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Sustainable Chickens!! :O

Discussion in 'Poultry' started by ECO FRIENDLY, Jan 28, 2014.

  1. Jan 28, 2014
    ECO FRIENDLY

    ECO FRIENDLY Enjoys Recycling

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    Here to ask general questions about chickens!
    These seem to be cheap and generally easy to raise so these will be my first investment as far as livestock.
    My goals to having chickens are to take care of my egg and poultry needs while POTENTIALLY making some extra money on the side...

    How many chickens will it require to take care of my needs?
    Will I be able to keep 4-5 chickens and all together expect that to be enough?
    What kind of coup should I look into?
    Is building one less expensive than buying one?

    Looking for all the help I can get here, can't wait to hear all of your expert advice!!
     
  2. Jan 28, 2014
    Hinotori

    Hinotori Super Self-Sufficient

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  3. Jan 28, 2014
    FarmerJamie

    FarmerJamie Mr. Sensitive

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    possibilities, possibilities.... :caf

    There are many, many different approaches to managing a flock. Some prefer dual purpose breeds (eggs and meat), some prefer more specialized for meat OR eggs. The more you can free range the birds, the lower your feed bill is (plus, egg layers can be cyclical in levels of production due to time of the year, molting, stress, etc)

    @Hinotori is correct. When I had 23 birds and sold eggs for $2/doz. I had enough eggs to supply a family of five and break even on the feed cost with the remainder.

    As far as coops - are you going to free range or fence them in? 4-5 chickens are about right for a mobile coop that you could move around the property and let you fence them in specific areas (e.g., a future garden spot).
     
  4. Jan 28, 2014
    Marianne

    Marianne Super Self-Sufficient

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    Ditto what the others say. I have 17 new girls that just started laying, plus my 7 old girls and 3 guineas. I free range, costs next to nothing to feed them in the warmer months. I throw organic grains on the ground so what they don't eat will grow to produce more food for them. I have an area in front of their coop that all the kitchen scraps go. There has been volunteer tomato plants, squash, wheat, milo, gobs of wild sunflowers, various weeds of course, but it's all edible for the hens. Plus it gives them a shady, cool area to hang out when it's really hot.
    Check into fermented feed, it's easy to do and will help cut your winter feed bill by a third (for most people).
    I started with 8 hens, had plenty for both of us and plenty to give away to friends.
     
  5. Jan 28, 2014
    baymule

    baymule Sustainability Master

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    Bear in mind that chickens molt at about 18 months old. All their protein goes into new feathers, so no eggs at that time. I let the hens lay after their first molt until their 2nd molt, then they hit the stew pot.

    I have figured out to keep 12 layers. Last year's, year before last, adding 6 hen chicks at a time. I add 6 new pullets each spring, which gives me 18-20+ chickens at a time. The 6 new pullets usually start laying in the fall/late summer, which pull the slack for the molting hens. I generally keep the old hens in reserve and butcher as needed. They make lovely soup! Depending on time of year, I get 9-20 eggs a day. By adding new pullets every year, I never "run dry" in the winter. We get enough eggs to feed us, family members, give to friends and sell some too. What I sell pays for most of the feed.

    I live in town with very close neighbors, so no rooster. I deep litter the coop and run, so no smell. Build your coop like Fort Knox. Go to www.backyardchickens.com and study the predator and coop forum. Learn from other's mistakes so you don't walk out to raccoon/dog/hawk slaughter of all your chickens.

    My coop is dirt floored as is my run. I pile in leaves, grass clippings, corn shucks and cobs, pea hulls, all types of vegetable matter. What they don't eat, they poop all over and scratch to bits. They are my garden compost makers! My run is made from cow panels, covered in hardware cloth, bowed over in a "hoop" stapled to a frame. I love it, was easy to build.

    Hoopy coop finished.jpg

    hoopy coop start.jpg

    I put the frame on blocks because it was beams and 2x4's I had "found" and they are not treated. I had the blocks, so I raised the frame to keep it from rotting. I skirted the whole thing with 1"x2"x2' welded wire, laid flat on the ground to keep digging predators out. Study on BYC, there is all you ever wanted to know about chickens and a whole lot you never thought to ask. Be sure to come back and let us know how you are doing!
     
    frustratedearthmother likes this.
  6. Jan 29, 2014
    Beekissed

    Beekissed Mountain Sage

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    You can't do anything much sustainable with just 5 chickens unless one of those is a rooster...you'll need flock replacements and to do that sustainably you will need to be able to have breeds that are prone to broodiness and will raise their own replacements~and a rooster to breed them to.

    We don't know the size of your family or the egg consumption therein, so your needs are hard to gauge. If a family of four eats two eggs each x 3 a week, you'll need 2 doz a wk. to even provide that many.

    That brings us to breeds...layers are good for warm climates and for 2 yrs of steady laying, winter and summer with stops for molting, but usually they won't go broody and are not much for sustainability...these can be sprinkled through a larger dual purpose flock in small numbers now and again to keep laying stats up in the winter months.

    Dual purpose breeds are your best bets for broody and still good laying and some are known for good winter laying as well as fast molt recovery...Black Australorps, White Rocks and New Hampshires are all good breeds for that and easy to find, won't burn out in two years and will still have enough carcass size to eat when they are done laying. they are also good breeds for beginners and they do go broody on occasion. You can also keep a few specialty breeds just for broody work, such as Standard Cochins or Easter Eggers.

    For sustainability and profit, you will need a flock big enough to provide for a family, still have eggs left over for selling, diverse enough to lay well but still reproduce their own kind, of types the can survive on free range(important if you want to save money/make a profit), and small enough to still turn a profit. You'll also need to learn what to look for and how to cull for excellent laying, health and feed thrift.

    I've turned good profit with a mixed flock of 30 on free range and by keeping overhead low(making coops and equipment, scavenging for fencing, building materials and tools, free ranging and feeding fermented feeds, buying feed straight from the mill, etc.) You can do way better than break even if you pay attention to detail, cull strenuously, don't free choice feed, obtain the right breeds/stock, and only use bought feed as a supplement or for winter rations. Not only did I break even at selling eggs at $2 a doz. but I had money left over for stock replacement and for my own use, while also having eggs left over to donate to the local food pantry.
     
  7. Jan 29, 2014
    ECO FRIENDLY

    ECO FRIENDLY Enjoys Recycling

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    Wow, thanks for all the awesome replies everyone!!
    @farmer Jamie that is very useful info, I plan to expand my family tree as this journey continues ;)
    FOR NOW however, I'm only looking to support myself of 20 years old.
    Also plan on hunting so while I don't plan to directly eat lots of chicken, I could use one every now and again.
    How many is good to start with?

    Also @Beekissed seeing as how I plan on expanding later on, it would be wise to just go ahead and save up enough for the coup I'll need always instead of improving it down the road...
    I hear that chickens need to be moved around the land to pick natural food from the earth... Is that a plausible idea on my 6 acres?
     
  8. Jan 29, 2014
    Beekissed

    Beekissed Mountain Sage

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    Build as big as you can...it's better to have more space than you need than not enough. You will need space for broodies and babies, for feeders and waterers, for feed storage, etc.

    Chickens will move themselves around the land if you just let them. Six acres are a plenty if you have good graze and foraging opportunities, but usually they will only utilize about 2 acres right around your coop, so place it well.

    A good dog in that space to guard them, plenty of places to duck and cover and also breeds that are good on range can help with all that. The earlier you get them out on range, the more wily they will be. A lot of people make the mistake of not putting them out on range until they are 1-2 mo. old and that's too late, IMO...they work on pure instinct when they are chicks and will learn quicker and better how best to avoid predators then.
     
  9. Jan 29, 2014
    ECO FRIENDLY

    ECO FRIENDLY Enjoys Recycling

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    Another question I had, is I also plan to have a Goat at some point in time. Would I be better off building a barn structure and making a place for the chickens, with my goat?

    Or is having a separate coup from Pen benefit in the long run?
     
  10. Jan 29, 2014
    Beekissed

    Beekissed Mountain Sage

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    Separate. The goat will eat the chicken's feed and you won't want that. The chickens can wander into the goat's space and that's alright but you don't want the goat in the chicken's coop at all.
     
    Blaundee likes this.

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