BEGINNERS RAISING CHICKENS
While working on the GM bus and staying at the fixer-upper, we’ve started educating ourselves on becoming more self-sustainable, by growing our own food, preserving food, composting and creating a worm farm for enriched fertilizer. Once we got the property in better shape, we decided to get some baby chicks, so we could have farm-fresh eggs and continue our learning experience on how to become more self-sustainable.
After doing some research and educating ourselves on how to raise chickens, we went to the local farm store and picked up the last 6 Rhode Island Red chicks available. They were so small that they all fit into a little shoe-box.
Firstly, we put together a simple chicken wire run in the front yard, so they could stretch their legs and play in the grass safely. It was really exciting to watch them get more and more comfortable with their surroundings and us.
Next, we built the chicks a small wooden home with chicken wire. They needed to stay inside and in a warmer temperature, with a heat lamp at night. Once or twice a day, we brought the little chicken coop outside, so they could continue to get acclimated to the outdoors.
As they grew larger, we realized the need for a real chicken coop, so we built one, using materials on the property. The chicken coop was designed to have 3 stories, one side door for us to access and another side door, so they could go outside. We learned that it is important to elevate your chicken coop, so that air can circulate around it. It also helps to keep it from flooding in rain and to keep potential predators from getting inside.
They ate organic chicken starter and chicken grit, until about 18 weeks old and eventually, they transitioned over to organic chicken egg layer feed and ground up oyster shells. Oyster shells give the hens calcium and it makes their eggs harder/stronger. They dissolve in the hens gut, which is absorbed and stored in the body for later use.
Some people choose to let their chickens run free or be free range, but the house we’re in sits on a dirt road that people drive quickly on. We decided to keep our birds safe from the road, hawks and other predators, by building an outdoor space out of wood stakes and chicken wire. We also created wood and chicken wire tops, so nothing could get in from above.
It took about 18 weeks for our hens to grow up and start laying eggs, which made it even more exciting when the first one appeared. The first egg a hen lays, usually is considerably smaller than the next eggs to come. It was wild to see how tiny it was and once egg production began, it didn’t slow down.
Now, we get an average of 6 eggs a day!! This means no more buying eggs from the grocery store and really, we’d never want to. The eggs our chickens produce, taste a million times better than any we’ve ever had. We know what our chickens are eating, how they’re being treated and how the eggs are being handled.
Grocery store eggs usually come from big chicken farms, where the hens are packed into tight living quarters and gross living conditions. If the chickens suffer, so do the eggs and we can taste the difference. Chicken eggs are porous, so anything from the outside can be absorbed into the egg. When we gather the eggs from our coop, all we do is wipe them with a moist towel and boom, they’re ready to go!
To care for our chickens daily, watch them grow and produce us food has been such a learning experience. We see how together, we can one day create a small farm and become even more self-sustainable and we hope to inspire others to do the same.
As the world rapidly changes, it’s nice to know we can still take some things into our own hands. We are taking small steps to do more ourselves, as we continue to support local farms and businesses. The more we can help educate one another and work together to provide what we all need, the better.
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