Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Here a Chick, There a Chick, Everywhere...

by: A View From the Green Barn

Ann Arbor Michigan, home of many innovational thinkers has recently passed a law that allows residents to raise chickens within the city limits. An ordinance was passed in June of 2008 that for $20 per year, residents are allowed to raise up to four hens and no roosters. That may not sound all that earth-shattering, but to me, it is a bright beacon of light that may show the way to America to get back to our earthy roots. A quick Google search reveals that there are communities across the world that allow the raising of poultry within city or village limits.

Raising our own food does not need to be confined to our vegetable gardens. Raising a few hens for eggs is not that difficult, and adding some meat birds to the mix will yield some very tasty home-grown meals as well. There are many sites across the internet that explain the "how-tos" of raising chickens, so I won't go into all of the details. If you would like to read free and excellent information on starting your own flock, please click on this link: Mother Earth News.

There is a lot of chicken terminology that you will need to learn. Here are a few of the "insider" terms so you can talk to poultry farmers, or your feed store personnel and feel smart.

All chickens are called chicks when they hatch.

Young males are cockerels, and are roosters when they turn one year old.

Pullets are young females. On their first birthday, pullets become hens.

Layer: hen that lays eggs.

Right now, I have about thirty steady layers, and they are laying about twenty eggs per day. I think my production is a little low, but when it comes to egg production, I made some mistakes in my flock selection.

Since I live on a small farm, it was rather simple for me to get started with chickens. I have a barn which has housed many chickens over the past 100 years. Chickens need a place to get out of the wind and rain, and also, a place that is secure from predators. I installed a 175 foot portable electric chicken mesh around my chicken yard and this has been very successful in keeping my flock safe. I have watched dogs and cats approach my chickens with questionable motives only to find their noses scorched by the high powered jolt of my electric friend.

If you live in a city, or in a suburban setting, there are some great options for you. One of them is called a chicken tractor. This is a small chicken enclosure that is completely secure and can be moved around your yard to keep the chickens supplied with fresh grass and a clean living area. Many of the designs provide you with ways to feed, water, gather eggs and clean with minimal work.

Chicken Breeds

I said earlier that I made some mistakes in my early choices of chickens. Well, I really do enjoy all of the chickens I have, but I would make different choices now. I ordered the "Ornamental Layer Collection" from McMurray Hatchery. This was a great collection of interesting looking chickens. By selecting for looks, and not production, I am "paying" for it now. Many of my hens are poor egg producers, or lay small to medium eggs. I am gradually changing my flock over to larger and more productive hens. I have added Rhode Island Reds, Light Brahmas and Black Sex Links hens. You will find these three to be great hens to have.

Raising your own hens is not difficult and can be a great addition to your simple life. They will provide you with a steady supply of eggs, and also a steady supply of entertainment.