Do you raise chickens? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 42 Old 12-14-2009, 12:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So I'm going to get my first chickens in March. I want to hear about your chicken stories, best way to free range. I am going to want to get eggs, raise more chicks, and use some for meat. Thanks

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#2 of 42 Old 12-14-2009, 01:35 PM
 
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I have a few laying hens for eggs. They're awesome! I love them. They have a lot of personality and it's great to watch them doing their thing, plus it's a great way to recycle kitchen scraps into delicious, healthy protein and top-notch garden fertilizer.

We built our coop and the attached run for pocket change, out of scrap lumber. The expensive part was the hardware cloth, which you must use instead of chicken wire; racoons and rats and other predators can reach through chicken wire and kill your chickens. Hardware cloth is stronger and has a much smaller mesh, making it safer. Our coop/run has a couple sides walled in with plywood and the rest with hardware cloth, and a hardware cloth ceiling over the run (we lost one hen to a hawk before we built the run). The whole shebang sits on top of chicken wire so that predators can't dig their way in from underneath. So it's super safe!
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#3 of 42 Old 12-14-2009, 01:50 PM
 
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I have four chickens which are like pets to us. They are totally free range.
We lock them in their little house at night to make sure they are safe.
I so enjoy them. Each one has its own personality - and favorite food. They come running to me when they see me expecting some special morsels, and they lay the most delicious eggs, even now in the winter.
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#4 of 42 Old 12-14-2009, 02:36 PM
 
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How exciting for you! I bet March can't roll around fast enough! LOL

Our girls are 10 weeks old. We have 6. We have 2 RIR, 2 BR and 2 EE's. We were going to build their coop out next to the garden, but we have a lot of coyotes, mountain lions and other critters that just made me sick with worry. So we made their chicken coop in our garage. I know, sounds wierd. But its PERFECT. Keeps them totally safe at night.
We dont use the garage to store our car, so we had plenty of room in it. We have doors to get in and out from the inside of the garage for easy cleaning and grabbing eggs (once they start laying!) and they can enter and exit from an open window to go outside and free range during the day. My DH build a little ramp and it took them no time to figure out how to go up and down.
The entire coop is insulated as well. So, yeah, our girls are happy and a bit spoiled!

So far favorite treats have been whole pumpkins, homemade yogurt and applesauce.

There is a great forum called Backyardchickens.com I have learned a lot there, Check it out. Good luck!

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#5 of 42 Old 12-15-2009, 01:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I will check that out! I am really excited. thanks for your stories!

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#6 of 42 Old 12-15-2009, 02:54 PM
 
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We have 25. That is including the three roosters. We got them back in April and they are thriving. Dh built a good size coop for them and then, he added a run when they were big enough to go out. Around here, if they are totally free, they would only make it a few days. We get 19 to 24 eggs a day and give the majority to our friends and family. It works out great.
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#7 of 42 Old 12-24-2009, 03:15 AM
 
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I started out with one flock thinking I'd get meat and eggs from them. Well .... by the time they lay you have so much invested (and a multi purpose heritage is still so darn small!) that I began realizing we need two flocks: One for eggs (we are in the country so they do get picked off here and there, so broody heritage hens are essential for easy flock repleneishing) and one for meat since you WILL harvest them much younger than a layer for a good eating chicken. I plan on ordering a large group of meat (non franken-freak) for harvest while they are young. (this is just what I know so far, would love for more experienced people to school me if needed, I'm open!)

Build a big coop you can walk into and clean out easily. Get a variety of breeds. Clean their scene regularly and keep them warm and healthy. It's really pretty easy!

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#8 of 42 Old 12-24-2009, 06:13 PM
 
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we've got 7 laying hens, and we love them! we're going to do meat birds hopefully next year. we just wanted to start out small so we could figure out what we were doing.

free range doesn't work here because there are way too many predators, so DH made a chicken tractor. it's a mobile coop with a nice sized attached run that we push around to a fresh spot of grass every day or two. they seem very happy in it.

i second the backyardchickens forum. there's also a magazine by the same name. and a yahoo group for raising organic chickens, great resource for all kinds of information about raising chickens naturally. I also love the book Backyard Poultry Naturally by Alanna Moore. you can get it through acresusa. great info on natural remedies for common poultry problems
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#9 of 42 Old 12-24-2009, 07:00 PM
 
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We have 4 hens. We got them maybe 6-8 weeks ago, and they are about 5 months old. Not laying yet. I am thinking it may be spring (march?) before we start getting eggs. I had a coop built by someone locally - it is super cute and up on legs. There is a gang plank down to the ground (which it took a week for the chickens to figure out how to work). I let them out on occasion, but mostly they stay in thier run. It's been cold and they have been just fine. They are lace-wing Wyndottes. The kids love them and they are a lot of fun, and not very much work at all. At night I put up their gang plank and they are secure from predators. They are fun to watch adn are quite funny. We love to give them worms (meal or other) as treats and watch them go after them. Also fun to give them an ear of corn. We are just raising them for the eggs.
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#10 of 42 Old 12-24-2009, 11:37 PM
 
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I have 21 chickens currently, three of them are roosters. This is my third winter with chickens so I've learned quite a bit over that time. To give you some advice without writing a book I'll make a list:

~I like backyardchickens.com too but another great forum is on gardenweb.com in the Farm Life forum, most people in there have chickens and it's a great resource
~All breeds are not created equal. I've had RIR (rhode island reds), Ameraucanas, and Cuckoo Marans. RIR are great for eggs because they lay almost every day and through the winter without any supplemental light. Ameraucanas are cool because they lay blue eggs but they can't compare to the RIR laying. The cuckoo marans are great mamas, out of the 3 we have 2 are determined to hatch anything that doesn't move.
~build your nesting boxes with steeply slanted roofs. If you don't put roofs on the chickens will roost on the edges and poop in the boxes. If you put flat roofs on they may roost on top and you'll be forever scraping poop off the tops.
~ watch out for loose dogs, they are the worst killers. We lose a chicken here and there to hawks, bobcats, etc. but have lost half the flock to neighbors dogs. Dogs kill for the sport of it and aren't satisfied with just one, they'll kill chickens one after another. You can lose all your chickens to a dog in five minutes.
~if you decide to let the chickens completely free range watch out for your flower beds/gardens. My chickens love nothing more than to kick all the mulch out of the beds and to rip out any freshly planted flowers.
~ Mama hens are great at protecting their babies from the rest of the flock but shouldn't be allowed to free range with their babies because plenty of animals that won't eat a full grown chicken think a chick is a perfect snack and Mama can't protect chicks from other animals.
~Raccoons will open a rubbermaid tub to get to chicken feed unless you put something heavy on top (they're a pain in the butt but you have to admire the little devils because they are so darn smart!).
~ Give you're chicks a ton of attention when they are little and they will be easier to manage when they are older, especially the roosters.
~ Whenever you give chicks/chickens something to eat call them first (chick-chick-chick or chick-ens or something) this way they'll associate that word with good stuff and will come when called.
~all hatcheries are not created equal. I ordered from Murray McMurray and Ideal Hatcheries. The Ideal chickens were good specimens of the breed and laid HUGE eggs. The Murray one's were healthy but not show-quality and the eggs weren't a good size for the breed.
~ Some individual sellers will try to pass off dud chickens. They'll sell unhealthy birds, older birds that they say are young, mean ones, etc. Be careful. Better yet don't buy from individuals until you're more experienced or you personally know them.
~ If you are feeding them laying feed don't give them scratch feed also. The laying feed is the right percentage protein for them the scratch has very little protein so you'll lower their protein intake by giving them that. If they don't get enough protein they won't lay optimally.

Well, I wrote a ton anyway. If you have any specific questions feel free to PM me.

Organic gardening, raising, SAHM to my precious baby girl Leyla, born 4/29/10, ten days late and after 32 hours of labor but well worth the wait!
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#11 of 42 Old 01-01-2010, 12:37 AM
 
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a little 7 year old boy in our homeschool co/op has chickens and just started selling eggs about 8 weeks ago and had to get 10 more chickens just to keep up and now has another waiting list! It is crazy! We joke that he will make more than his folks soon- but it may be true! There is a HUGE market for free range eggs!

I would so love to have chickens but we live DOWNTOWN!

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#12 of 42 Old 01-02-2010, 02:15 AM
 
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I live in the city and have 5 hens. All different breeds: an Easter Egger (the "araucana"s or "ameraucana"s you get from a large hatchery), an Ameraucana, a Marans, a Plymouth Rock, and a Leghorn. The Ameraucana lays lovely pale blue eggs, and the Easter Egger lays green eggs. They are both a little standoffish but not skittish either. Our Marans is a purebred from a local breeder (not from a large hatchery) and she lays the most gorgeous LARGE MAROON eggs. She's also quite sweet, but she didn't lay as much as the others because she was broody a lot during the summer and I didn't bother to try to break her. Our Plymouth rock has continued to lay at her summer rate (almost an egg a day) through the winter with no supplemental light. She's also a sweetheart and lays lovely pink eggs. I do not recommend Leghorns for pets. They lay a lot but the laying also fizzles out quickly. She also got frostbite on her comb even in our mild winter.

I was initially interested in all the egg colors, though now I'm more interested in personality too. If I were to get another hen (which I won't until our chicken population goes down to 2 because we don't use that many eggs), I'd like to try a Rhode Island Red, and I'd totally get another purebred Marans. Don't ask me why we have all these egg layers and aren't much of egg eaters.

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#13 of 42 Old 01-02-2010, 02:11 PM
 
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I got 6 chicks from TSC in May 2009. I kept them in a playpen in the laundry room until I moved them outside to a metal shed in the summer.3 were leg horns and 3 were red sex link. If you want hens I say pay the little extra to get sexed chicks.I sold my 3 leg horns(they pecked the red ones way to much) to a mom who said all her straight run chicks turned out to be roosters.She got good at culling,lol.

My red sex link started laying in September and I get an egg from each even in this winter cold with them locked up in the shed all day. I have a run made of plastic fence and bird netting.Not effective at all for protection just control.I am out with them due to hawks.Sometimes I let them range the fenced yard when I am with them though I know hawks will attack even if I am there. I plan to build a secure run for them in the summer and ofcourse get more red sex link hens.

I love my chickens and am just hapy to watch them peck around the yard eating up all my bugs.If you are in the city like I am know your local codes so you can meet them in case anyone complains to the city.I get a lot of info at back yard chicken web page.
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#14 of 42 Old 01-02-2010, 03:36 PM
 
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Yes definitely know your local codes! I had a drawn out thing with code enforcement officers when I wasn't even doing anything wrong...turns out they don't even know their own codes well.

They also thought that my pekin ducks were swans and kept trying to cite me for having swans because those aren't allowed without some special permit or something. LOL. Who doesn't know a fat white duck from a graceful swan??

We have issues with hawks also. I keep roosters for that very reason! And when it's hawk season or the hawks are coming around often then I leave my black lab mix out in the yard with the birds. She came from a farm and is very protective of my chickens as well as my 3 year old DD. She will run and bark at the hawks and scare them off while the roosters sound an alarm and herd everyone into the coops or under the bushes.

We haven't had any problems with roosters in the suburbs, by the way. Once they get past their juvenile "omg I can crow!" loud stage, they hardly make any noise. They will crow a little in the morning, but you can't hear it if they are cooped and you are inside with the doors and windows shut. Then occasionally during the day they will have crowing fits, like barking dogs. But it's nothing constant or consistent.

I love the backyard chickens forums too. Lots of great info there! That's where I learned everything I needed to know and then some!

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#15 of 42 Old 01-02-2010, 08:42 PM
 
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I'm loving this thread. I'm thinking seriously about getting chickens, and trying to learn as much as possible. I'm hoping to attend a City Chickens 101 class through a local org (Seattle Tilth.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattemma04 View Post
I got 6 chicks from TSC in May 2009. I kept them in a playpen in the laundry room until I moved them outside to a metal shed in the summer.
Interesting. I guess one thing that's holding me back is that we have to build a coop and run, and we have SO many house projects that are higher on the priority list. I guess I never thought about keeping them inside for the winter. Is that pretty messy? I have a covered back patio that might work good too, until I have the time to build a coop. hmm...

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#16 of 42 Old 01-02-2010, 09:06 PM
 
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I have one hen (who is perched on my arm).
We started with 4 female rhode chicks, and 4 barred rocks. plus 4 ducks.
We ate the ducks, and I gave away 5 of the hens. Something killed 2 of the hens when they were free-ranging. Our remaining hen has a coop to herself and comes in the house when it is cold and on devils night.
I bought a few americanas as friends, but she hated them, so I gave them away.
I got her a rooster and she had 5 lovely chicks that she loved until they were adults, then she tried to kill them. I put one in the freezer and gave the rest away.

When she fially dies (she is 5yrs old I think), I would like a mixed flock and mostly white egg-layers.

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#17 of 42 Old 01-03-2010, 08:51 AM
 
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I have not found it to be terribly messy until you need to get EVERY poo cleaned up.I use pine shavings and cleaned weekly.In the winter I deep litter it and mix it around.I just clean out the poo from the roost area.

If you do a search under indoor chickens or chickens and Swheat scoop you will find a blog post from a lady who built an indoor pen.Looked pretty easy to build.

I had moved my hens to a garage side room,but had to put them back in the shed when I moved cats into the side room(peeing in the house).I have bales of straw in there,and add milk jugs filled with hot water.My metal shed is not insulated.Today it is 6 right now so I am nervous for them.

There are lots of housing ideas at BYC.It is fun to have my girls.Can't imagine life without hens now.Would looooove a rooster.
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#18 of 42 Old 01-03-2010, 10:10 PM
 
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There is great info in this thread. Thank you all! When I finally have my own house again, I WILL have room for chickens and I will come back here for your good advice.

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#19 of 42 Old 01-04-2010, 05:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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thanks so much mamas! I will keep you posted as we go, looking like end of Feb early March when we will get our chicks!

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#20 of 42 Old 01-05-2010, 10:09 AM
 
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I have a dream of having chickens one day. It will probably never happen because I like to vacation too much, but it's still something I would like to do. How long can you leave your chickens alone?

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#21 of 42 Old 01-09-2010, 10:18 AM
 
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Chicks-dust complaint.
I have read a lot of BYC posts about regretting a brooder in the living room and so on.

I don't know what kind of dust the chicks give off as they grow,but I thought the dust from the pine shaving was worse.Just something to keep in mind as you try to decide where the brooder will go.I will do the laundry room again,and just cover my expensive washer!

My red sex-link hens are still chugging along in this cold,and giving me 2-3 eggs per day(out of 3 hens).
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#22 of 42 Old 01-09-2010, 12:31 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mattemma04 View Post
Chicks-dust complaint.
I have read a lot of BYC posts about regretting a brooder in the living room and so on.

I don't know what kind of dust the chicks give off as they grow,but I thought the dust from the pine shaving was worse.Just something to keep in mind as you try to decide where the brooder will go.I will do the laundry room again,and just cover my expensive washer!

My red sex-link hens are still chugging along in this cold,and giving me 2-3 eggs per day(out of 3 hens).
I have tried it two ways. The first time I tried low dust pine shavings, the kind from Tractor Supply. There was a ton of thick dust. The second time I brooded chicks I used paper towels at first, and then once they grew a bit stronger I lined the brooder with non-stick shelf liner. The kind that's squishy and has tiny holes in it. That worked really well, but the dust was still ungodly horrible. I should have taken a picture, but it was too embarrassing! It was literally two inches deep on every surface. The dust doesn't smell or anything, it's just...dusty.

If you don't have anything important in the room, then it should be fine. Just be prepared to vacuum and dust and mop and vacuum and mop again....

We had a couch in the room the first time I brooded chicks, an old one, that was so dusty we ended up throwing it away. I vacuumed it and scrubbed it, and every time we sat down on it chicken dust would fly out. Gross!

The dust is from the chickens themselves. Their feather shafts produce dust as the feathers grow! It's like how dust in our homes is made of human dander, but chicks have a lot more down and such. Plus the chicken dust also has bits of dried bird poo that gets ground up, and ground feed, and bits from the shavings if you use them.

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#23 of 42 Old 01-09-2010, 03:09 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by atobols View Post
I have a dream of having chickens one day. It will probably never happen because I like to vacation too much, but it's still something I would like to do. How long can you leave your chickens alone?
i think that really depends on how you keep them, and what kind of predators you've got around. we can leave ours overnight, probably could for 2 nights in the summer with sufficient water and food out for them. but we worry about predators so we have a door to their coop that we have to shut/lock each night to be sure nothing gets at them. we have gone camping overnight and left it open and they've been fine... but with predators a-plenty it's definitely a gamble. it'd be easy enough for one of them to dig under our enclosed run on the chicken tractor and get at them if the door wasn't closed.

chickens are probably easier than dogs when it comes to asking someone to "watch" them for you while you're away. if you have large feeders and you don't do anything fancy, you probably would just need someone to make sure they had plenty of food and water and to collect eggs - once a day would be sufficient if they weren't depending on someone to open and close the door for them in the morning and night, and depending on weather it could even be less (you don't want your eggs to freeze or be in really hot temps, but in the spring or fall it wouldn't be a big deal particularly if the eggs sat for a couple of days - we keep ours on the counter at room temp). they put themselves to bed each night, so it's not like you'd need someone to go chasing them around to put them in or anything. mostly just to collect eggs and make sure they have fresh water, and fill up the feeders as-needed.
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#24 of 42 Old 01-09-2010, 10:40 PM
 
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When we go out of town we just have a friend stop by every other day for our chickens. It's easy to find a chicken-sitter, just tell them they can keep all the eggs the gals lay while you're gone. Everyone loves those tasty fresh homegrown eggs!
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#25 of 42 Old 01-11-2010, 11:51 PM
 
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subbing to read later. I would to have chickens!
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#26 of 42 Old 01-12-2010, 12:50 AM
 
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We have 8 laying hens. We started in the spring with 2 each of 5 breeds; Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Ameraucanas, buff orpingtons, and black sex links. One of my rocks turned out to be a rooster, so we gave him to a local family that breeds them. Then one of my black sex links never came back home one evening... still don't know for sure what happened to her?
Anyway, the remaining 8 lay consistently; we are still getting 4-6 eggs/day with no supplemental lighting.
We started our chicks in March in our living room. I used a big rubbermaid container and a heat lamp rigged above; lined with newspaper and cleaned that thing every day till they were old enough to move outside... I never had any problem with dust...?
When it got warm enough to move them out, we built a coop/run up on legs that reminded me of a rabbit hutch. We spent about $20 on it, using mostly scrap wood from old pallets and buying only wire mesh for the run. When the hens outgrew that, we really lucked up. The neighbors had a large pile of old fencing material and a half-falling dog run which we asked to buy from him. Since he was fixing up his house to sell, he told us to take all the fencing for $20! We spent another $40 on gate hardware (it was missing) and corrugated fiber roofing... We put chainlink fence up as the run and used a couple sections of privacy fencing to build a hen house. We cut a hole in the side for the chickens to go in and out and put a fullsized door for us to go in and out. There's a nestbox (all 8 hens use the one box) and two roosts inside. At night, the hens stay snug in their house, during the day, they flap over the fence and roam around our yard and into the fields behind our house.
Having chickens has been a lot of fun for us and our kids; they love to go out and gather the eggs every day and take the "girls" their favorite foods--they love lettuce, spinach, pretty much any veg...

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#27 of 42 Old 01-12-2010, 01:57 AM
 
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Does anyone make their own feed? Just curious if it would be worth the time and energy...

Mom to DD1 (10/07) and DD2 (3/11)
geek.gif I blog about our life with food allergies and eosinophilic disorders.
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#28 of 42 Old 01-12-2010, 01:28 PM
 
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I don't do home made chicken feed....yet.I give them purina crumbles or pellets,some chicken scratch mix,flax seeds,and crushed oyster shells.

I am trying to raise some mealworms for them,and sometimes I cook them some eggs and/or oatmeal.They like cottage cheese too.I add some kefir to that.In the fall it was a race to see which one of us could get to the garden worms faster.I needed some for our frogs.They usaully ate them before I could pick any up!

I know some on BYC do their own mix,or they buy from farmers who make huge amounts of organic mix to sell.

I am going to ask my mom what they did back in the small village she came from in Hungary.I know there was no such thing as pet food,and I bet there was no bags of chicken feed sold either.

If I run out I feed them whatever I have on hand till I get my store feed.They waste A LOT of the feed if you don't have a good feeder they can't tip over or knock everything out of it.I just have bowls that get tipped.Probably going to make a bucket feeder this spring.
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#29 of 42 Old 01-12-2010, 05:08 PM
 
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Where do you all order chicks from? I've looked at a couple hatcheries online, and they all seem to have a 25-chick minimum order. Just curious if anyone ships less than that, or if I need to find some people to go in on an order.

Mom to DD1 (10/07) and DD2 (3/11)
geek.gif I blog about our life with food allergies and eosinophilic disorders.
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#30 of 42 Old 01-12-2010, 05:39 PM
 
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I didn't raise chicks, I got all of mine as pullets. I got to skip the brooder and chick-feed hassle and expenses and go straight to the good part (eggs and pest control)!

If you're looking for chicks, see if there's a farm store, garden store, or hardware store in your area selling chicks. Many of them do have them in season (this won't start up until the end of February at the absolute earliest; you may have to wait until March or April).

As for homemade feed, we feed ours a local feed with no corn or soy in it, and give them a handful of corn-based scratch every day. We also give them most of our kitchen scraps - vegetable trimmings and peels, old fruit gone soft, apple cores, eggshells, leftover eggs, basically anything we don't want to eat except avocado (it's poisonous to them), chicken meat (for obvious reasons), or garlic and onions (they don't like it and it would make the eggs taste bad). We just throw it all into a bowl over the course of the day and in the morning I throw it into the food processor to make a big meal out of it; then we dump it in a little feeder we made by cutting off the bottom of a kitty-litter container and punching hooks into it. (Their regular feed is in a bucket feeder.)
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