The following post on raising chickens naturally is from an interchange I had at (while he was off torturing people in the woods).
Here are some thoughts on chickens from “jack” and a link to his wife’s blog that contains some homesteading info:
“We maintain a flock of about 25 to 30 chickens. They are let out each morning to free range in the yard and within the first several yards of the woodline and down to the creek. They put themselves up at night and we close and lock the hen house to keep out the predators. We are lucky to have a dog that gets along well with the chicks [won’t eat them] and she barks a good game [otherwise a total coward and she is part pitbull…go figure].
McMurray is a good hatchery. They ship via the postal service. Note that fresh hatched chicks are good on food for about three days; a bit less on water. When the post office calls you go right then, get them and have their tub or whatever ready with plenty of water and feed. Try to use non medicated chick starter for the first several months. Its sort of OK to have them vaccinated for cocci, mareks and maybe bronchitis. Now, that bronchitis stuff can sometimes cause more problems than it helps. We’ve decided to not vaccinate for bronchitis again. By all means let the chickens free range if you can. You end up with near organic birds [eggs etc.] that way. And, happy chickens. Plan on about one nest box per 5 birds. And be sure they always have a lot of clean water. Lack of water can kill a bird very quickly.
Yes, predators can be a problem. We had one chicken killed by a hawk. Chigger, the dog, actually ran off the hawk before it could dine. The chicken lived for about two hours but
our best efforts could not save her. Our best layer, too.
With our dog predators are almost not a problem. We’re not fools about it, though. The hen house is overbuilt and the containment runs are
protected by shock wire and overhead netting. I say containment with
qualifications. You have to sometimes lock up chicks in a contained area. Free range as much as possible. Our contained areas are spacious
indeed. Most people that see the setup wonder why we even free range.
The reasons are obvious. Animals are not meant to be locked up. They are much happier on the range and far more healthy. Of course, your
situation may not allow that.
Notes on chicken health:
We use, almost always, natural remedies with the exception of the initial
vaccinations as young chicks. By the way, if you should have to use
human made medi’s after a layer is laying always wait at least three
weeks after ending those meds before eating the eggs again or the
Apple cider vinegar in their water…boosts the immune system. Use
about ore or two caps per 1 gallon waterier.
Powdered garlic for worming. Worm about twice a year. Mix the
garlic in chick starter to get the birds to ear it.
Powdered olive leaf for viral issues; mix with starter.
Black walnut powder for more serious infections. Order off net.
Use sparingly. Mix with starter.
Diatomaceous earth for mites. Use food grade only. Get at the
co-op and spread on their earth bath areas that they dig.
Also, this same earth sprinkled on the hen house straw
does a fine job of fly control. If needed, hand dust each
bird with this.
A chicken should have a medium deep red cone without any pale areas.
Anything else is a sign of problems. They should also not look scruffy
and should seem alert with tail feathers perked up.
Chickens love water melon. They also love bits of bread thrown at them. But go light on the bread, particularly with active layers. They love crushed crackers. They will eat frogs, lizards, rats, etc. Yeah, I did not believe it either till I started keeping chickens.
Here is my woman’s blog site:
She is the studied expert around here on chickens. She thinks she doesn’t provide enough info. Not true. Plenty on chickens, how we built the chicken/garden complex and, on the right, among other things, a very complete, step by step manual on how to build a passive solar house. There are numerous photos. She should know, she built it herself with little help from custom plans. And, the info is really from the horses
mouth as she worked for about 20 years as a commercial carpenter and and certified structural steel welder. That’s in addition to a bachelor of
fine arts university degree. These days she earns her pennies making
some very fine pottery.”
Raising chickens naturally (for the most part) is a labor of love. Make sure you like chickens and start with a few… then have fun. The eggs are always welcome.