Back in 2004, when we were planning on how to live more simply, to get out of the small suburban town we were living in in Massachusetts and reading homesteading magazines and books - one of the first things we figured we could do right where we were, was to have chickens.
My father that lived not to far from us at the time, and not being one not to wait until some distant point in the future, called me one day and said that he knew of a place that had chicks and he would be by later in the day to pick me and the children up. (We had one car and Mike was at work.)
The great thing about chicks is that you have a few weeks to get your coop ready if you don't have one yet. They first live in a box in our house. We don't have any special lights or anything.
Once we moved to Vermont and had a woodstove, the new chicks stay in a box nearby the stove with a screen on top to keep them in and the cat out.
Chickens are the only animals that we have ever had to provide some of our food.
There is really no reason why everyone shouldn't have at least two or three if at all possible.
Just about all of your food scraps can be fed to them and then their poopy litter turns into excellent compost for your garden. So even on a small scale this is a wonderful cycle.
Because Sarah is our chicken lover, she would never agree to any culling. Therefore, we keep them until they are old and die - we have quite a large chicken graveyard here.
As a matter of fact, right now Sarah is nursing a chicken that is in a box on our porch.
Our feed we buy from someone local that places periodic large orders from Hiland
. Because we have so many older chickens we cannot afford organic feed, but we do buy the non GMO variety.
For calcium for the chickens we dry out the egg shells and then crush them and add the crushed eggs to the feed.
We have never used any lights on the chickens. Some people say that the light increases egg production during the dark days of winter. But, somehow that doesn't seem quite right to me. I think I would rather have a chicken lay moderately over a longer period of time than lay more than is natural for a shorter period of time. I have no scientific study to support this, just a gut feeling.
Our eggs feed our family and are our primary source of protein. Right now from our 15 girls, we are getting 8 - 10 eggs/day. In the winter we cut down on our egg consumption and usually just use them for baking and rely more on occasional local pasture raised meat.
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