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Cultivate Simple 66: Here Chook, Chook, Chook

February 24th, 2014

This week on the podcast we talk about chickens, how to care for them and why you should have them.

I’ve had lots of requests to talk about keeping a small flock of chickens. Before we moved to Maine I’d been longing to have a flock of my own chickens. I love having animals around, and chickens seemed like a valuable addition to our life. Not only do you get eggs, but you also get manure, insect control and scratching.
Chickens 1
I think everyone should have chickens or rabbits, they are a great way to increase your food independence and produce some of your own protein as well as valuable fertilizer for your garden. Whenever you can close the loop you’re better off and you’ll have great, healthy food for your table.
chickens in apple tree 3
Considerations:
How much time to they take? Chickens really don’t take that much time each day, especially if you’re feeding chicken feed. I mix and ferment my own chicken feed and it takes me about 10 min per day preparing their feed and gathering eggs. Since I practice the deep litter method I only clean the coop once or twice a year, usually in spring and sometimes in the fall if I need fertilizer.
New Chickens 9
How much do they cost? That depends entirely on what kind of chickens you get and what you decide to feed them. Mine are very inexpensive to keep around because I buy grain from local farms and mix my own feed. Even if you’re buying organic feed you will still come out ahead if you’re buying organic, free range eggs. Keep in mind that you’re also getting fertilizer and insect control from your chickens.
New Chickens 2 (1)
What are their requirements? Chickens really need very little. A place out of the elements, with shade from the sun, protection from the wind and rain. They will also need protected from predation.

Most important thing is protection from predators. These depend on where you live. This also depends on your flock, how you want to manage them. Do you want to risk losses for free ranging?
chickens and clarington forge
Where do I start? Look for a spot in your yard where they can reside. Somewhere convenient to your house is best since you’ll be heading out every day. Decide if you want them to free range around your yard or be contained to a specific area. They will scratch in your flowerbeds and eat your plant, especially your garden plants.
chicken coop 1
Do they smell? No – a properly managed chicken yard doesn’t smell – I recommend the deep litter method. So far there have been no smells in my chicken coop. Just keep adding litter. The same thing can be done in their run.

What kind of coop do I need? It depends on how many chickens you’re going to have and how much time they will spend in their coop. Also consider the size of the run if you have it. Consider building the coop above with a run area below. This will keep it dry and give them an area to get out of the rain/weather. Chickens don’t care what their coop looks like, they’re happy as long as it’s dry and draft free. Biggest consideration is ventilation to keep the humidity down. I have a board on Pinterest full of coop ideas and other chicken information.
chicken coop 3
What breed of chicken do I get? Find a local breeder or find someone who has barnyard mix – the “mutt” of the chicken world. If you live in the South you want a heat tolerant breed and if you live in the North a cold tolerant breed is best. This is why it’s a good idea to get them from a local breeder/farmer. You know their chickens will do well in your area. Don’t trust chickens from Craigslist, most of the time they’re not the greatest and can be diseased. You want chickens from a reputable place.
What about diseases? A well managed flock won’t really have issues with diseases. The deep litter method also helps with this. As with anything, making sure you’re feeding them well so they’re healthy is your best way of controlling diseases.
chicken love 1
What else should I consider? How you will manage your flock. Willl you make them your pets or are you going to take a hands off approach. Consider that you will have to deal with death and possible have to put down a chicken in case of injury or illness.

What do I feed them? you can go with chicken feed, but you’re probably better off mixing your own feed.
fermented chicken feed
If you’re on the fence, do it. I really don’t think you’ll regret it, you’re more likely going to wish you had done it sooner.

Think about maybe sharing a flock with a friend or neighbor, split costs and work. Then you have someone to watch them while you’re gone. Though many people are more than happy to check in on your chickens in exchange for free eggs.

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12 Comments to “Cultivate Simple 66: Here Chook, Chook, Chook”
  1. Nebraska Dave on February 24, 2014 at 8:19 am

    Susy, chickens are not a possibility in my Urban Farming plan. Although I do like the sound of a contented clucking hen scratching around the farm yard, I’m sure city regulations would prevent it. Most city dwellers just don’t see the point in all the work when Walmart is just over the hill and sells eggs for just a couple bucks a dozen. I will have to be satisfied with wild turkeys that roam the garden area. They are pretty well behaved and don’t bother the produce except for the young corn sprouts. They like to pick at them. They don’t pull out the sprout but just shred the leaves. The corn usually survives and goes on to feed the raccoons in mid to late summer. I doubt that I’ll ever be a full fledged Urban City homestead but more of a Urban City Farm.

    Have a great chicken day.

    Reply to Nebraska Dave's comment

  2. angie h on February 24, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Thanks for doing this one! I know how well researched you are and I like the way you do things…as follows when we get chickens I want to raise them like you. I need to get this book you so highly recommend!

    Reply to angie h's comment

  3. DebbieB on February 24, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    I am so looking forward to moving elsewhere and getting chickens. I want them so badly! For all the reasons you mention – eggs, pest control, scratching, compost turning, weeding, entertainment, fertilizing. This podcast made my yearning for chooks even stronger! Alas, we are zoned against it here. I couldn’t even get “stealth” quiet chickens because my jerk of a next door neighbor peeks over my fence and would certainly report me. (May his roses never bloom!) Still, I’m collecting info and I’ll be well-informed when we finally DO get our own chickens. Thanks for sharing the gleanings from all your research, as well as your own experience! I know that when I do get my chooks, they’ll benefit from fermented grain and garden treats, and live happy lives while giving me the eggs and doing the work I need done.
    DebbieB´s last post ..Finished Rainbow Stripe Towels

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  4. Kathy Adams on February 24, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    We have 7 chickens – they are not only entertaining, but soothing too.
    After a day working in our garden, we love to sit in our lawn chairs and listen to their chicken talk. We call it our “Chicken Therapy”.
    Can’t wait until the weather gets warmer!

    Reply to Kathy Adams's comment

  5. Heather on February 24, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    I live on less than an acre in a pretty urban area. Can I have chickens on a small plot of land enclosed if my county allows it?

    Reply to Heather's comment

    • Susy on February 24, 2014 at 7:18 pm

      That’s plenty of space. You could have a nice little flock of chickens in that space!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  6. Misti on February 24, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    I have an idea: when it warms up y’all should make a vlog tour of your 300 acres. I’d love to see the woods and marshes on your property.

    I hear you on the annoying mortgage issue. We too pay an extra principal monthly, but right after we had moved in our initial mortgage company sold our mortgage to another company and there was a month or two they tried to tell us we didn’t owe anything but we knew better. It was very frustrating trying to get it worked out. Luckily now it is online and fairly automated.

    I’m still debating about chickens. Though I’m eating meat again, I’m not sure how long it will last after I have the baby. Plus, I’m coming to realize I really don’t care for chicken all that much. Other meats, yes, but chicken is lacking. As much as I like eggs (when not pregnant) I think it will end up being better for me to buy them locally. Still, there’s an allure and romantic notion about having chickens!
    Misti´s last post ..The Next Garden Phase

    Reply to Misti's comment

    • Susy on February 25, 2014 at 9:34 am

      I’m with you on the not liking chicken, not my favorite. That’s what I love about our muscovies – they’re much tastier to me than chicken. Plus they’re so much easier to raise, they raise themselves.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  7. Louise on February 24, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    Thanks for the post! We have had chickens for a number of years now, with a short break in between the folks. Our homestead was not the same without the chickens, and we hopefully will never have to be without them again. The chickens in our first folk all had names, which we reframe from doing now; it makes it extremely difficult at culling time.

    We live in the south/west and the deep litter method does not work well for dry and arid areas. For the deep litter method, I was told, you need humidity to help brake down the litter.

    Susy, could you please explain what you use for your own mix and the fermenting process? Thank you : )

    Reply to Louise's comment

  8. Julia on February 28, 2014 at 1:55 pm

    Hi Susy, I only started following your blog a few months ago. I listened to the podcast today and heard that you have hit an impasse as far as topics to talk about goes. Would you consider talking more about growing flowers or plants for their foliage? Maybe comparing the differences between growing these types of plants vs edibles. If one requires more care than the other. If you do the same planing like you do for your edible garden, for example location and layout. Any experimentation you have done to see if certain plants will grow in certain locations that they are not suited for etc. What you have done in the past or present to protect your plants from being trampled by people. Problems and successes growing these types of plants. I’ve gone through most of your podcasts and posts and i’m not sure if you have done this already, hopefully it’s something you haven’t done yet. Those are just a few ideas from someone who has only dealt with growing non food items.

    Have a good weekend.

    Reply to Julia's comment

  9. Kimberly on March 5, 2014 at 11:44 am

    I love my chickens!
    We have about 30 these days. I just came in earlier with eggs still warm to scramble up for breakfast. It’s nice.
    Kimberly´s last post ..small~medium~large

    Reply to Kimberly's comment

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