Monday, May 13, 2013

answering your questions- Raising Hennie Pennies

One of the questions I get a lot is about our chickens.
How do I like raising them? Is it easy? Do we name them?
I am by no means a chicken raising expert, but I will share with you what I do know.

What is the most important thing that you must know about raising chickens?
The number one thing about raising chickens that you must be comfortable with if you are going to take on this project is the shit.
And there is no other way to say it.
Chicken shit is chicken shit. No point in trying to say it in a nicer way.
So, if you are particularly adverse to poopy things- especially animal poop- then chicken raising will not be for you.

Secondly, caring for chickens is a daily chore. And I mean daily.
No matter what the weather or your other plans.
Chickens need to be put up in their coop with their door firmly locked each night to be safe from predators and then they need to be let out every morning to scratch and stretch their legs.
They need feed, scratch, scraps and fresh water daily.
These needs make going away for the weekend interesting, as you have to find people in your life -who also do not mind chicken shit - to come twice a day to care for your chickens.
Luckily, we live in a chicken friendly neighborhood and have neighbors who don't mind helping out from time to time.
But this may not be the case for you.

What is your set up like? Your coop and such?
This is a view of our coop and our feeding station. We have six hens and we have two feeders.
Over to the side is a medium size galvanized bucket that we keep filled with water.
We used to keep the feed in the coop, but with six gals there was just no room. We would find a hen sleeping on the top of one of the feeders, or all the grain would be knocked out onto the floor of the coop-attracting varmints or other critters.

Both the feeder and the coop are made from a mixture of reclaimed and new parts.
Sweet man designed and built both, with some input here and there from me on how to cute-en them up.
I mean if you are going to have a coop and a feeding station, shouldn't they be cute? That's what I thought.
Because our dog Maizy likes to chase the gals we built them a run that is about 45ft long x 15ft deep.
Our run does not have a top covering. The coop is high enough off the ground that if the chickens want shelter, but do not want to get in the coop they can go underneath instead.

 In addition to the feed and scraps, we also throw kitchen scraps, oak tree leaves, grass clippings, weeds, poke salad and all the earth worms we find in there for them to eat.
When the weather is warm the gals produce 4-5 eggs a day. In the winter it goes down to 2-3.
You can see a full tour of our coop here.

Do you have to name your chickens?
Well no, I guess not. But we do name our girls in general. The first hens we ever had we raised from baby  chicks and we were very attached to them- especially Wylie who is the main chicken-care-giver. They all had names and personalities and we each claimed certain ones as our favorites.
 But after losing that flock in such a shocking way, we have gone a little slower with this crew. 
Two of our current gals came to us already named, and then there are " The Reds" that P. Allen Smith gave us. I think the boys have named a couple of The Reds, but I am not sure what their names are. The other two are Rosie and Henny Penny (aka Long Neck.)
Over time all of our current hennies have grown accustomed to us even though we did not raise them from birth (from hatch?) and they will all let us pick them up and hold them now. A few have even become snugly.

Do you give them antibiotics etc as some books suggest?
 Currently, no. So far {knock on wood} our gals have been healthy and hearty and we have not seen the need.

Do they ever make it to your table? (thanks to my dad for asking this blunt question!)
Once. Where we live we are not allowed to raise roosters, and unfortunately one of our baby chicks, Stuckup, turned out to be a rooster. Once he begin crowing we knew it was his time to go. Wylie was very brave and offered to take care of this chore since they were "his chickens." After a good cry of course.  
I have to say, as sad as it was, Stuckup made a very yummy pot of broth for chicken and dumplings.

Do you have to do anything different when it is really cold or snows?
Yes. When temperatures get really low we rig up a heat lamp in safe spot inside their coop and cover half the window screens with plastic sheets. We don't seal up the coop entirely because the chickens would asphyxiate, but we try to protect them as best we can. They are also covered in down feathers and like to huddle together, so that helps keep them warm. They other thing we do is keep their water broken up, as it tends to turn to ice overnight. And we still open their door, and close it up each day and night, because even with snow on the ground, they still like getting some fresh air and digging for worms.

So that is a bit about hen raising from our little urban cottage farm. Want to see more about what is inspiring our Urban Cottage Farm and what changes we are making? Follow my Pinterest board on the topic.

Do you have any questions about raising chickens that I didn't answer? Leave me a comment below and I will do my best to reply soon~

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