The Complete Guide to Raising Chickens: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply (Back-To-Basics)

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I have to put the word "truly" in there because factory farms use the phrase "free range" to mean something really stupid. The idea here is that your chickens have 24x7 access to your whole place.

On the farm, you probably have no fence and the chickens just don't go too far from the food. In the city, you might have a fenced in yard and the chickens just stay in there. Usually there's a coop where the chickens go to lay eggs and to roost every night. If so, then you have all of the hassles that come with the coop. If not, then you have all of the hassles that come with finding eggs or finding the chickens when it is time to harvest. To get a 10, you have a rich polyculture that has far more food than the chickens could eat. At first this was "3 to 4" and then I had some people write to me to say that they had terrible problems with poop all over all sorts of things where they didn't want poop and it was far worse than the worst coop!

They implored me to discourage folks from raising chickens with a free range approach due to the endless poop everywhere. And then I had people write to me to insist that I should give a value of 10 since they have personally never seen any chicken poop with their free range chickens. I suppose if you had some nearly feral chickens this could happen.

So after a bunch of conversations I'm opening it to the full range, but I think the average is gonna be 3. Usually right on your porch. They like you. Again, a couple of feral-ish chickens on lots of acres will be what scores a 10 - but this isn't very common.

Raising Chickens 101: Raising Baby Chicks

Again, I put the number "10" here because of the nearly ferral element. But I really think "3" is the most likely. The chickens are everywhere. Here they are unmulching some fruit trees:. I set a piece of plywood on the porch while I came inside to have lunch. In no time at all, the chickens turned it into a roost and pooped on it.

Reshaping a pear tree. Note that the mulch is now all gone.

Several white rock roosters turned out to think they could take anybody down. Even me.

Step 1: Check the laws and ordinances in your area.

They would attack and attack and attack. Until they took that special trip to the soup pot. This was a lovely place to sit until it was perpetually covered in chicken poop:. These turkeys found some perfectly good hay and straw to poop on:. The weird thing about this picture is that the turkeys really wanted to spend all of their lives about 20 feet due south from this point, sitting on the porch. A snow shovel and a scoop shovel were kept on the porch and turkey poop was shoveled off twice a day. So gross:. Here is a wonderful upside to raising chickens truly free range - every once in a while, a chicken can hide a clutch of eggs from us and then pops out with some chicks:.

Soils and pastures will do better when given a chance to rest between visits from the chickens. With free range, there is no way to have that rest. Because of trying this, I now have chicken scratches all over my car - they attempted to roost on the bottom edges of windows, only the window made it hard to do that - so they would desperately try to keep from falling off by using their claws.

If you find an egg in an odd spot, don't eat it - you have no idea how old it is. I would find eggs on my workbench. Chicken poop on my porch, in my shop, on my workbench Joel Salatin is a brilliant man! His book Pastured Poultry is excellent. In the book, he describes making a pen that is about 10 feet wide and 20 feet long. He puts a bunch of chickens inside and then moves the pen one pen length every twelve hours or so. The chickens eat a fair amount of the pasture and bugs and leave behind a bunch of chicken poop. Because it is such a great system, I want to give a higher number. Then the chickens wait for bugs to happen to pop into the pen.

How could there possibly ever be any poop to clean? Some folks might do just once a day. And the pens are generally not too terribly close by.

Back to basics: A guide to traditional skills

I used pastured poultry pens for several years with moderate success. I once heard a fella suggest that rather than move the pens, park an empty pen next to a full pen and then open the doors between the two: the chickens will run into the new pen to get the new grass! It works great! And eliminates the problem of when you drag the pens, the chickens all wanna run away from you so they end up and the opposite end that is dragging - I constantly worry that they will get trapped under the edge that is dragging. Here is my first design using the "door technique".

Raising Chickens Raising Baby Chicks | The Old Farmer's Almanac

I used PVC pipe which made it plenty lightweight. I came up with about five design improvement ideas, but at the end of the first season, it started to break a lot. The following season it just crumbled - it turns out the most PVC also hates temperatures of 20 below. Having it be very lightweight is important to me. The lighter it is, the easier everything is. I came up with an idea using cattle panels, but they are kinda heavy. And then I got the idea of making them modular. One pen could be made of three "modules" with two ends. When I set up a new pen, I could just lift one "end" between the two pens, the chickens run through and then the front end of the old pen becomes the back end on the new pen. This worked very well! Except that as the season went on we started to figure out that the time to move the pens was kinda huge.

Rather than about 10 to 15 minutes per pen move the pen, new water and feed it was about 25 minute per pen moving the modules and bungying them together. I needed something faster. One idea was to buy one of those costco temporary garages and toss out the legs that make it high. I put it on 2x4 skids and drug it around. Still too heavy. Poly pipe is really light. And fairly stiff. Well, not stiff enough.

And I won't need much.

To Begin At The Beginning!

I welded some together and held the shape with clothesline.