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Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

Contributed by Rachel Whetzel


Whether you live in the city or in the country, chickens are a worth while adventure. I started my flock in a city lot, with a chicken tractor and three hens. Since then, we moved to the country, and I’ve grown my flock to include 12 hens and 1 rooster.

Facts about chickens:

  1. You do not need to have a Rooster to get eggs from your hens. Having a rooster in the city is often not allowed. Some reasons to have a rooster if you CAN have them are to produce fertile eggs to grow your own meat, and as a flock protector. OR as an alarm clock that goes off whenever IT feels like it. Otherwise, just keeping hens is perfectly OK. You’ll get eggs either way.
  2. Keep your Rooster/Hen ratio in balance.If you do choose to have a rooster, or you can’t part with that “hen” that ended up crowing, you need to be sure to keep balance in your flock. Too many rooster results in fighting and over mating. This isn’t healthy for either roosters or hens, and over mating stress can kill your girls. A good rule of thumb is 1 rooster to every 8 or more hens. One rooster can easily service a flock of 20 hens.
  3. Chickens are omnivores. That means they can eat what we eat for the most part, and they LOVE table scraps.
  4. Chickens poop A LOT. Their poop is valuable as fertilizer, but it will need to be composted to be mild enough not to burn your plants.
  5. Chickens like to scratch A LOT. If you choose to allow your chickens free range, you need to know that none of your plants are safe no matter how mature they are. There are some plants that chickens seem to ignore, but it’s safe to assume that they will not eat or trample them all. The only way around this is to not care, or protect your flowerbeds with well placed bird netting.
  6. Chickens need a relatively small amount of space to live. I relate the city chicken’s quarters to that of a well built rabbit hutch. The general consensus is that each chicken needs 2 square feet of indoor roosting space, and 4 square feet of outdoor access. Too small an area will cause your chickens to peck at and hurt each other. There are also variables to account for when you’re calculating size. My own outdoor “coop” only has about 2 square feet of space per bird, but they only use the run for about 2 hours a day, and then they are completely free range.
  7. There are risks for predators no matter where you live. Free ranging chickens are at risk to air and land attacks. On the other hand, they are free, and able to run away if they have the chance, instead of being trapped in a pen. A well built coop complete with covered run is no good if the wire isn’t strong enough to keep out a raccoon, or with holes small enough to keep them from reaching through the wire. Even in the city, there are predators. Be sure to research your area, and defend your chickens accordingly.
  8. Egg production requires Calcium. Be sure that your hens have free access to oyster shell. You can buy a huge bag at the local feed store.
  9. Chickens aren’t fancy. While it’s easy to look on line and see all the stunning houses and coops designed, chickens aren’t fancy. They will live in whatever you have on hand. Get creative with your plans. I have used a horizontal storage shed with an attached run for my coop, and I currently use a larger storage shed attached to an old hen house with it’s walls taken off as the coop area. The chickens have never complained.
  10. Different kinds of chickens are better than others. There are a lot of chicken breeds out there. What breed you choose should depend on what their purpose will be. Two key things to consider are climate hardiness and egg production vs. meat production.

Chickens are a joy to keep, and fun to watch. In exchange for good food, they provide you with excellent eggs that will spoil you to buying from the store ever again. For a look into
my adventures in chicken farming, you can visit my blog
http://minetothine.com or read only my chicken posts at http://www.minetothine.com/search/label/Chickens

photo by HOMEGROWNer Brooke Welles
Some resources for you:
The Backyard Chickens group here on HOMEGROWN.org
BackyardChickens.com  this site is full of good information and fast replies in
emergencies. Keep in mind, that most of the members are not homesteaders, so
some of their “help” is a little more city than farm.

CommunityChickens.com - from our friends at Mother Earth News.

MyPetChicken.com
The City Chicken this site has a wealth of information about how to house chicken in the city. Great for ideas and encouragement.
Breed Search This tool allows you to plug in
information about the purposes your birds will serve and where you live. Then
it suggests breeds that will suit your needs.

Chicken Poo photos  It may sound funny now, but when you spot a poo that looks like someone may be sick, it’s really handy to check and see. Turns out the range of “normal” poo for chickens is pretty broad.
Poultry Help - Wing Clipping To keep chickens from hopping fences,
you can clip their wings. Here is an easy lesson with photos on how to do this.

Agressive Roosters A lot of people have a tale about an aggressive rooster in their childhood. This article will teach you how to speak in Rooster, and keep your young sweet rooster from becoming crock pot fodder. I’ve used these techniques with 100% success in my one and only rooster. He’s officially an adult now, and still acts respectful to me and my kids.
Books:
The Backyard Homestead Great resource for more than just
chickens, this book helps you plan your homestead and give you ideas for how to
plot your land. Including where and how many chickens you can keep on 1/10
to1/2 an acre of land!!

Keeping Chickens With Ashley English - All You Need to Know to Care... - A great beginner's book.

Tags: 101, backyard, chickens, poultry, rooster

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Replies to This Discussion

I'm going to open comments on the 101 so that y'all can add links that you recommend. I'll then integrate your feedback into the articles. Thank you for your participation!
A suggestion by Vestpocket Farmer on Facebook: http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/BRKPoultryPage.html#Chickens

Thanks for these starter tips!

 

Here's my burning questions, and I'm betting other urban chickenites have them too--

 

Do chicken diapers actually work? how do you know which will be accepted by the diapee (chicken in question)? 

chickens are smart, and can be "leash-trained" according to Edible Brooklyn article--has anyone ever successfully toilet-trained a chicken (composting toilet of course)?

 

Thanks!

Best,

 

 

Joshua

LOL Well Josh, I personally have not tried chicken diapers.  (Including a link here, so that others can see what we're talking about.) I think the only way you'd know that the chicken in question would wear them, would be to try it. I have read on The Backyard Chicken message boards about people keeping their chickens indoors and in diapers. I don't remember ever seeing that it was a challenge to get them to accept them.

 

I don't doubt that chickens can be leash trained. Mine will follow me "off leash" lol around the yard at just the sound of my voice. HOWEVER. They aren't like some livestock like Pigs and Rabbits, that poo in one spot in their pen or enclosure. They go where ever they happen to be, so toilet training would be pretty impossible IMO.

 

As I said, I don't have personal experience with the indoor chicken, (except for the ones that occasionally follow me into my laundry room from outside) but if you want information from people who DO have first hand knowledge, The Backyard Chicken has an excellent forum with LOTS of crazy chicken people that are willing to help you.


Joshua Myrvaagnes said:

Thanks for these starter tips!

Here's my burning questions, and I'm betting other urban chickenites have them too--

Do chicken diapers actually work? how do you know which will be accepted by the diapee (chicken in question)? 

chickens are smart, and can be "leash-trained" according to Edible Brooklyn article--has anyone ever successfully toilet-trained a chicken (composting toilet of course)?

Thanks!

Best,

Joshua

Thanks!  Would you consider trying out a few different diapers as an experiment for the good of the group?  (would it offer you any benefit in your situation--keeping the compost all in one spot?) or, would you consider trying to encourage the chicken to poop in one place?  Seriously, I htink yo9u'd quintiple the # of city-dwellers who'd be willing to get some chickens if they could be trained.  Just because they've always pooped all over the place doesn't mean they always will.  

 

The diaper you linked to looks rather pricey and it's not clear if it's a disposable--I'd want to be sure what I got was reusable.

 

I guess the other alternative would be to design a chicken world in which every place is a good place to poop--all ramps that lead down to a central composting area...

 

Thanks again!


rachel whetzel said:

LOL Well Josh, I personally have not tried chicken diapers.  (Including a link here, so that others can see what we're talking about.) I think the only way you'd know that the chicken in question would wear them, would be to try it. I have read on The Backyard Chicken message boards about people keeping their chickens indoors and in diapers. I don't remember ever seeing that it was a challenge to get them to accept them.

 

I don't doubt that chickens can be leash trained. Mine will follow me "off leash" lol around the yard at just the sound of my voice. HOWEVER. They aren't like some livestock like Pigs and Rabbits, that poo in one spot in their pen or enclosure. They go where ever they happen to be, so toilet training would be pretty impossible IMO.

 

As I said, I don't have personal experience with the indoor chicken, (except for the ones that occasionally follow me into my laundry room from outside) but if you want information from people who DO have first hand knowledge, The Backyard Chicken has an excellent forum with LOTS of crazy chicken people that are willing to help you.


Joshua Myrvaagnes said:

Thanks for these starter tips!

Here's my burning questions, and I'm betting other urban chickenites have them too--

Do chicken diapers actually work? how do you know which will be accepted by the diapee (chicken in question)? 

chickens are smart, and can be "leash-trained" according to Edible Brooklyn article--has anyone ever successfully toilet-trained a chicken (composting toilet of course)?

Thanks!

Best,

Joshua

Sorry, I'll have to pass on being a guinea pig. lol There really are a lot of urbanites that have good experience with the whole diaper thing. There are even patterns to make non disposables on line. Google Chicken Diapers and you'll find all sorts of good links. I don't know how familiar you are with chicken poop, but it's not exactly nice. I hold my chickens in pretty high rearguard when it comes to their intelligence, but I don't think they can be trained to go in a specific spot. It's just not how they do things. Most animals that CAN be trained to use a toilet system are animals that by instinct, use the same spot over and over. Cats, for example can be trained to use a toilet because the toilet is a substitute for a litter box. That's why so many people use chicken diapers. Chickens poop where they are. They don't go out of their way to find a place that they don't lay in, or things like that. It's easier just to "catch it where it falls" type of a deal by using the diapers. As far as my outdoor chickens go, and composting their droppings, I collect from their roost area and use those in my compost. The rest that they leave in a free range situation, I just allow to be supplemental to the grass and area that they drop it on. I can't imagine the ramp system you mention... since chicken poop plops rather than rolls, I think it might be better in theory than in practice. lol

Joshua Myrvaagnes said:

Thanks!  Would you consider trying out a few different diapers as an experiment for the good of the group?  (would it offer you any benefit in your situation--keeping the compost all in one spot?) or, would you consider trying to encourage the chicken to poop in one place?  Seriously, I htink yo9u'd quintiple the # of city-dwellers who'd be willing to get some chickens if they could be trained.  Just because they've always pooped all over the place doesn't mean they always will.  

 

The diaper you linked to looks rather pricey and it's not clear if it's a disposable--I'd want to be sure what I got was reusable.

 

I guess the other alternative would be to design a chicken world in which every place is a good place to poop--all ramps that lead down to a central composting area...

 

Thanks again!


rachel whetzel said:

LOL Well Josh, I personally have not tried chicken diapers.  (Including a link here, so that others can see what we're talking about.) I think the only way you'd know that the chicken in question would wear them, would be to try it. I have read on The Backyard Chicken message boards about people keeping their chickens indoors and in diapers. I don't remember ever seeing that it was a challenge to get them to accept them.

 

I don't doubt that chickens can be leash trained. Mine will follow me "off leash" lol around the yard at just the sound of my voice. HOWEVER. They aren't like some livestock like Pigs and Rabbits, that poo in one spot in their pen or enclosure. They go where ever they happen to be, so toilet training would be pretty impossible IMO.

 

As I said, I don't have personal experience with the indoor chicken, (except for the ones that occasionally follow me into my laundry room from outside) but if you want information from people who DO have first hand knowledge, The Backyard Chicken has an excellent forum with LOTS of crazy chicken people that are willing to help you.


Joshua Myrvaagnes said:

Thanks for these starter tips!

Here's my burning questions, and I'm betting other urban chickenites have them too--

Do chicken diapers actually work? how do you know which will be accepted by the diapee (chicken in question)? 

chickens are smart, and can be "leash-trained" according to Edible Brooklyn article--has anyone ever successfully toilet-trained a chicken (composting toilet of course)?

Thanks!

Best,

Joshua

Joshua, this is a recent blog post about Danielle's chicken diaper discovery:http://homegrown.org/blog/2010/12/party-fowl-chicken-diapers/
You can actually water down the chicken poop for fertilizer :)

Yes, Erin, you can to that. In my article, I'm talking about straight chicken poo on plants. Composting is my preferred method for using up my litter. I haven't used it in the "tea" method, but I know people that have.

 

Chickens pooping here and there on your plants is also not harmful, only when large amounts are used with out composting or diluting will you see burning. (ie: if you scoop out your whole hen house in one day, and wanted to dump the shavings and waste directly on your plants, you'd most likely see plants die or burned.)

 

A lot of people also don't like the idea of putting "fresh" poo on their gardens because of bacteria risks. Something that time and composting will help with.


Erin Mitchell said:

You can actually water down the chicken poop for fertilizer :)

Thank you, Ma'am! I figured I'd bring it up. Does anyone know the ratio for said "tea"?

 

Personally, I think the composting idea is much better for food plants and "tea" for non-food ones :)

I think I'd be interested to try the tea with what I scoop out of the yard, since it would be the most free of bedding and things... and like you said. Use it on the flowers and such. Although, I also have a worm bin, and I usually use that for everything!! lol

I'm not sure what the ratio would be... seems I have read it somewhere... but I have no idea where. I bet a well worded Google search would get you some results.


Erin Mitchell said:

Thank you, Ma'am! I figured I'd bring it up. Does anyone know the ratio for said "tea"?

 

Personally, I think the composting idea is much better for food plants and "tea" for non-food ones :)

oddly enough, lol.

Taken from: http://poultryone.com/articles/chickenmanure.html

 

"Just like commercially prepared synthetic fertilizers, chicken manure is very high in nutrients. The combined average percentages (per total weight) of aged chicken manure and litter--yes, you can use old litter from your chicken coop as a fertilizer!--is about 1.8 nitrogen, 1.5 phosphate, and 0.8 for potash.

With that much nitrogen, phosphate and potash, how much poultry manure should you use? An annual application of 45 pounds of chicken manure and chicken litter, or more, per year for every 100 square feet will be just right to work wonders in your vegetable garden and increase the fertility of your soil. 45 pounds is the approximate amount that one hen will produce every year. Thus, the average small-scale chicken flock of 5-10 chickens should be enough to take care of your entire vegetable garden and yard!

Here are a few general pointers and tips for using chicken manure as a fertilizer:

1) Never feed fresh chicken manure to young, tender plants! Fresh chicken manure is "hot," meaning it is very high in nitrogen and will "burn" the growing plants. This will kill your plants! Also, too much nitrogen can produce negative plant growth. This is why you need to age your chicken manure!

2) Poultry manure makes a great addition to compost! I recently received an "Earth Machine" composting bin as part of my local county government's initiative to reduce green waste in Hawaii's landfills. Although you do not need a "real" composter to compost, it can save you time. Whether or not you use an actual composter, any sort of composting converts nitrogen into a form that a plant can use without being burned. Composting also destroys the coccidia bacteria (a chicken disease), bacteria, worm eggs, and viruses, and stabilizes potash and nitrogen levels. Any composter will do, from the fancy type you see in Organic Gardening magazine, to simple homemade bins made of 2x4s and chicken wire.

 Important note: Manure that is composted without carbon-based material (such as dry grass clippings) will overheat.

3) Give chicken manure time to age by spreading fresh poultry manure over your soil and turning the dirt at the end of the growing season to allow it time to decompose over the winter. However, you'll be required to keep your poultry birds out of the area for at least a year, preferably more.

You can also try making "tea". Chicken manure fertilizer tea; sounds delicious, eh? To make fertilizer tea, scoop the chicken manure into a burlap bag. Then, throw a rock into the bag to weigh it down and place the whole thing into a 35-gallon garbage can. Fill the garbage can with water and let it sit for about three weeks. Once the three weeks are over, you will have nutrient-rich chicken manure fertilizer tea as the water becomes infused with the nutrients from the chicken manure. You can use this fertilizer tea to water your plants to give them a vitamin boost.

Your plants will love you for it. Here's to bigger tomatoes!"

 

Also: http://seattletilth.org/learn/resources-1/city-chickens/compostingc...

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