9 Things I Learned In My First Season Of Chicken Farming
Hi everyone, this is Calvin from Calvin’s Farm. Small chicken farming is hard work. After a year of chicken farming, here are 9 things that I learned.
1. Chickens will eat almost anything
Chickens will eat almost anything you give them. This includes normal chicken feed, table scraps, grass, and bugs. You can keep the cost of feed down by letting them free range around the yard, where they will eat the bugs and grass. Feeding them table scraps such as potato peels and strawberry leaves are a great way to keep feed costs down and not waste any food. Chickens also love eating their own eggs. If there is a cracked egg in a nesting box, I’ll throw it on the ground and watch them go crazy over it. They will eat the egg yolk and the eggshell, which gives them a good supply of calcium. From what I’ve seen, the only things my chickens wont eat are stones and dead snakes.
2. Everyone loves chickens
Everyone loves chickens. Me, my brother, my sister, and everyone I know loves chickens. But you can’t forget about all the naughty predators that eat them such as hawks, bobcats, racoons, weasels, and sometimes snakes. We have lost a few chickens to hawks, and in just the month of June, we have lost 2/3 of our chickens to an unknown predator. We think it might be a weasel, as most of the dead chickens were lying on the ground, barely eaten.
3. Keeping the chicken coop safe
Having a coop where the chickens can take shelter, sleep, and lay eggs is very important. If you don’t want them roaming around your yard, you need to think about how you’re going to keep them in. This is pretty easy, just don’t have any open gates and make sure everything is tall enough to where they cant jump out (chickens are very good jumpers). Whats more important is that nothing else can get in. I’m talking about predators such as hawks, weasels, etc. Once we got down to ~11 chickens, we started locking them in the coop so they couldn’t get out. A day later, we had a dead chicken in the coop. The same thing happened the next day, so we made a cover on top of the 5 ft x 10 foot outside area, and sealed any gaps from the ground that anything could be getting in from. This solved the problem, seeing as its been a week and we’ve gotten no more deaths.
4. Daily chores are a great way to stay focused and get lots done
Maintaining a chicken farm is hard work. There are a lot of fun daily chores that come with it. Collecting and packaging the eggs is super productive and lots of fun. My favorite chore is feeding the chickens every 3 days. I love throwing their feed on the ground and watching them go berserk fighting over it. Every afternoon, my dad uses the hose to spray poop off of their sleeping perches. I prefer to watch this chore instead of actually doing it, but climbing the ladder is very entertaining.
5. Post hole diggers are essential for every farmer
Post hole diggers (a tool that looks like two shovels stuck together that digs 8 inch round holes deep into the ground) are very useful tools while farming. They have many uses, such as digging holes for posts to go in or burying dead chickens. My dad let me use it one day, and it was the most fun I had all week.
6. Plan for poop
If you have chickens, you are going to have lots of poop as well. Chickens poop all over the place, and you are going to have to clean it up regularly. A great way to use their poop is by making a garden. We scoop up the poop, dirt, and some sand in a wheelbarrow and bring it along to our garden. I had a lot of fun planting seeds, and we were successful in planting some cucumbers.
7. How to kill a large rat snake
In late June, we found a large, black, rat snake in our chicken coop. I was preoccupied watching TV at the moment, so I’ll tell you what I heard from my brother. When my brother opened the coop door to get the eggs, he saw a huge snake on the ground next to the nesting boxes. He came back with my dad and they grabbed some weapons (a rake and a shovel), and went back to the coop, where they saw the snake squeezing a rat to death on the second floor. My dad used the rake to swat it down, then smashed its head with a shovel 20 times until it was dead. We thought that it might have been the predator that was killing our chickens, but the attacks kept coming after the snake was dead.
8. Neighbors appreciate fresh eggs
If we have an overabundance of eggs, I especially enjoy walking the neighborhood selling them or giving them away. It makes me happy as well as our neighbors, and it’s a great way to stay productive. Most people who try our eggs say they are the best eggs they have ever eaten, and ask for more. I suppose this is because I love and care for my chickens, unlike the factories, who only care about their money.
9. Nature is amazing
Being outside and in nature is one of my favorite things about farming. Playing in the sand with my construction vehicles or chasing the chickens around the yard is great fun. Nature gives me lots of exercise, and is a great source of Vitamin D.
That wraps it up for 9 things I learned in my first season of chicken farming. Check back soon for more updates!