Ten Commandments for Raising Chickens, Part I

Tips from MOTHER EARTH NEWS' veterinarian for raising chickens at your homestead, small farm, or even back yard.


| January/February 1981



067 raising chickens - laying an egg

Back in the nest box, Mom announces another egg.


RANDY KIDD

Chickens are, in my opinion, ideal livestock critters for the beginning homesteader or backyard farmer. More and more folks are discovering that raising their own poultry can provide them with all the fresh eggs they could ever want —and lots of tasty fried, roasted, or stewed chicken as well—frequently for a fraction of the commercial variety's cost!

What's more, the homegrown cluckers won't reach your dinner table filled with growth stimulators, hormones, antibiotics, and whatever else goes into storebought poultry these days. And their eggs will actually be fresh with rich yellow yolks that stand right up in the frying pan.

In addition, a backyard flock can provide a good supply of manure for the compost pile or garden, and you can even use your friendly fowl for pest control (especially in the fruit orchard).

And, perhaps most important of all, raising chickens is really pretty easy. In order to establish your own flock, you'll just have to set aside a bit of space, build a small coop, obtain a few birds, and follow my ten commandments of poultry care ... five of which are given in the following paragraphs.

I. Recognize Your Market

The kind of chickens you select will depend upon your purpose in raising them. Today—thanks to the ingenuity and selective breeding efforts of scientists and poultry fanciers—the birds are available in all sizes, shapes, colors, and feather patterns (there's a total of 350 different combinations). But generally speaking, chickens can be divided into four main classifications: the egg-layers, the meat makers (broilers), the dual-purpose birds (meat and egg producers), and the exotic or exhibition breeds.

Each general type of fowl is represented by various breeds, which in turn comprise several varieties apiece. Breed is a term used to categorize a group of individuals whose characteristics can be passed on to future generations. A va riety—on the other hand—is a class of birds, within one breed, that differ from other varieties of that breed ... usually by only one characteristic. For example, the Buff Orpington and the Black Orpington are of the same breed (Orpington), but are different varieties within that breed (the differing characteristic in this case is color: one variety is black, the other is buff).

gary_39
11/19/2007 12:53:25 PM

I have a problem with an egg pecker. I had only rhode island reds when the problem started and I thought I'd removed the problem chicken. Now I have acquired some game hens and a couple of dominique hens. I should be getting around 6-7 eggs per day but am not getting any. I've tried fake eggs, moving the nests, separating hens, oyster shell supplements, etc. Nothing works. They are "free range" and have access to greens and forage all day along with being fed scratch grains and laying pellets daily. I've heard of a box plan that allowed the egg to drop immediately into a box below the hen and out of her reach. I cannot find this plan anywhere online and was wandering if someone has any ideas. Please email me any links or advise to bandgsmom@netzero.net.






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