I live a short distance from town. Small acreage, just right for the frustrated gentleman farmer in me to get some satisfaction. I don’t do horses, cows, pigs or goats. Well, I tried goats a few times to control the brush, but they also control my wife’s roses and other ornamentals so we have an agreement which includes the phrase: “No more goats or else!” What we do have is chickens. We like farm fresh brown eggs and when we can collect them directly from the “factory” we know they are indeed fresh and haven’t been shot up with a bunch of stuff we’d rather not ingest.
I’ve had some successes and some failures with the chicken venture. True, we do get a ton of eggs and when the chickens are producing, we have plenty to share. The biggest problem I have had with chicken farming is they keep getting murdered. I used to think raccoons were cute when they would sneak up on my deck and eat dog food out of the dog’s dish. When they got comfortable doing that, they would bring their babies and make sure the little ones got fed as well. When I discovered my chickens were being picked off by the little suckers, they stopped being quite so cute.
In the past I have allowed my birds to roam “cage free” and then lock them securely in the chicken house at night. The trouble with that plan is that sometimes raccoons (who are reportedly nocturnal) forget they are supposed to sleep in the daytime. By the same token, chickens are easy pickin’s for any neighborhood dog who happens to also be at large.
I purchased a whole new batch of chicks in February and have been diligent to keep them secured inside a pen or locked up at night. They should start producing eggs within the next four weeks.
If you’re interested in disaster preparedness, then maybe you should consider chickens as a part of your plan. First of all once they mature, they provide a steady supply, and sometimes an overabundant supply, of fresh eggs. Be careful because once you’ve had farm fresh eggs, it ruins you for the store-bought variety. Some folks even get a rooster and work at hatching their own chicks, thus perpetuating the flock. No you don’t need a rooster to get eggs, only if you want those eggs to hatch into baby chicks. If that confuses you, then you need to ask your mom to review “the talk”!
Then some raise chicks especially to butcher. There are some varieties that gain weight very quickly and can be butchered in six to eight weeks time. Certain breeds are better for laying eggs, and still some are a good cross between both types. My most recent chicken purchase was for 24 Cinnamon Queens. I chose that breed because of their reputation for early production and their ability to produce large, brown eggs.
As always send your comments, questions and chicken stories to me at email@example.com. Previous columns can be found on my blog at www.disasterprepdave.blogspot.com. Dave Robinson is a retired Postmaster and the author of “Disaster Prep For The Rest Of Us,” available on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and other online booksellers