produce and it sounds like they are a great for the whole family. Thanks for linking up with Tuesday Greens!

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Anonymous
April 19, 2013 at 10:09 AM

good info to know.... i've also heard that growing purslane (Portulaca oleracea) in their pens is good for them (it's high in omega-3s)

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May 18, 2013 at 11:52 PM

Thanks so much for sharing at A Peek Into Paradise TGIF Link Party.

I hope you will come party with us next week and see if you were featured! http://apeekintomyparadise.blogspot.com/

Have a great week!

Hugs! Cathy

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July 19, 2013 at 4:56 AM

Raising chickens is on my bucket list! I shall live vicariously through you!

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July 21, 2013 at 9:36 AM

Thanks for linking up with the Friday Flash Blog. I hope you checked out the highlighted posts as well as everyone’s terrific entries. Have a fabulous weekend!

Jennifer
thejennyevolution.com

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October 25, 2013 at 6:39 AM

I love that so many people are getting into having laying hens. Isn't it funny how municipalities have ruled for or against them when way back, it was just the thing people did to help feed themselves. I grew up around a lot of chickens, and they always got our kitchen and garden scraps.

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October 25, 2013 at 8:16 AM

We just LOVE Getting fresh eggs from my mother in law. I can't wait til we get some land so I can start growing veggies and raising my own chickens! Thanks for stoppin by Family Fridays!

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