Chickens, chickens everywhere

Hello faithful readers!  I haven’t had much to post this past few months, but today, I’m going to get you all caught up on what has been happening with our homestead.

First off all, I learned something important.  If you store your chicken feed in a plastic bin, you’re going to have issues with squirrels and other animals.  I woke up one morning, and found this lovely hole in the side of our feed bin.  I have since purchased a stainless steel feed container.  It holds a 50 pound bag of chicken feed easily, and has yet to be broken into.

I have to point out that I used the plastic bin because it was the cheapest option available.  And this is where I have to mention that “low budget” sometimes means paying a little more up-front in order to save money down the road.  Using a cheap or free plastic bin cost me more in the long run, as I had to buy the metal bin anyways, and lost some chicken feed in the process.

In other news, I have officially been raising chickens for over a year now.  I’ve learned a considerable amount, and decided that it was time to try to earn some more from chickens than I have been.  We checked with our local extension office, and learned that we can have up to fifty laying hens without needing to be licensed by the state, and can sell those eggs directly to consumers.  Any more than fifty chickens would mean that we’d have to have our eggs graded and sized, and the cost would become prohibitive.

Our chickens started out in a brooder for the first 6 weeks of their lives, on our dining room table, with a heat lamp keeping them warm.   We learned that we’re not fond of having the house smell like chicken poop, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.  Consistent cleaning keeps the smell down, though won’t eliminate it entirely.  We kept the chicks in a kiddie pool with mesh over it so they’d stay safe.  That’s the picture at the top of this article, with some of the chicks checking out their new temporary home.  It wasn’t a perfect solution, but we had the pool laying around and it only cost us a few bucks to put their brooder together.

Several weeks ago, we moved them out to their coop.  Since we’re working on staying low budget, we looked at a number of options for a chicken coop before we settled on our final solution.  We had thought of building a coop out of pallets, but couldn’t collect enough pallets to make something decent in time.  Then we came across someone giving away an old, falling apart mobile home.  It wasn’t something that anyone could live in without a great deal of work, but it could be turned into a chicken coop extremely easily.  We were going to use that option, and have the mobile home moved out to our land, when the family member that lives next door offered the use of his barn.  All we needed to do was clean it out, put up one wall, and move the chickens out.

We have a roof over their heads, and they’re quite happy.  We built a waterer out of a 55 gallon barrel and 12 poultry nipples.  The barrel cost us five bucks, but you can get them for free sometimes.  The poultry nipples are about four bucks per package of 4.  Our chickens took a bit of time to learn how to use the new waterer, but now that they know how it works, they’ve been happy to use it.

We built a simple feeder out of another barrel.  It holds several hundred pounds of feed, and there’s little wasted food.  I’ll show that feeder in my next post in the next few days, and teach you how to build it.  It can easily be adapted to smaller sizes as well, for those of you with just a backyard flock.

We have a few things still to do.  The barn we’ve got the chickens in is about 80 years old, and we have to level some ground and put up the fence for their run.  Following that, we’ll be building their nesting boxes so they have a safe place to lay eggs in a few months.  The chickens are staying inside until the fence is up, and they get used to their living space.  They’re happy, healthy, and will be a great source of income when we start getting eggs from them.

I suppose I should mention how we plan on selling those eggs.  There’s a farmer’s market in town, and we’ve already spoken to them about having a table there.  With only 50 chickens, our income from these chickens won’t be huge, but any money coming in will be better than nothing, and will help us work on our next project.