These Chick Chats were a great idea. Thanks so much to all of you who are sharing your experience and answering questions!!
We're wanting to raise chickens for eggs and possibly for meat (if we can figure out how to bring ourselves to kill them
, or else find someone who can/will do it for us). So, we're wanting to get some large dual purpose birds, that will lay a good amount of eggs and are cold hardy (I've seen a few that fit the bill, I guess we'll just have to wait and see what the feed store will carry). We're also interested in a few chickens that lay green eggs (so Ameraucana or Easter Eggers). And we're thinking we want a rooster of the dual purpose breed, so that we can keep the flock growing.
Our reason for wanting to raise our own chickens is to have an abundance of high quality eggs (higher quality than we can reliably get anywhere around here). We use A LOT of eggs here. We figure with as many as we use, they ought to be very high quality. We also have trouble finding good pastured chicken, so that's why we would like to get a dual purpose breed.
We have a few challenges, though, of course. We live in the mountains, and it gets to -20 here in the winter. We also have plenty of predators, so free ranging isn't an option. Also, we have to feed them a gluten-free diet. Not because there would be a problem with the eggs or meat, but because none of us can healthfully handle it on a regular basis. And any little bit of gluten that ds is exposed to causes problems for him, so any gluten on my hands or clothes would be a problem. It's just not negotiable for us.
So, I want to run my plan (such as it is at this point) by you all and get your ideas.
I plan on a largish coop, so that they can hang out there on cold snowy days if need be. We will build two runs, both accessible from the coop. We will allow them into only one run at a time. The other run will be planted with seed, so that there will be green plants for them. We'll switch them to that run when there are plants for them, and then plant the other run. And I figure the bugs will come back to the run with the plants (we live in the woods, and it's really hard to imagine that we will have a shortage of bugs). How does that sound? We have plenty of land, so the runs will be fairly large.
For feed (other than what will be in the run), we're thinking to make our own mix based on this recipe
, only gluten free (I haven't yet looked at the available grains and which we'd use - I imagine buckwheat will be one, and probably up the legumes to ensure enough protein). **Disclaimer: I am not putting the link in here for the political ad on that page, just for the chicken feed info.** We will also give veggie scraps and some table scraps (we don't really have many of those, as dh eats most of that sort of thing, or the dogs do). In the winter, when nothing will grow in the runs, I guess we'll be sprouting grains and/or lentils for them.
We also want to plant a garden eventually, and that will have to be caged in, too. So I'm thinking that when I can I will plant cover crops and let the chickens in there to eat those and any bugs. Multi-tasking!
For the chicks, I think we would use the chick starter recipe #3
on the same website (again, gluten-free).
So, please pick the plan apart as much as you want. I want an honest assessment of it. Any ideas for how to improve it are welcome, as are comments that something just won't work.
Please tell me about the shavings in the coop. Do you need them in the run, too?? And someone mentioned that if they're thick, and you don't remove them, they serve to help heat the coop in the winter? And it's less work? (I like the sounds of that) Do you just keep adding more and more? For how long (at what point would we take them out and start over)? Do they go into the compost after that, or do they go straight into garden?
Do you need to clean out the run? How? How often?
OK, I think that's all my questions for now.