What a weekend. I normally write my articles on Sunday morning before going to church, but this weekend we were crazy busy with family events out of town. As I write this, it’s about 5am on Monday morning… Pi Day. While I might be a trained survival expert and a self-sufficiency advocate, I am a nerd first. Pi is cool. http://piday.org Look it up.
Last week I started talking about our chicken flock. There is little that gives me more pleasure than to see daily the animals we have here at Six Acres. The hens are full of personality and are about as much fun as watching an aquarium full of fish in many ways. I can literally sit and watch them for hours. A lawn chair; a glass of sweet tea; a handful of chicken treats and I’m content for hours.
Raising chickens isn’t without its fair share of issues though. Below are some things to be aware of when beginning to raise chickens. I believe the benefits far outweigh the pitfalls, but your mileage may vary and you should consider these things (and probably other things) before you start your flock.
Pasty Butt – a condition that mostly occurs to baby chicks when droppings stick to the down surrounding their vent. Poo builds up to form a blockage that is quite often fatal to the chick unless removed. That’s your job! A warm soaking wet cloth and you too can be a poo cleaner. It’s not difficult, but it’s not the most pleasant thing you will ever do on the farm.
Within a few days of purchasing our first chicks, I became an expert an unclogging their vents. Like everything else in my life, I had to know why this condition happens. Turns out there are a number of reasons. Stress and being cold are the most common reasons. Being too warm, usually under a heat lamp, is another contributing factor. Less common reasons include viral or bacterial infections and improper diets.
Roosters attacking humans – The males rule the roost and when they consider your actions aggressive, you may be in for a battle. There are a number of reasons why this can happen. Judging from the number of forums I read on the internet, wearing floppy boots or swinging a bucket, etc are considered a challenge. Roosters will protect the flock and will not back down from a challenge. The best course of action is to try to calmly catch the rooster and hold him until he calms down. He will eventually realize you pose no threat.
Egg eaters – This condition is not the norm, but it’s not rare either. Sometimes a hen will drop an egg and it will crack. When it cracks, she will sometimes eat it. Once this happens, it’s very difficult to stop this behavior. The best solution is to regularly check for new eggs; remove them along any cracked ones and clean the nesting box right away. If this doesn’t stop the problem, we have a pretty good recipe for Coq au vin.
Predators – This can be the most frustrating part of raising chickens. I don’t know of a single flock owner that hasn’t lost at least one bird to a predator. This can especially be a problem if your coop is easily accessed or open. Free ranging also makes your hens more susceptible to predators. Where I live, coyotes and bob cats seem to be the biggest threat. Others tell stories of hawks attacking the flock, etc. We have spent an excessive amount of money on protecting our flock, no doubt. To use, they are much more than just a source for breakfast eggs. They are ours pets and we protect them with a very secure, albeit entirely too expensive, coop and outdoor pen. If you would like some tips on securing your coop, drop me an email on the website http://AccordingToVern.com
No more eggs – Hens will start producing eggs at about five months of age. They can lay pretty regularly until about two years of age. Maybe a bit longer. After that time, the egg production rates will begin to fall off. An average hen can live for about ten years. You will still get some eggs for most of their life, but it won’t be nearly as regular as they get older. This can be a concern if you are feeding your hens instead of just letting them free-range. The cost of feed continues even when the egg production drops.
Next week, I will give you some more things to consider when deciding to raise chickens.
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