The Definitive Chicken Thread
First let me say, I have been raising backyard chickens for close to ten years, and consider my flock to be family members. But I wanted to point out a health risk many people may not realize. IF you have a backyard flock that comingles with wild birds carrying H5N1 it is possible they could become infected. Wild geese, duck and quail are reservoirs for H5N1 in other countries, and could so be here. Humans handling/eating infected birds have died. We let our chickens free range in the yard (with the wild quail ) and poo happens. And kids (and humans) step in poo and track in the house. Kids play on the floor and eat without washing their hands. Live virus is spread through oral -fecal contact. You get the picture.
If H5N1 makes here (which probably eventually happen) I am prepared to kill my flock (humanly) so as to minimize any chance of my family or neighbors contracting avian flu. Of course, I hope it never comes to this, but I think it pays to be informed about the possibility. Part of being a caretaker for animals is to responsibly handle them so as not to be a public health risk.
Anyway, raising backyard poutlry is very rewarding, this thread promises to be entertaining.
Read more here: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/gen-info/avian-flu-humans.htm
In areas of the world with avian flu outbreaks, has anyone gotten infected from poultry meat or eggs?
A large percentage of the confirmed human cases in Southeast Asia and
other countries with outbreaks are believed to have become infected
during the slaughtering or subsequent handling of diseased or dead
birds prior to cooking. In these countries, poultry is often raised in
backyard settings and either eaten by the family or sold in live bird
markets. The practices of home slaughtering, defeathering, butchering,
and preparation of the meat for consumption expose people to
potentially contaminated parts of poultry. A few people may also have
gotten infected from consuming uncooked duck blood pudding, which is a
delicacy in parts of Asia.
H5N1 avian influenza virus spreads to virtually all parts of an
infected bird, including blood, meat and bones. It can survive in
contaminated raw poultry meat and therefore can be spread through the
marketing and distribution of contaminated food products, such as fresh
or frozen meat. In general avian flu viruses can survive for fairly
long periods if it is maintained under moist conditions and at low
- Avian influenza: food safety issues (World Health Organization)
Free range vs. Caged up what are the pros and cons?? Seems like you can get fatter more tender chickens if they do not move as much, and this topic has created quite an uproar in California.
you get fatter and more tender humans if you keep them caged up too. well i am not so sure about the tender part ……..i can sometimes drift to hyperbole.
pros less bugs,no or less feed , lower cholesterol, better distribution of poop which limits the occurrence of histoplasmosis happier chickens and happier dogs and varmints that eat them.
ever see a chicken eat a baby copperhead? it’s very satisfying
just having had easter get some auracanas they lay colored easter eggs the kids will love them
I guess a good compromise is a chicken tractor…they get some exercise and access to bugs, fresh grass, etc. but are not roaming all over creation burning calories and making tough muscle.
Chickens are great vegetation clearers too. When we bought our 1/2 acre, the north fence line had a ten foot wide belt of well established ivy all along its 100 foot length. We set up our chicken run there, a ten by twenty foot affair, and moved it every year along the fence row until they cleared it all! I have never seen it re-sprout, and now we have native hazels, rosemary, manzanita, CA fuschia, salvias and artichokes growing on what was once an ivy monoculture. It would of taken alot of labor on my part to clear all that…
I had hens a few years ago in a couple portable coops with runs underneath; I moved them around every day or every few days before they would totally destroy the grass. I started liking eggs again once we had truly fresh ones.
I would like to get chickens again but am cautious about the committment since at least once a month I’m away all weekend and sometimes am not home in the morning or evening during the week to tend to the chickens. One solution might be to get neighbors to help occasionally in return for eggs. Does anyone have any good solutions from experience?
Also, what do you think about the economics? I haven’t run the numbers but I suspect it costs more money to buy the feed etc. to raise your own chickens than to go the store to buy eggs or meat. Of course I’m comparing apples to oranges; the quality of store-bought is not the same and not as fun as raising your own either. But the goal is also more sustainability in a post peak oil worls. Now say oil shortages arrive, feed may become more scarce or expensive (from Agway etc), and I have limited room and time in my yard to grow a big crop of corn or something for feed. Or will feed be relatively cheaper compared to larger price increases in food in stores?
Thank you for starting this! Right now the only barn animals we have are two cats and a dog.
In a perfect world, you would not be buying any feed. You need space and planning for this, so I don’t know if that is an option for you. For me, I have a by-product from crushing canola seed for biodiesel that is very nutritious and the chickens really seem to dig it. Also, in the garden they do a good job of fending for themselves when the bugs are out and things are growing. One aside – the scratch you buy from the store is medicated, and I think you need to spend the first 20 weeks or so with the medicated stuff, or so the experts say. I haven’t looked closely into why, and if this can be avoided with a good environment. My assumption is yes, it is unnecessary in the proper environment.
I have a small flock that is really just a tester to make sure I am ready. I put up a 12 x 12 coop, and I can leave them for a time if necessary as long as they are in the coop. Mostly, I’m just trying to get it all figured out before it becomes a necessity, so I really appreciate this thread! I figure once I get all the skills in place and infrastructure / feeding worked out, I will minimize the flock until I need it again for sustenance. Overall, I have really enjoyed the experience and would encourage anyone who has the space to give it a try. The egg is one of nature’s most perfect food in the sense it provides all the necessary amino acids and building blocks of human life. As long as you stay active, the fat isn’t too terrible, and may become vital in the future!
I love my Aracana hen- she raised 25 other birds for me and now they outsize her by 5 LBs but she’s still boss. I bought her with a few other birds when I found out I had a food alergy to eggs and someone suggested I try free-range and sure enough it worked.
We started raising our own bird feed by growing sunflowers, millet, some corn, oats, thistle and amaranth (and a few other seedy things). We just cut it down in the fall and toss the dried plants and all into the coop. They do all the work & are busy hunting down all the good parts. The left-overs are good bedding.
Nothing is better than chicken poo for the garden. So if you free-range, tractor or coop them – try to make as much use of it as possible. Just don’t use fresh stuff to grow leafy greens as the plants take up bacteria into their leaves, but not the fruits.
EGP! I was just sifting through the Oil Shock II comments to find your planting recipe for chicken feed. I wanted to cut and paste it here and ask you a bit more about it, but you beat me to it! LOL
You’ve answered most of my questions in this post above. Did you let the plants dry first before tossing them into the coop? If so, did you hang them somewhere and for how long? What sort of beans did you plant?
General questions for all, how long do you think the chicken poop needs to compost or sit until it’s not pathenogenic? Our girls wandered the gardens through the winter, now we’ve got them tractored, and I’ve got greens growing in beds they scratched through about two months ago. Is that enough time for me to safely eat the greens?
Also, the bird flu post was interesting. I’m wondering, if one keeps chickens only for eggs, what’s the risk of transmission from bird to human? If the birds are not being slaughtered and not being eaten, do they post a threat?
On the topic of medicated feed, you can find it unmedicated, just check the different feed stores. The store we buy from doesn’t sell medicated feed at all, and our birds have been fine. I have to think that healthy, humane living conditions and fresh food keep birds healthier than any low-dose antibiotic!
And if anyone hasn’t found the chicken forums at backyardchickens.com, they’re a wealth of resources. I logged on at 3:30 am Saturday to ask what to do for my pullet who’d just been attacked by a fox, and got two answers within minutes. (She’s been healing up amazingly well. We’re all very happy, since the loss of a second pullet hit the kids and I especially hard.)
Any ideas on a nesting basket made of wire? Wanted something I can hose off easily, and then just replace the straw. wondering if anyone else has gone in this direction.