Getting started. Why raise chickens? 0/3
Requirements (parts list) for raising chickens 0/4
Basic breed types and their characteristics 0/2
Purebred flock vs. assortment 0/1
Incubators and hatching chicks 0/3
When things go wrong and predators too! 0/5
Processing birds 0/4
Part 2 What’s involved? Food and Water
Parts List: Food and Water
Chickens will eat many things, from meat to vegetables. They’re great for disposing of table scraps. But if one has very many chickens it is doubtful that table scraps will be enough. If in doubt, it is almost always a good idea to purchase feed from a local feed store. But, even then, there are choices to make, as to what to purchase.
For laying hens many feed layer mash or crumbles. This is a scientifically blended feed, designed for hens in production. Generally, one can’t go wrong using one of these mixes.
Straight corn, either cracked or whole, is not good as a main feed. This is because it is very high calorie and lacks some nutrients necessary for poultry health. Corn is a good choice if one feeds it on a limited basis and supplements the birds’ diet, either with some form of greens or else through the ability to range and find food naturally. Feeding too much corn can cause obesity in your birds.
Other grains are often suitable for chicken feed, ie. oats, barley, wheat, sorghum etc. Cost is the main limiting factor in using most other grains.
It is very important that chickens have free access to water at all times. This water should be clean. Beware of fouled water. Dirty water can transmit both parasites and disease. It is our custom to dump and clean our waterers every other day, at least. We actually have a number of buckets and water pans from which all our animals drink. I check every receptacle at least once a day. Sometimes I have to fill water pans twice a day.
It is important that a water receptacle be safe. A five gallon bucket, half filled and left as an only source of water, can become a death trap, especially for young birds. Years ago I left such a bucket in a pen with half grown chickens. The next morning I pulled five or six drowned birds out of that bucket!
A word on “free range chickens”
Free range means that birds have the ability to get out and look for their own food. In its strictest sense a free range chicken is completely free and fed no supplemental feed. This is almost always a very bad idea. It is a rare farm environment which supplies anywhere near the amount of free range feed to support a flock of chickens. Perhaps, if one has other animals which spill feed, it might be possible to keep something like two or three chickens without purchasing supplemental feed. But it is highly unlikely that more would prosper in such an arrangement. I’ve seen some videos which talk about completely supporting chickens on compost. But if one observes carefully, they will see that part of that compost is … food scraps! They’re cheating!
The best practice for free ranging chickens is to choose an active breed of chicken and give them plenty of room to range, but also supply at least as much feed as they will eat in 15 minutes, twice a day.
The breeds we have raised are active foragers, and I sometimes sell chicks or breeding stock, advertising their great foraging abilities. But if someone tells me, up front, that they are not going to feed at all, I won’t sell to them.
The Kraienkoppe is a game type bird, also good for egg laying. We’ve eaten and enjoyed them too. They are outstanding foragers.