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Is Chicken Raising for You? Part II of a two part series
Part one provided information on some of the
questions responsible chicken owners need to consider, ending with Dyke
Marble's predator encounter. A snippet from the end of last week's
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 part one.
Is Chicken Raising for You? Part II
By Chris Pagano
Further research on the subject of protecting your chickens
from predators resulted in the discovery that many chicken farmers have
attended "The School of Hard Knocks. " Dyke tells the story of how he
lost 14 hens in one night.
“When chickens roost and it’s dark, they sleep almost
hypnotized. They’re sitting ducks, an easy target for anything
carnivorous. I think it was a mother bobcat. I saw her running away. I
learned through the school of hard knocks…you need predator proofing.”
even though Dyke built his coop with security from predators in mind, a
bobcat still attacked and killed the vulnerable, roosting chickens.
Besides the loss of more than a dozen hens, clean up was, well, kind of
gruesome. So now, each night Dyke secures the chicken coop. That means
closing the exits, windows and any place where a predator could possibly
Preparing for backyard chicken farming
Dyke subscribed to Backyard Poultry to prepare for raising
chickens. He also has friends who raise chickens and he used them as a
resource by asking a lot of questions.
Spending time with chickens gives you lots of opportunities
to observe their behavior and may even be fun. Dyke said, “They’re a
social creature.” When creating the roosting poles for the coop, Dyke
said he purchased broom handles at a garage sale to place on a 45-degree
angle, meeting at a corner. “It simulates a low limb in nature,” he
said. “They knew what to do. They prefer it. They roost close to each
other—wing to wing.”
Besides utilizing resources found at a garage sale, raising
chickens also provides a real efficient method of utilizing table
scraps. Dyke said, “Whomever is standing at the sink throws the scraps
to the chickens.” One word of advice is not to give chickens old potatoes that are turning green. There is a chemical in them that kills chickens.
While table scraps can make up part of a chicken’s diet,
“Chickens need a quality balanced diet that’s 16 to 18 percent protein
and made specifically for their needs,” according to Phillip J. Clauer, a
Penn State poultry expert, who notes there are special diets for young
chicks, growing birds, and layers. As a treat, scatter scratch—a mixture
of grains and seeds—into the run, as well as organic grass clippings
and vegetable scraps.
next basic question for consideration would be deciding on whether you
wish to start with fertilized eggs, chicks or pullets. Watching the eggs
hatch is always fascinating but requires an incubator plus turning the
eggs three times daily until they hatch. Chicks must be kept in a
brooder for five weeks before moving out to the coop, so a brooder is
Pullets (young hens that can live outside in a coop
immediately) will begin laying eggs shortly if they haven’t already.
They are more expensive; typically between $5 and $10 per
bird, in comparison to chicks at about $2 each and eggs at about $40 or
more for 10 fertilized.
There’s no need to ask Dyke if pursuing this project was
worth it. The answer is on the tee shirt he wears proudly—a gift from
his wife, Laura. It reads, "Have you hugged your chicken today?”