24 January 2011

Thoughts on Keeping Chickens

Dear Midnight Baker,

I thought I'd share my thoughts on what I've learned about keeping chickens since I started studying up on it, and then living with them, a year ago. I really enjoy my subscription to Backyard Poultry Magazine and highly recommend the (unrelated) Back Yard Chickens website.

  • Chickens are easy to keep, super funny, and a bit more expensive than you imagine.
  • Get the coop built, including nest boxes & adult height roosts, before the chicks arrive. Doing it before placing your order is even better.
  • "Straight run" means at least 50% roosters. Be prepared to butcher, order all hens, or go in with someone who only wants meat birds.
  • Flightless types get eaten first.
  • Deep litter is cheap, low maintenance, and doesn't stink.
  • Hanging feeders and nipple waterers are better than floor models. A well supported bucket-style waterer is probably better than a hanging jug because you can stick a heater in it.
  • Roosters crow. A lot. And very early. I mean it. On the other hand, a rooster helps the hens in many ways. They remain watchful when hens hyper-focus on food. Brother roosters work together.
  • Free ranging really does reduce pecking & bickering amongst chickens.
  • Light & heat in winter = more eggs.
  • Say goodbye to your mulch.
  • Automatic doors are worth the money. Spending $50 for a solar panel is worth it too. (Wish I'd gone that route.)
  • Good feed & plenty of bugs = great eggs. If you enjoy bug zappers you'll really enjoy observing moth season in the coop.

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