I apologize for not having an article last week. I had some technical issues and had to devote my day taking care of those last Sunday. I ultimately had to break down and buy a new computer and you know how much I hate spending money. 🙂
On the drive home from the Texas A&M Horticulture Club’s annual plant sale yesterday, I saw a great bumper sticker that I am going to have to buy. It read “My pet makes breakfast for me.” It was, of course, talking about chickens. I laughed right out loud when I read it.
It is chick time again. I love March. All the local feed and supply stores have baby chicks and it’s a great time to get started in this awesome hobby. Raising chickens is also a great self-sufficiency skill. It costs very little and the benefits are great.
Chickens are fun to watch. They have personalities just like any other pets and can provide hours of simple viewing enjoyment. Ours will eat out of our hands and often jump into our laps if we allow them out of the chicken pen.
We eat eggs at every breakfast meal and haven’t purchased commercial eggs in nearly three years. The eggs taste better and are much healthier for us.
Our chicken coop and pen are a bit on the overkill side, but we like it. The hens are very secure from predators. Our coop is 14’ by 14’ made of wood. The windows are made of expanded metal. Attached to the coop is a 14’ by 14’ expanded metal cage we call the aviary. Around these two structures is a 2’ deep concrete perimeter foundation to keep digging predators away. Attached to the outside is a 28’ by 70’ chicken wire pen that we call the day use area complete with swings, trees and other activities to keep the girls happy. The coop has a chicken door where we can let the hens out into the day use area. There are numerous roosting bars in our coop for the girls to have a place to sleep. We found it best to place the bars at about four and a half feet from the ground.
The complete structure is inside of a fenced area closely patrolled by our three outside dogs. The boys (Ka-Bar, Gerber and Buck) love watching the hens and no predator (or man for that matter) dare enter the area. We currently have 27 hens. You can see videos and photos of our coop by scrolling down to the bottle of this article.
Getting started need not be so elaborate by any means. When we purchased our first batch of hens, we bought an inexpensive watering trough and raised them there until they outgrew it. We then moved them to their own coop. Care had to be taken with the brooder light, but when chicks are little there isn’t much to be concerned with there.
It’s important to keep them warm. When you first get them, they will be about a week old at most. We kept them a toasty 105 degrees for about a week. Then we stepped it down to 100 degrees for a week and kept dropping the temp by 5 degrees each week until it got down to 80 degrees. By the time you get down 80 degrees, it’s time to remove the warming light.
We used pine shavings to line the trough and the coop. We still use pine shavings in our bigger coop which is lined in about 14 inches of them. We, obviously, have to change the pine shavings periodically, but it makes WONDERFUL compost material.
At about 5 to 6 months old the hens will start to produce eggs. By this time, you should have nesting boxes about three feet from the floor. Our boxes are 14” x 14”. We try to keep one box for every six hens. Some folks say more is better. Some say less is better. This works well for us and the ladies seem happy.
Raising chickens is fun and easy. Next week I will talk a little more about some of the minor difficulties and things to be aware of when raising your own flock.
Until next week…
Vern Six is a freelance computer programmer and entrepreneur. He is a United States Army certified survival expert and former Christian missionary. Vern has been a hobby blogger for nearly five years and now has his “According to Vern” blog published in numerous newspapers around the world. You can learn more about Vern by visiting his website at http://AccordingToVern.com