Return of the Prepper #1 : Keeping chickens for free?

in prepping •  last month  (edited)

Currently we are down to one chicken and one guard goose.

Our flock of hens was up to about 14 the summer before last but due to age, foxes and buzzards the number has since dwindled. But we were not too fussed as we were spending a lot on feed and producing more eggs than we needed at peak times.

I'm looking to get a few more this spring, but not too many. Many another four or five hens and a new cockerel.

And more importantly I'm looking to have a zero input chicken operation.

Relying on externally sourced corn or pellets is expensive and not self sustaining.

From a prepping point of view I want to move to a system that will continue regardless of what is going on in rest of the world.

Having a cockerel (or two) means we would be able to keep rearing our own birds regardless. Although we would need to introduce fresh bloodlines from new cockerels every year or two to prevent inbreeding.

That is where community resilience would come into play. Hens, cockerels and eggs are great for local bartering and swapping. We have done quite a bit of that already.

Feed-wise we are not looking to raise birds for meat as we are vegetarian now so a high input diet is not needed.

We only give the birds a small amount of mixed corn each day now but I think with better planning that could be eliminated altogether to make our egg production zero cost and totally self-sufficient.

Because of foxes in the area we can't let the chickens free-range even with the guard goose in action, but they do have a good sized fenced compound to roam in.

That compound will be doubling up as a second orchard this year with the planting of at least dozen mixed fruit trees. In a few years windfalls from the trees will add to the diet of the chickens.


I have just been re-watching Justin Rhodes "20 Creative Ways to cut Chicken Feed Costs by 100%" video.

Some of his suggestions are a little hard core for the here and now - using animal carcasses and roadkill for example. And others such as slaughter by-products and excess cows milk don't fit in with our operation.

But others are quite usable. We don't produce anywhere the quantity of food scraps and kitchen waste as Justin's much larger family appears to, but what we do produce already does go to our flock. Surplus eggs also go back to them when we have too many to give away.

Soldier flies, worm composting, forage crops like buckwheat, blackberries and winter squash are ideas I am going to try.

I'm interesting to hear other ideas. Do you keep chickens? Do you buy in food, or are you self sufficient?

That's it for now. Time to sleep.

I wonder - do chickens dream of electric eggs...



[ images from @pennsif ]

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Thank you.

Got a brewery nearby? The spent grain is free, a good feed source and the brewery will be brewing most likely even in the worst of times. Everyone wants beer. My birds free range the farm and eat at will on the tons of spent grain spread around my farm. Letting the birds roam in the pens with ruminants provides a whole host of bugs for them to eat.

Alas no breweries nearby, but useful to bear in mind.

Very nice prepping information on chickens. Good to know.

😀

We have six chickens now, with no cockerel. The feed is fairly expensive and so the eggs we get probably don't cancel that out. Not all of them are laying. We have tried them with various scraps, but they just don't seem that interested. I will have to look into other options.

Mine like scraps. Although I do find it interesting how different chickens often have their own particular preference for the different types of waste food.

They do seem quite fussy, but it may depend on what they are used to. Ours normally have the mash food and turn their beaks up at pellets. They do love some mealworms that we give them as a treat.

Do you breed the mealworms yourself? I did a little investigation into that before but didn't pursue at the time. Think I will revisit that.

We don't. Buy big tubs in one of the discount shops.

Not spotted them. Are they expensive?

I think it's about £5 a tub, but that's cheaper than what they do at our local chicken place or if you buy small quantities. It's sold as wild bird food.

I'm wondering about trying to breed them. I found these on ebay...

I've got some out of date flour I could feed them on.

It is possible to feed chickens without commercial feed. It does require a bit of planning. As much as chickens like scraps, in nature the food chain indicates that bugs are between plants and birds in general. It's often forgotten.

I would suggest keeping some mealworms (or a native relative). It is a great source of nutrients besides protein and a whole bunch of them can live off veggie scraps for a long time. Many sources on the internet (even research documents) give wrong information about them, keep the humidity low, not high or you will accumulate pests over time.
They can survive freezing temperatures also. You can set it up with minimal input.

Thanks for this. I have wondered about meal worms. Maybe time to have a go again.

You might have the room for feeding them via composting. Look into the Vermont composting company and their composting with chickens.
https://permaculturenews.org/2013/12/06/grow-chickens-without-buying-grain-feeding-compost/

That is an impressive operation. I must trying upping my composting operation in the chicken compound to try that.

I have no experience with either but, for what it’s worth, I have more than once read people extolling the raising of quail as opposed to chickens.

We did try quail but had the problem of rats taking them - even when they were in what we thought were secure cages. Smaller mesh guage needed v slim rats.