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Sunday, August 14. 2016
I know two people who do backyard chickens. They keep the gardens weeded and eat all the bugs. A Red-Tail occasionally gets one. They scamper back into the coop at evening feed time, which keeps them safe from owls, fox, coons, and coyotes. That's the real "Free-range." Do you have to quickly teach your hunting dog to leave them alone? You betcha. Shock collar. What about Blacksnakes? Big fat Blacksnakes can't fit through narrow gauge chicken wire.
Duck eggs are bigger and tastier and ducks are less prone to disease and other problems.
A great project to do with kids, who should be responsible for it all. Does growing your own anything make sense in terms of time and cost? Of course not. It's for fun.
Raising Ducks: how to integrate Ducks into your Urban Farm or Backyard
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I've raised both and the chickens are a bit easier since their waste is more solid and less messy than ducks. That said, duck and duck eggs are tastier.
Don't think I could raise chickens and/or ducks chez nous, city bylaws being what they are. Do remember, however, my father talking about growing up in Vancouver post WWI in a house where they had chickens in the back yard. Some 50 years later, the house was still there, though probably gone now. Dad slept in the porch over the front verandah in the summer. They grew runner beans as well, fertilized by donations from the horse pulling the milk cart.
Interesting, growing your own. I became involved in a summer project with 2 friends to grow Roma tomatoes, we being sauce nuts. Essentially, I was roped in. 2 acres of San marzanos, 2100 plants, every free day since Memorial Day weekend at the farm, weeding, placing straw, fertilizing, every day but 1 in high heat and humidity, lost weight, the crop is truly beautiful, and most importantly, I relearned hard work. This is not for the faint of heart. Bending, squatting, lifting, pulling, lots and lots of sweating. The amazing part is to watch the progression of photosynthesis, converting CO2 and water into a delicious piece of fruit. At 61, this summer has been a pleasure. Today, I saw the farmer's son near our rented spot, and I shook his hand and told him how impressed I was by the amount of work they do, every day. I have a new appreciation, and reverence, for those who provide our foods.
Good luck trying to raise your own chickens/ducks in a residential area. "Not a permitted use," says the zoning code.
We keep chickens in town. A lot of smaller cities will allow you get a variance from the zoning board to keep them. In my town, its hens only, roosters need not apply. :) Keeps the noise down. I recommend hardware cloth instead of chicken wire, though, if you live somewhere you are trying to keep critters out of the koop (dogs, 'possums, etc.). It is considerably tougher. Bend the bottom of it out and bury it at least a foot, and your chickens will be considerably safer at night.
They probably aren't time or cost effective if your family eats as many eggs as mine. We'd need 2 dozen hens. Pullets cost about $15 each or you can spend a lot of time culling roosters and plucking feathers. But a couple of them as pets would be good for the kids. Once you have them, though, you have to be at home every night of the year. They don't take hens at the dog boarding place.
My mom keeps about 12 hens in the semi-country. Country enough, anyway, that you don't even think of asking neighbors or government before you do anything on your property. She thinks of them as pets. It was funny seeing her finally get fed up with the mean roosters and ask me to slaughter them. Damn raccoons ate every one of them, recently.
In the old days you didn't have dogs that ate chickens because any dog that did that would be shot.
Whatever you do, don't get guineas. Eventually, your neighbors will get tired of the noise and shoot them out of their trees.
I live in town and have chickens but so do a few others - as well as deer, a turkey and a pig. I heard a rumor that possibly the mayor was raising pigs in his dirt floor summer kitchen basement but don't know if that's true or not. It'd be ridiculous to go after any of us who raise our own food when we live in an ag based area and the neighbors behind me have over 150,000 chickens combined.
If you don't want roosters, buy your chicks sexed. They are usually pretty accurate, although this last time I got one rooster out of 40. I start 30-40 usually 2-3 different breeds, keep about a dozen and sell the rest at auction. I make more than what it cost me to get them to that size (usually about 8-9 weeks plus the costs of what I'm keeping for myself). I start new ones every two years although I have a few leftover chickens that are approaching 5 yrs and they still lay. With a dozen hens I get 6-8 eggs a day now that it's been horribly hot, closer to 10 eggs a day in a cooler summer. 4-5 a day in the winter and fall months. People wil gladly buy fresh eggs from your overflow. the eggs in the store are usually weeks old.
If you buy already grown poults that are close to laying age (6months ) you're going to pay more but the mortality rate on chicks is usually high and the labor is significant. Don't plan on going away for more than a few hours at a time. I constantly change the newspaper and clean chicks' butts, the waterers, the feeders to keep them from getting diarrhea and croaking.
If you purchase all your feed, you will not break even, but chickens as a rule are not fussy. that 40% of wasted food that the ad council cries about going into the landfill - feed it to your chickens. grow some sunflowers. Throw an entire head of cabbage in once in awhile. They like protein once in a while, It keeps them from killing and eating one another if they are stressed or crowded. I let mine out a few hours in the evening for grazing, rolling in the dirt and eating rocks. Hawks will eat them during the day, other critters at nite. Hawks will eat them through the fence so hardware wire is a good idea. I use a dog kennel reinforced attached to a small shed with a hole cut in the side.
Likely you will need a "nutrient management plan". This is the enforced boot on the neck of the bureaucratic mucky mucks who regard manure as hazardous waste. Have a compost pile and a garden. buy a bag of dehydrated lime to sprinkle on it to keep the fly hatches down.
The price of eggs at the moment has cratered. The entire countryside is full of ginormous chicken houses that house 50,000-200,000 -1 millions chickens because the corporations pay to put the house up and the farmer just gets income from the finished product. This is why the farmer has no say in how they are raised or what they eat. This is your free range chicken that free ranges inside a building. This is why your organic free range egg is so much more expensive than "regular" eggs.
Oh and the organic label is a bunch of crap just like the "our chickens aren't fed antibiotics" line. It's a marketing ploy. Chickens aren't fed antibiotics.
This is why there is likely going to be another avian pandemic, as my neighbor who runs a hatchery just said. He likes deals more in ducks than chickens but sells both.
The pandemic will be caused by having huge amounts of one species in concentrated area, not because of anythign to do with antibiotics.
I like the idea of having chickens but I spend 100 - 150 days a year traveling/camping. Seems like any animals/pets would be more trouble than they are worth.
Speaking of worth, I can buy a cooked chicken at Costco for $5 so why does a hen cost $15? Don't tell me it's because of the eggs because if you feed them, which you should to get good and dependable eggs, the feed costs as much as the eggs (which are about $1.25 a dozen).
You can get chicks for a couple dollars or less, but you'll have to raise them for six months with no eggs. And you'll have to do something with the roosters. If you want hens only, then you have to pay more because someone already took care of them for six to eight months.
$1.25/dozen is the bottom of the barrel for eggs. I buy them, too, but only because I'm cheap. People sell their home-raised eggs for about $5/dozen. Nothing compares to a diet of bugs and table scraps.
Our city began allowing a limited number of backyard hens (no roosters) a few years ago, so we have had 2 or 3 at a time, down to 1 now. Our experience is that a hybrid breed like Production Red beats the heirloom breeds for vigor and health.
Is it worth it? Not financially. But we get great organic compost for the vegetable gardens, the fun of grandkids finding eggs (and breaking some!), and having the current hen run after us like a puppy for a treat. And the eggs, well, you really can't buy one with that huge orange yolk we get from our hen.
Funniest question from otherwise intelligent folks: "Don't you have to have a rooster to get eggs?"
Agreed: hardware cloth for predator proofing and not for those who travel much (we have to get a neighbor to check on the hen every day while gone).
Also, free ranging in our fenced backyard has to be limited due to the preponderance of hawks in our suburban area.
Avoid roosters, if you're in it for the eggs.
Eight roosters dropped off in the night were here for three years. Lots of entertainment but no eggs.
No ticks in the lawn those years.