My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

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My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by MacTech » Sat Dec 13, 2014 3:04 pm

It's been 30 years since we last kept chickens, I was a child back then, but I've decided to keep chickens again...

In late April, I purchased six chicks...
Buff Orpington (3)
Partridge Plymouth Rock (2)
Easter Egger (1)

A few months ago, we brought up two roosters from my sister's flock, both hatched from her flock, and nestmates, raised by a broody hen, they're best buddies and have no agression issues (so far)

Tribble is a Silkie/Cochin cross, jet black, 90% Silkie feathering, with shredded wing and tail feathers, and a cool "Mohawk"
Raven is pure Cochin, jet black with iridescent green sheen, and yellow chevrons on his hackles and the shoulders of his wings

The flock has been raised to free range, wander the lawn and ajacent fields, I open the door to their barn in the morning, replenish their water, check their feed, then open the door to the run to let them out into the yard

I paid about $3.00 per bird, and have gotten far more than that back in many ways....

They're doing a great job reducing the undesirable insect population (ticks, grubs, mosquitoes, horseflies, deerflies, etc...)
They do a great job foraging for their own food, grass, seeds, worms, whatever they can scratch up
They keep the shrubbery clear of leaf litter, and eat the grass clippings from lawn mowing
They clean and turn up the gardens after the growing season
They eat kitchen scraps and surplus garden produce past its prime

So, they're basically feeding themselves for free, a bag of layer pellets and of cracked corn will last me at least three months during the warmer months, I really don't factor in the cost of their commercial feed, as it lasts for so long, they far prefer foraging to commercial feed

Then there are the intangible benefits...
Their bedding is composted, and I'll be turning that back into the gardens
Their scratching and foraging helps keep the lawn aerated and free of lawn clippings
I haven't seen a tick on any of us, the dog, or cat since the flock began free ranging
Their antics playing in the yard are far more entertaining than anything on TV (well, aside from The Walking Dead, that is, however I will say my chickens are clearly more intelligent than the characters on TWD)
With a pair of roosters, the flock should theoretically be self-replenishing, and the genetics of the roosters are ideal for New England winters, what with their tiny wattles and "mulberry" combs, no frostbite risk there...
It's fun to play "armchair geneticist" and speculate on what traits would manifest in the next generation of backyard "mutt" chickens

And the most obvious benefit?
A reliable source of some of the best, healthiest high quality protein available, the eggs

If you've never had an egg from a backyard hen, one free to roam, to scratch and peck at the ground, to forage for grass, seeds, bugs, worms, and whatever they can get their beaks around, you are missing out, backyard eggs from happy chickens free to *BE* chickens are amazingly good, the yolks are nearly flourescent Orange, tall, and firm, the inner albumen has a faint golden tint,and is firm and supports the yolk, eggs actually have two layers of albumen, a firmer inner to support the yolk, and a thinner outer, the inner slowly thins as the egg ages, this is one way to tell how fresh your eggs really are, supermarket eggs have sat out so long that there is no difference between the inner and outer albumen, on average, supermarket eggs are at least 3 weeks old to a month old before they get to the grocery store, they cannot compete with an egg fresh from the chicken in any way at all

And the best benefit of all?
Knowing *exactly* what went into your food, and how the birds were raised

If you have the space to raise chickens, even a small flock of two to three bantams, it's worth it, if you let chickens be chickens, you'll find that they're actually remarkably personable, funny, inquisitive birds, with their own unique personalities and mannerisms, during the warm months, when I come home from work and it's still light out, the hens will all run over to greet me as I park the car and get out of the garage, hoping I have treats, in the cold months, if they see me in our sunroom, they'll run over and stand on the steps near the sliding door, if I didn't know better, I'd swear they were begging to be let into the house...

They're great fun to have around, always amusing, and supply us with amazingly good and healthy eggs, highly recommended as a prep, chickens give you another advantage in prepping for disasters

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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by Sins » Sat Dec 13, 2014 4:28 pm

Mine free range as well. Be prepared for the occasional predator. I lose about two a year. Thus, I never buy expensive chickens. Also be forewarned... If one gets attacked but does not die, either kill it immediately or bring it inside, put it in a bathroom tub, and separate it from the flock. If the chicken stays outside and dies its likely to go someplace you won't find it for days. Their carcass then becomes poison with toxins but the other dumb birds will peck at it and you'll lose half your flock or more. I learned that the hard way.

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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by Stercutus » Sat Dec 13, 2014 4:29 pm

Chickens are good yep. A few things you need to watch out for:

- Predators. I can't let my chickens free range at any time. Coyote, fox, possum, coon, dog, cat will all compete with me for the chicken largesse and there are a lot more of them than me. If I let them out unattended they will be dead within 12 hours.

- Crazy local ordinances. A lot of places prohibit the keeping of any fowl inside a city limit. I can understand not wanting roosters around as they are noisy and aggressive but hens are pretty quiet and mostly don't bother people.
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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by MacTech » Sat Dec 13, 2014 5:30 pm

Turns out one of the roosters is doing his part in keeping the flock self replenishing

Image
Image

That little white disc over the "bullseye" on the yolk is the blastocyst, the first step of a developing chick, the egg was fertile, if it was sat on by a broody hen, or put in an incubator, it would have continued to develop, and in 21 days, become a baby chick!

That's the only difference between an infertile and fertile day old egg, that tiny blastocyst...

Once one of the hens go broody, I'll let her hatch some eggs :)

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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by Boondock » Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:25 pm

My mother-in-law raises chickens. I would if I could. Love me some fresh eggs, beats anything from the grocery.

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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by Sins » Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:35 pm

I just read through your post again.
Seems like you have a lot of rooster per hen. The recommendation is 8-10 hens per rooster. Roosters have an extremely high sex drive. They'll wear a hen down fast. Before you know it they'll stop laying eggs. They might not even be broody, sometimes they lay in their nesting box just to get away from the roosters. If the hens tail feathers get worn down that's a sure sign that the roosters are abusing them.

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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by froglegs888 » Sat Dec 13, 2014 9:54 pm

I noticed you say they turn up the garden...just curious if they also EAT the garden...or do you fence them off somehow?

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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by phalanx » Sat Dec 13, 2014 11:01 pm

Welcome to the club! Watch out for coyotes, they ate two of mine this year. I'm down to three chickens, the fewest I've had in five years!
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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by duodecima » Sat Dec 13, 2014 11:57 pm

MacTech wrote: And the most obvious benefit?
A reliable source of some of the best, healthiest high quality protein available, the eggs

If you've never had an egg from a backyard hen, one free to roam, to scratch and peck at the ground, to forage for grass, seeds, bugs, worms, and whatever they can get their beaks around, you are missing out, backyard eggs from happy chickens free to *BE* chickens are amazingly good, the yolks are nearly flourescent Orange, tall, and firm, the inner albumen has a faint golden tint,and is firm and supports the yolk, eggs actually have two layers of albumen, a firmer inner to support the yolk, and a thinner outer, the inner slowly thins as the egg ages, this is one way to tell how fresh your eggs really are, supermarket eggs have sat out so long that there is no difference between the inner and outer albumen, on average, supermarket eggs are at least 3 weeks old to a month old before they get to the grocery store, they cannot compete with an egg fresh from the chicken in any way at all

And the best benefit of all?
Knowing *exactly* what went into your food, and how the birds were raised
I used to buy my eggs from my neighbor who raised them pretty much like you did. That's what I loved about that - the eggs were awesome, but mostly it was knowing exactly where they'd come from and how the chickens were kept.

Our local ordinances would permit hens, a couple houses in the neighborhood have them, but my non-prepper husband has put his foot down at livestock... :lol: I'd need more feed because I couldn't let them out like that to forage, even with a chicken tractor I don't really have enough lawn.
froglegs888 wrote:I noticed you say they turn up the garden...just curious if they also EAT the garden...or do you fence them off somehow?
I am curious about this as well as I have heard that they do (tho my neighbor didn't seem to have much trouble with hers, come to think of it...)
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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by MacTech » Sun Dec 14, 2014 8:49 am

Sins wrote:I just read through your post again.
Seems like you have a lot of rooster per hen. The recommendation is 8-10 hens per rooster. Roosters have an extremely high sex drive. They'll wear a hen down fast. Before you know it they'll stop laying eggs. They might not even be broody, sometimes they lay in their nesting box just to get away from the roosters. If the hens tail feathers get worn down that's a sure sign that the roosters are abusing them.
I was concerned at first as well, but it turns out that since these roosters were added to the flock *after* the hens had established their hierarchy and pecking order, the two roosters are at the bottom, the hens actually keep the roosters in line, and chase them off if they get too "uppity", they actually spend most of the day palling around together and avoiding the hens

That said, I'm thinking about adding a couple more hens to the flock anyway, just as a buffer...

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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by gundogs » Sun Dec 14, 2014 9:01 am

MacTech wrote:
Sins wrote:I just read through your post again.
Seems like you have a lot of rooster per hen. The recommendation is 8-10 hens per rooster. Roosters have an extremely high sex drive. They'll wear a hen down fast. Before you know it they'll stop laying eggs. They might not even be broody, sometimes they lay in their nesting box just to get away from the roosters. If the hens tail feathers get worn down that's a sure sign that the roosters are abusing them.
I was concerned at first as well, but it turns out that since these roosters were added to the flock *after* the hens had established their hierarchy and pecking order, the two roosters are at the bottom, the hens actually keep the roosters in line, and chase them off if they get too "uppity", they actually spend most of the day palling around together and avoiding the hens

That said, I'm thinking about adding a couple more hens to the flock anyway, just as a buffer...
Normally one rooster will establish a harem and become "top dog" and will keep other roosters away. If your hens drive away the roosters (and the cocks pal around) then you may not get fertilized eggs.To me, your roosters are acting abnormally

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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by Anianna » Sun Dec 14, 2014 11:09 pm

gundogs wrote:
MacTech wrote:
Sins wrote:I just read through your post again.
Seems like you have a lot of rooster per hen. The recommendation is 8-10 hens per rooster. Roosters have an extremely high sex drive. They'll wear a hen down fast. Before you know it they'll stop laying eggs. They might not even be broody, sometimes they lay in their nesting box just to get away from the roosters. If the hens tail feathers get worn down that's a sure sign that the roosters are abusing them.
I was concerned at first as well, but it turns out that since these roosters were added to the flock *after* the hens had established their hierarchy and pecking order, the two roosters are at the bottom, the hens actually keep the roosters in line, and chase them off if they get too "uppity", they actually spend most of the day palling around together and avoiding the hens

That said, I'm thinking about adding a couple more hens to the flock anyway, just as a buffer...
Normally one rooster will establish a harem and become "top dog" and will keep other roosters away. If your hens drive away the roosters (and the cocks pal around) then you may not get fertilized eggs.To me, your roosters are acting abnormally
Roosters hang out with each other. It's like that one is "top dog" and the other doesn't challenge that. If they grew up together, this was established early and without the viciousness you see when roosters are added from different flocks or when the top rooster dies. The op demonstrated that the eggs are getting fertilized, so the rooster is doing his thing and established hens will often keep younger roosters from overdoing it, so I don't see anything unusual about the behavior of his flock.

We've had many roosters in our flock before and they got along fine until butcher time and once we got down to only two left, they pummeled each other until they determined who was boss and then they were friends again. We had some predator problems some time ago and didn't have any roos for a while. Then we bought some young chickens and two of them turned out to be roos. They grew up together, so never had a major tussle. The one just accepts that he's not in charge. It's completely normal, in my experience.
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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by Anianna » Sun Dec 14, 2014 11:12 pm

duodecima wrote:
MacTech wrote: And the most obvious benefit?
A reliable source of some of the best, healthiest high quality protein available, the eggs

If you've never had an egg from a backyard hen, one free to roam, to scratch and peck at the ground, to forage for grass, seeds, bugs, worms, and whatever they can get their beaks around, you are missing out, backyard eggs from happy chickens free to *BE* chickens are amazingly good, the yolks are nearly flourescent Orange, tall, and firm, the inner albumen has a faint golden tint,and is firm and supports the yolk, eggs actually have two layers of albumen, a firmer inner to support the yolk, and a thinner outer, the inner slowly thins as the egg ages, this is one way to tell how fresh your eggs really are, supermarket eggs have sat out so long that there is no difference between the inner and outer albumen, on average, supermarket eggs are at least 3 weeks old to a month old before they get to the grocery store, they cannot compete with an egg fresh from the chicken in any way at all

And the best benefit of all?
Knowing *exactly* what went into your food, and how the birds were raised
I used to buy my eggs from my neighbor who raised them pretty much like you did. That's what I loved about that - the eggs were awesome, but mostly it was knowing exactly where they'd come from and how the chickens were kept.

Our local ordinances would permit hens, a couple houses in the neighborhood have them, but my non-prepper husband has put his foot down at livestock... :lol: I'd need more feed because I couldn't let them out like that to forage, even with a chicken tractor I don't really have enough lawn.
froglegs888 wrote:I noticed you say they turn up the garden...just curious if they also EAT the garden...or do you fence them off somehow?
I am curious about this as well as I have heard that they do (tho my neighbor didn't seem to have much trouble with hers, come to think of it...)
My chickens ate my garden. I bought a portable electric mesh poultry fence (they'll walh right through non-poultry mesh) to put around my garden during growing season.
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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by lovesmuggler » Mon Dec 15, 2014 3:18 am

I've got about 24 hens now and one rooster, he keeps the eggs fertilized. Last year I had four roosters, and it truly was like The Highlander, they killed each other off until one remained. After hatching a few sets this spring I had five roosters, and the best thing I did for my whole flock was butcher three and gift one. Some of my hens were looking absolutely haggard, but with all the other roosters gone now their feathers are growing back and egg production is on the rise, even during this Montana winter! The rooster I left is a prize for sure, he's the size of a small turkey and will still fight me some times...


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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by Anianna » Mon Dec 15, 2014 4:26 pm

Were your roosters raised together?
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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by lovesmuggler » Mon Dec 15, 2014 6:07 pm

Some were, some weren't. None got along...


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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by Anianna » Mon Dec 15, 2014 7:22 pm

lovesmuggler wrote:Some were, some weren't. None got along...


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If the groups not raised together challenge each other, they will all follow suit in my experience. We usually had roos raised together or which were raised in our already established flock and they don't usually fight much under those circumstances, but roos that didn't grow up in the flock and came as adolescents or adults would be a problem that keeps the fighting going among all the roos.

For a brief time we did have more roosters than hens and they got mean - not to each other, but to us. We don't have that problem any more. They were tasty.
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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by Sins » Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:34 pm

lovesmuggler wrote:Last year I had four roosters, and it truly was like The Highlander, they killed each other off until one remained.
.
.
.
The rooster I left is a prize for sure, he's the size of a small turkey and will still fight me some times...
I'm still laughing at the Highlander reference.
My last rooster was a good healthy size too.
To give you an idea how hardy he was, he spurred the hell out of my kids legs. My son, who is 6'2" grabbed the closest thing he could find to knock him off....a 28" crowbar. He swung it full force. Granted it took thirty minutes for the rooster to get back up, but he did unscathed.
I don't keep roosters anymore. He was the last one and tasty as well.

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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by lovesmuggler » Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:36 pm

I have to keep one so I can incubate fertilized eggs in the spring but man, sometimes he really makes me question that decision.


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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by Anianna » Mon Dec 15, 2014 10:39 pm

Our current roosters are very docile around us. Maybe the hens told them the stories of the roosters that weren't.
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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by Purple_Mutant » Sun Dec 21, 2014 6:14 am

I never thought about chickens keeping the local insect population in check. That's pretty cool. Do they take care of insects that like to munch on your garden? If they do, that would be a great for organic gardening. If I am not mistaken chicken feces can be used as fertilizer. So that's another benefit to chickens.

We have been thinking of getting chickens. Here you can have two chickens without any permits or anything. If you have more chickens animal control has to come and inspect your facilities. We have a spot in the back of the back yard that isn't currently being used. That would probably be a good place for a coop. Our local feed and farm supply store sells baby chicks. Presumably they sell chicken feed and everything else. I need to do some research on raising chickens; but I gather it's not that difficult. Two chickens shouldn't be that much trouble.

We live in the suburbs and it's legal for us to have chickens. So you don't need to live out in the country to have them. Chickens may be one of the few farm animals people can have in a city. If you eat eggs it's worth looking into your local regulations to see if you can have chickens. Even if you don't eat eggs it might be worth looking into anyway. Fresh eggs are something you can barter with or sell.
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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by JeeperCreeper » Sun Dec 21, 2014 6:22 am

Sins wrote:
lovesmuggler wrote:Last year I had four roosters, and it truly was like The Highlander, they killed each other off until one remained.
.
.
.
The rooster I left is a prize for sure, he's the size of a small turkey and will still fight me some times...
I'm still laughing at the Highlander reference.
My last rooster was a good healthy size too.
To give you an idea how hardy he was, he spurred the hell out of my kids legs. My son, who is 6'2" grabbed the closest thing he could find to knock him off....a 28" crowbar. He swung it full force. Granted it took thirty minutes for the rooster to get back up, but he did unscathed.
I don't keep roosters anymore. He was the last one and tasty as well.
Not to derail on rooster stories, but my dad got "mauled" by one on a job site. When it went for his leg, he nudeged it away firmly with his boot, but it charged at him again so he punted it like a football... solid 30 feet or so. Rooster flopped around, and got up after about half a minute and stumbled away. The next day it left him alone.

A coworker then explained, having grown up on a farm, that roosters tend to remember that stuff for about a week. Then, they come back at you before you "remind" them who is boss. I never liked roosters, personally... too much like dumb Velociraptors
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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by azrancher » Sun Dec 21, 2014 1:20 pm

MacTech wrote:they actually spend most of the day palling around together and avoiding the hens
Ahhh yes, gay roosters...

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Re: My best prep purchase so far, chickens!

Post by CorpsmanUp » Sun Dec 21, 2014 4:17 pm

Just bought a house with some land that will finally allow me to get some chickens.

Plan on starting with a couple and see how it goes.

Luckily I have a good network down here that I can draw from.

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