Raising Chickens: An Advocacy for Organics & a Sense of Community
Do fresh eggs have a special appeal to your taste buds? What about the advantage of producing an organic product independently? Maybe watching the cycle of life unfold daily before your eyes is what makes raising chickens a potentially fascinating project. Whatever the reason for your interest in chickens, reading on may help you explore some of the realities of this project as well as learn about a local man’s experiences with his chickens.
Is Chicken Raising for You?
By Chris Pagano
When I learn to speak "Chicken" I have a lot of questions...
That's what Dyke Marble, contractor by day, chicken advocate in his leisure time had to say once the questions on chicken raising were over. Raising chickens is something Dyke wanted to do for a long time--since he was a kid--but his dad didn't want to put up with the smell.
Preventing odors is something you’ll surely want to consider carefully. And your neighbors will be happy about your
consideration as well. Check with the city in which you live for specific ordinances. Not only will the regulations help you in planning to build and operate a chicken coop that is within recommendations before you invest time and money, it will help you understand that upholding sanitary conditions will be conducive to a odorless coop.
It is quite possible to keep odors in control with the regimen Dyke follows. The entire coop gets hosed down monthly. However, the coop has a sand base of about four inches. Not only does this prevent the chickens from pecking on concrete, it enables regular scooping in between.
A healthy chicken is a happy chicken so following good animal husbandry techniques is important in preventing worms in your chickens. This includes keeping litter fresh and dry, avoiding corn/ scratch feeds in the litter if there are droppings in it, plus resting the land periodically. Worms can cause all sorts of damage to the digestive system of your birds. Products that are used to treat worms are not cheap, but it can cost you more in the long run if you don't worm them regularly.
You may be starting to think that considering your own chicken coop project could entail many tasks. Dyke, now a father with two teenagers, decided to follow through with the idea to raise chickens for a couple of reasons. First off, it gave him an opportunity to interact with the family. "I knew my kids liked eggs and that it was something we could do together. My daughter thinks the chickens are pretty now," said Dyke. He said that being involved in activities like this with his family because gives them more to talk about.
Another reason for Dyke’s pursuit of raising chickens seems to come from a desire for a sense of community. "I can share an organic product I produce at my house with a lot of people," he said. Organics are important to Dyke. So important that he subscribes to worming them with organic products and practices free range philosophy that fosters eating grass, clover, worms and insects in their free-range environment.
If spending time with your family is important too, the work can be divided so everyone has the chance to be involved. Just checking on the chickens twice daily is advisable according to Dyke. This means making a visual sweep and physically walking
through the area where chickens are kept. The reason for this is that chickens will tend to peck each other especially if they’re lacking something in their diet. It is not impossible for a half living chicken to be pecked to death by the other chickens.
Besides worming, feeding, monitoring and maintaining the coop, it is important to be sure all the chickens make it back to the coop after being out on the free range. Dyke explained that although the adult chickens have no problem getting back, sometimes the little ones don’t know how to get back. Most of the time they follow the adults, but being aware of this may make keeping a head count advisable.
Another important task is making sure the chickens get inside to stay dry in the event of rain. Knowing they can get sick from being wet makes it important to delegate this task to a responsible, weather-conscious person. This brings up the very important point of chicken housing.
Just working on the weekends, it took about a month for Dyke to complete a coop and 30 by 30 foot fenced-in run. Keep in mind that chickens need laying boxes and roosting poles. Chickens sleep while sitting upright with talons gripped on a roosting pole.
Dyke started out with a dozen chickens and now has 30. But during the progression to almost tripling his brood, Dyke attended the School of Hard Knocks. In a nutshell--he quickly learned the importance of securing the chickens from predators. Click here to read the next part of this story.