You Need to Know
Raise Your Own Backyard
was meant to live with chickens.
They can be noisy, messy and cantankerous creatures. They peck, they
and they move with a herky-jerky motion that is disturbingly reptilian.
But if you
live in the country and have
some space and time to devote them, chickens are an easy-entry,
livestock option for small farmers, homesteaders and even backyard
a charm that will affect
even those with no bird experience," claims Jay Rossier in a new guide
on raising chickens titled "Living
with Chickens: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard
(Lyons Press, 2004).
stately, dignified, and industrious
creatures that take their work of scratching and eating and laying and
setting seriously... the eggs and meat they provide is superior to what
you can get from the store. If what you want is home-grown animal
you'll soon discover that these birds can offer it -- and that they are
a lot cheaper and easier to house, feed, herd, and transport
goats, pigs, cows, ostriches, or what have you."
lives with chickens on a Vermont
farmstead, provides instructions for constructing a chicken coop,
schematics for roosts and nesting boxes. Rules of thumb call for
between two and ten square feet of space per bird in the coop, plus a
encourage you to let your birds
roam as free as possible, within reason," he advises. "Chickens that
spend time outside need less floor space inside. Keeping chickens on
which is to say in a field of grass, can benefit both the chickens and
the grass if they don't stay in one patch too long."
pasture may want to try a
"chicken tractor," a portable coop devised by Joel Salatin. The coop is
basically a two-foot-high cage of about 10 by 12 feet that can be moved
to a new location on the pasture daily. The chickens inside will fatten
themselves by mowing the grass low to the ground and consume weeds and
insects, leaving behind manure as fertilizer. If moved daily, their
will give grasses a competitive advantage over weeds and improve the
with Chickens" explains how and
where to buy fertilized eggs
chicks or purchase adult birds. For meat birds, the Jersey Giant,
Brahman and Cornish breeds are recommended. Among the laying hen
the White Leghorn is the most common and recognizable. Dual purpose, or
old-time breeds, include the New Hampshire, Rhode Island Red,
Dominique and Plymouth Rock.
begin laying eggs at 4-5
months and will produce continually until they molt about a year later.
None will be as productive after molting, but some will continue to lay
steadily for up to 10 years or more.
Among the meat
breeds, a Cornish-Rock cross
-- bred for commercial farms -- may be ready for butchering
little as six weeks, but most meat birds won't be of decent size for
weeks or more.
devotes a chapter to butchering
and encourages even backyard smallholders to do it themselves. "For
of us, it has been at least a generation, or several, since the act of
slaughter was a regular practice in our families, and both the
of the mechanics and the willingness to do it have been lost.
is reason enough to try it yourself," he points out.
part for the beginner is taking
the knife to the neck of a living bird while it blinks at you as it
upside down from a string wrapped around its feet; and after, when the
blood drains, and the bird jerks and flaps in reflex. These are
terrifying moments, as well they should be."
With Chickens" also offers
detailed instructions on feeding,
eggs and keeping chickens healthy. Illustrated with color photos and
with real-life examples, it provides informed inspiration
in chicken husbandry.
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from the Producer