Chicken Farming 101

Chickens are hard workers in our barnyard. Every animal we raise here has a job to do while they are with us. If you want to have chickens, here’s some of what we’ve learned having our girls. Think of it as Chicken Farming 101!

 


 

Our chickens are always working. They are trying to find food and working the soil. They work to keep the bugs down (have you ever watched chickens chasing bugs? Hilarious stuff!). They work over and fluff up our composting manure piles in their search for bits of grain and worms Plus, they lay some of the best tasting eggs you will eat. Don’t knock farm fresh eggs. They taste SO different from those store bought ones.

 

eggs, raising chickens, eggs or your family, farm fresh eggs

And the colour – the brilliant yellow, almost orange yolks are a sight to behold. So unlike those pale runny eggs they sell in the grocery store. If you don’t have chickens at your house, consider getting a few. Even 3 or 4 hens will lay more than enough eggs to keep a family of 4 happy and they make great additions to your backyard.

Many towns and even large cities are changing their bylaws to allow chickens in city backyards.  In the City of Vancouver, you are allowed to have 2 hens per house. It is really great to see so many cities and town starting to think progressively about the food supply.

You don’t need a rooster in order to get eggs from your hens. That’s a good thing, because roosters in the city may be a problem because of their crowing.

You can look on Craiglist for some laying hens. But be aware that sometimes people will sell off their OLD laying hens. You want young hens, ones that will produce well for at least 2 years. Older hens will lay fewer eggs but those eggs will be larger.

If you have a local feed store you can ask if they ever bring in “Ready to Lay” hens. These hens are probably about 5 months old, and should start laying for you within a month. Our feed store sells them for about $10 each and most years I do order some to add to my flock.

 

Raising Day Old Chicks for the Dinner Table

 

You can also mail order day old chicks and raise them to laying age yourself. If you want to learn about setting up brooders and raising day olds, 8 Pounds in 8 Weeks covers all the stuff you will need. Whether you are raising meat birds or laying hens, their starting needs are the same, except for their feed.

We feed our layers 16% protein feed. Much of the year, they are outside running around in the yard chasing bugs and worms which adds more protein to their diet. If we had a worm farm, we could likely do away with the feed from the store. Our hens also get a lot of our garden waste and veggie tops. We can reduce the amount of store bought feed in the warmer months as the hens are getting protein from other sources.

During the winter months, when our barnyard is covered in several feet of snow, things change for our hens. They get lots of  16% lay pellets, plus hay. Our hens love hay and yours probably do too. Alfalfa hay is excellent and will help their yolks have that beautiful deep colours.

We also give them all our household leftovers and scraps, except chicken. We do NOT feed chicken to chickens, just like we do not feed pork to pigs.

Speaking of pigs, when we butcher our pigs each Fall, we trim off a lot of the fat. Our pigs do not have as thick a layer of fat on them as straight grain fed pigs, because we feed them heavily on garden veggies. We still get plenty of fat for our needs.

I wrap the fat in bags and tuck them away in the freezer. Then during those short, cold dark days of Winter I pull out a package and dice it up for the hens.

feeding pork fat to chickens

They love it and it’s good for them.

Look around your barnyard and see how you can reduce the feed store food bill. Many people with extra freezer room tuck turnip tops or beet tops in there to take out for their hens in the Winter. Cabbages can be kept in a cold room down in your basement to be brought up to the chicken coop during Winter.

Five minutes later, here’s what’s left of that big bowl of fat and leftovers.

What do you feed your chickens? Start thinking of easy things to grow that will be good for chickens. Less dependency on the local feed store is a good thing.

Grab our book 8 Pounds in 8 Weeks! Everything you need to know is in there!

 

 

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Turn Your Halloween Pumpkin into a Pie!

Here we are, coming to the end of October already. Soon it will be Halloween –  have you been decorating or making a beautiful autumn themed display on your front porch?

When my sons were young, we always decorated pumpkins at Halloween. We’d set them out on our porch with candles inside them to welcome all the trick or treaters to our door. Once my boys got old enough (teenage years) they really weren’t into the pumpkin carving thing anymore.

 


 

 

Here’s what I do now every year to the pumpkins. I no longer bother with carving them out and putting a candle inside. Instead I draw the pumpkin face on with a black Sharpie and just leave the porch lights on to let the kids know we’re home.

A couple days after Halloween, I’ll take the Pumpkin and clean it out. You can cut a “cap” out of the top so that you can get in there and scrape out all the pulp and seeds.

You could also cut the pumpkin in half, much like you would a squash. Either way, once it is all scraped out, put it in an oven set at 350F. Let it bake for awhile, it depends on the size of your pumpkin.  Large pumpkins can take several hours to cook through. Once the Pumpkin is soft and mushy, it’s ready. Test it by poking a fork in it.

Remove it from the oven and let it cool. Then, just scrape all the flesh into a bowl. You will have already removed all the stringy stuff and seeds, so this part of the process is very quick and easy.

Use the Pumpkin flesh to make a pie, cookies or a Pumpkin Cranberry Loaf or eat it as a side dish with dinner.

And why not set six seeds aside and plant them next year for Pumpkins in the garden?

Roast those Pumpkin seeds you took out – just get all the stringy pulp off of them and rinse them with water. Put a bit of oil on a cookie sheet and place the seeds on the sheet. Sprinkle some sea salt on the seeds, if you like. Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes. It is a good idea to give them a good stir after they have been in the oven for 10 minutes or so.

 

 

 

Want to find out which are The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow?

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