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Raising chickens

Raising Chickens: A Spiritual Journey

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Picture having your own dinosaurs. They stomp around your garden pecking and scratching for anything smaller than them to devour. Sometimes they squabble amongst each other for a fat worm they found or some seeds. Their movement alone is hilarious and if you dangle food above them it is comical to watch them jump like little velociraptors. The only difference is that they are covered in feathers. That’s what it feels like raising chickens.

I’ve had chickens for over three years. It was one of the best decisions I made and I like watching the little dirt birds run around my house. If you have ever thought farming was cool or you watched a few seasons of Yellowstone and wanted to pretend to be John Dutton; Chickens are for you. You can wear a cowboy hat, overalls and call yourself a chicken rancher.

The biggest reason I got started with chickens was my concern for food security.  During the corona “outbreak” I realised that my noncompliance with forced injections could limit access to goods and services for my family. I’ve always had a mentality that required me to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. I saw the neighbouring country of France barring uninjected folks from shopping. I saw the nation south of us, Italy requiring the dirty-squirty to maintain employment. I tell my kids not to take candy from strangers, and to run away when the government says they are there to help. Naturally, I would resist a solution brewed up by big pharma and politicians at all costs. This caused me to imagine the worst scenario I could and I decided that buying some laying hens wasn’t a bad idea. 

Now I don’t have a full acre so space is limited. I only own 375 square meter plot with my house taking up most of that. I built a chicken run with a small house for the hens to roost in at night. The laws regulating chickens differ according to township and region; it is important that you check your local bylaws to see if you can get some feathered dinos. As a general rule, you want at least one laying hen per family member. Right now I have 5 hens that lay every 26-30 hours. This provides us with plenty of eggs and some for our neighbours to buy. They pay me a bit of money which covers the cost of the chicken feed, so I get my eggs for free.

Most people are hesitant to get chickens due to the noise. No one wants to listen to a rooster crow at sunrise when they are nursing a hangover. Here is the great news; you don’t need a rooster for laying hens. Roosters are only necessary when your goal is to have chicks. They fertilise eggs, protect the flock, and keep the hens in line. To protect the flock, instead of having a rooster, I would encourage everyone to build a full enclosure for the bird run. This keeps predators away like hawks or eagles who want to channel Haitian cannibals in your back yard. The other reason farmers keep roosters is to keep the hens from killing each other. Those ladies can be vicious and cruel, but the macho rooster can keep them in line. This only seems to happen when you have  larger flocks of birds in my experience. So, if you only plan on keeping a handful of birds and you are able to provide them with a few square meters of an enclosed chicken run; you have zero need for a rooster. The girls will do their thing and lay those eggs. 

The first mistake I made was to buy fancy breeds of chickens. I did this to appease my wife who wanted to have funny looking birds called Appenzeller hens along with other freak show varieties. The problem with the unique hens is that they usually lay fewer eggs. You see, European farmers are the ultimate Eugenicists. They will take any working breed and refine it to produce high quality eggs, while maintaining robust health in the bird. The fancy breeds of chickens can lack in both areas, they can get sick more often and they don’t produce as many eggs. A good organic laying-hen breed is all you need. The silly birds are only good if you are okay with pets that don’t provide enough food for your family. 

The second mistake I made was not locking them up at night. The birds naturally go into the chicken coop for shelter at night. They feel safe that way, so all you gotta do is close the door at night and open it in the early morning. You can get automatic doors that open and close but like all technology; it can fail, and if a bird is locked out at night or the door doesn’t close, I can promise you that a fox or marten will get in there. I lost a few and it filled me with rage. One night I even killed a fox attacking my chickens. I shot him with a crossbow because I live in an urban neighbourhood and using my rifle would have disturbed the peace. Also I would have had a visit from the police which I don’t like; I try to minimise my contact with them. 

So aside from a good chicken coop, chicken run and locking them up at night; the only other maintenance required is to clean, feed, and water them. I recommend getting an automatic feeder and waterer. Then you only have to fill those up once a week. You also need to collect your eggs from the nesting box in the coop. You don’t want to leave them in too long as some birds can get broody and think that the eggs will turn into chicks. This does’t happen often but it can and the hen will get protective of the eggs or worse; the chickens realise how delicious their own eggs are and begin to eat them. You will have to clean out the coop from time to time; once a week is usually fine. I recommend composting the chicken shit; spread that on your grass and your neighbours will be jealous with how green and beautiful your lawn is. Or you can take the manure and grow vegetables in it; every plant grows well in the nutrient rich manure. Just make sure you compost it first. It needs to sit for a few months before using it because it is toxic when fresh. 

One of the greatest benefits of owning a flock of laying hens is the quality of the eggs. Most chicken farms have birds in pretty bad conditions. If your birds are getting lots of sunlight, fresh air, quality feed, kitchen scraps, and clean water; those eggs are a super food. They are high in vitamins like vitamin D, phosphorus, vitamin A, and two B-complex vitamins. Eggs are also a very good source of riboflavin, selenium and choline. If you have your own eggs, crack them and compare their colour to store bought eggs. You will see how bright orange your own eggs are and how pale yellow or sickly the store bought ones are. Even the expensive organic free range eggs look worse than the ones my hens lay. One egg a day will maintain your vitamin D levels throughout the winter. This is key to keeping away your winter blues. 

I mentioned that you can feed your birds kitchen scraps. This is true, just make sure you cut it into small bits or blend it before feeding the birds. They don’t have teeth and need to break down large bits of food in their gullet. Help them out by providing sand and tiny stones which they will eat and keep in the gullet to smash up any food that is too big for them to digest. Giving your chickens these scraps is great as it reduces food waste and garbage. One experiment in Belgium had every third house keep chickens. This reduced the amount of trash the town produced and that town no longer needed industrial chicken farming to provide for it’s needs. Individuals keeping chickens is better for the environment by reducing food waste and stopping industrial farming. 

I hope this article has given you more information on keeping chickens and the benefits along with the pitfalls to avoid. The last thing I need to tell you is that chickens are a gateway drug to more livestock. When we think of gateway drugs, it is common to look to the wacky tobaccy or magic mushrooms. Chickens are the same thing when it comes to livestock. Once you are a successful small flock rancher wearing cowboy boots; you will begin to think about other animals you could raise to produce your own food. Next thing you know you have rabbits, turkeys, pigs and sheep. The neighbourhood kids will be constantly coming over to your house and treating it like the local zoo. So beware, this is a road many end up travelling down all because they wanted fresh eggs. But if you want to be Dr. Dolittle then by all means, start with some chickens.

Reconnecting with nature and your food is really healthy. It puts things in perspective and teaches gratitude along with reminding us of the abundance nature provides. In an age of mental illness, having an outdoor task that gets the hands dirty and improves your nutrition, will also help your head. Just like the birds need sunlight and fresh air; so do you. If having chickens will encourage you to get outside, then you should think about getting some.

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Sounds great but I like cats

I spent a lot of time living in a rural area where people farmed for generations and they always said that, for people new to farming, chickens are the way to go. Chickens seem to be the most rewarding for new farmers. Someday, when I have a farm, I’m going to start with chickens. Love my eggs…

Also, some advice for the fox problem: try building your next chicken coop above ground. Just build it over cinder blocks (at least a couple feet high) and add a ramp that you can throw up at night.

I learned this from building a solar kiln for wood — I used to mill and dry my own wood when I was a woodworker — and one day a chicken farmer saw my solar wood kiln and marveled at it, he said “that would be a brilliant chicken coop, it’s above ground!”

Last edited 2 months ago by Hapaperspective
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