With a Cluck Cluck Here…Raising Chickens
This article was originally published on 06/04/2016. I’m republishing it today as part one of a 4 part series: Don’t Mess With My Cluck Cluck. The remaining articles will be published over the next few days, including information on egg production and storage, and preparing for winter. Enjoy!
Hey there…I’m back…Mountain Momma
I love chickens. It’s probably a throwback from my childhood. When I was a kid I had the privilege of having two Grandmas, Two Grandpas, and two Great-Grandmas.
All my Grandmas and my Momma had chickens.
My Grandma Jones was my Daddy’s Mom’s Mom. Figure that one out. She lived with Daddy and his family from the time Daddy was five. When Daddy and Momma got married they built a house next door to his folks on Grandma and Grandpa Jones’ homestead.
First thing in the morning, Grandma Jones would get up and call her “ladies” as she called them. Just the sound of her voice and her chickens always came running. She knew all their names and clucked at them. They followed her all over the yard. To me, it was magic!
Chickens are essential to a homestead. They can be raised on a small plot of ground. If you’re in a rural area, you can have all you want. If you live inside the city limits, be sure to check out local laws. Most small towns allow you to have a few but they don’t always allow you to have a rooster. They’re loud!
Laying up supplies is important, for sure. You don’t have a sustainable commodity unless you have a way to regenerate that commodity. Chickens are perfect for this.
At their peak, chickens lay one egg a day. Figure out how many you and your family need when deciding how many chickens to get.
Add a rooster. Without a rooster you can have eggs but no new chickens. And that’s not all, the rooster is not only a love muffin, but he also protects his harem.
I raise both layers and meat chickens and I raise them separately. For a small chicken yard, I suggest getting an all-around breed like Production Reds or Barred Plymouth Rocks. Both are excellent layers and also provide good drumsticks. For my meat chickens, I get Cornish X. They grow to butcher size in five to seven weeks.
If you order a straight run from the hatchery you will get both pullets (girls) and cockerels (boys). Raise the pullets into hens and butcher all but one of the roosters. If you don’t want to butcher just order all pullets.
My Ladies are Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Barred Rocks, Buff Orpingtons, Black Sex Links, Production Reds, and Delawares who lay brown eggs. Some like a single breed. I like a variety like flowers.
Maybe you’ve wondered what the difference is between brown eggs and white eggs. None, except for the color of the shell. I have a few called Araucanas that lay rainbow eggs, blue, green, yellow, pink, and lavender shells. Talk about Easter eggs but the eggs taste the same. It takes a lot longer for Araucanas to start laying eggs so I only get a few for the grandkids.
At the present time, I have twenty-two hens and three roosters. More are coming soon. Two of the roosters were supposed to be girls but uh..oh, a little gender identity problem here. Those two extra roosters are going to go live with two of my friends.
My rooster, John Rambo, is a gorgeous rooster and he knows it! He’s just a big mix. I’m not sure where his Mom had been. There’s no way he would put up with those two young roosters. He’d fight them when they get bigger so they’ve got to go. No rooster fights allowed around here!
Where can you get chickens to raise? Check on the internet under “Hatcheries” to find some in your area. Have an idea which breeds you want and how many. The people at the hatchery are always ready to help. They will ship them directly to your house. Most chicks in my area are about $4.00 each and will be a day old. Momma would order a hundred at a time and the mail lady would deliver them to our house.
What do you do when a batch of baby chickens arrive? I start them out in my bathtub. Sure it’s a little smelly at first and we have to use the shower in the other bath but it’s only for a short time. Several times a day I carefully take out the chicks and put them in a cardboard box. Then I scrub down the tub and dry it good before I put the chicks back in. If you don’t want to use your tub, you can put them in a plastic dog crate. They can squeeze out of the metal ones.When they have enough feathers to fly out of the tub, I move them outdoors.
If you only have a few you can keep them in a large dog house and pen. I suggest you have a door to close them in at night to keep them safe. Put a top over the pen (think blue tarp). I lost a whole flock to a raccoon a couple of years ago.
How about free range chickens? In the grocery stores they charge an arm and a leg for those eggs. What they really mean is that the chickens are raised in a good, clean place with room to move around, not in those horrible “chicken mills” where they never get out of their nest. I don’t recommend that you let your chickens run totally free. For one, you have to find where they are laying to collect the eggs, and they move the spot all the time. I love Hide ‘n Seek but not with a bunch of chickens when I’m looking for their eggs. I recommend a fenced “run” where they can scratch, eat bugs and tasty morsels of plants.
As for feeding them, baby chicks eat chick starter until they go to the chicken house. Then I put them on Layer Pellets. I use a Chicken feeder that dispenses feed much like a dog feeder, and a Chicken waterer, both of mine hold about 6 gallons. The babies have the same that holds about a quart. I throw a little Scratch (cracked corn) on the ground as a treat.
Collect your eggs daily. Wash and store them in your fridge. If you have a rooster, watch the hens when they start laying (after about four months). If you have one that just wants to stay on the eggs, you have a “setter” and she will hatch her eggs. You can slide eggs from other hens under so she will hatch them, too. These are the chickens that will replenish your flock.
Now my Ladies come when they hear MY voice.
Obviously this is only an introduction to raising chickens. I’m hopeful it piques your interest.
I look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions, put them in the comments. I’ll be glad to answer them.
Happy chick hunting and Be Prepared.
Mountain Momma is LeaAnn Porter, Ken Porter’s wife, and she’s been prepping for a long time.