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Save Money in 2009: Raise Your Own Chickens

1/28/2009 9:13:00 AM

Tags: save money, chickens, poultry, farms,

Raising chickens is rewarding.

Kate and I have raised our own poultry off and on for more years than I care to count. We have raised both meat birds (broiler chickens, geese and turkeys) and layers. In every case, raising our own poultry helped us save money, while providing endless hours of entertainment and providing higher quality meat and eggs than we could have ever even hoped to buy at the time. Now that we are once again living on the land, raising our own chickens has become a priority.

When it comes to raising chickens, I am a little more conservative than Kate is. She will often go overboard (in my mind anyway) when chick ordering time comes around. I always ask what we will do with all those chickens; she always answers we will enjoy every minute of them. And she is right.

Rasing your own chickens is rewarding.

All you need to raise chickens is a little space, a little know how (mostly know to leave them well enough alone) and some desire. If you order day old chicks through the mail, you will need to make a brooder for them. The brooder can be as simple as a heat lamp suspended over a cardboard box (it’s best to staple cardboard across the box’s corners to “round” them … this keeps the chicks from piling up in the corners and suffocating those on the bottom of the heap. You should definitely take a look at our books and articles on raising chicken if you have never done it, but suffice it to say this isn’t rocket science.

As you might imagine, raising your own chickens requires a commitment to care for and nurture the animals. For best success, you need to protect them from predators … including pets and children, and you need to provide food, water and access to shelter throughout their lifetime. During the growing season, much of that food can come in the form of grass, clover, alfalfa, bugs, worms, various garden trimmings and excess fruit and vegetables. The shelter can be a chicken house, barn, shed, old grain bin, you name it.

Some might argue that it isn’t possible to grow your own broiler chickens for less per pound than the limp, bleached out stuff they sell at the grocery store for below a dollar a pound. That might be true. But you can grow chickens yourself for less than the plump nicely colored organic free range chicken that sells for dollars a pound … likewise with homegrown eggs. But, I find that comparison to be lacking, and somewhat anti-intellectual. With chickens, saving money isn’t just about the obvious products they provide.

The fact is, you can raise your own chickens and eggs for less per pound than premium eggs and chicken cuts sell for at the grocery store. If you grow their feed, production costs go down even further. Chickens will also help you save money by keeping insect pests at bay in the garden and yard. Chickens will also help you save money by weeding and tilling your garden. Chickens will also help save you money because they are so entertaining. Once you discover the joys of sitting and watching the chickens peck, you will spend less money on trips to town for a movie … or movie rental. You will spend less money on exercise because your chickens will require daily care … morning and night. And since you and your family will be eating the best, most local food there is, chickens will save you money with physical and mental healthcare to boot.

Kate and I consider raising chickens to be part of our “golf game.” As such, those birds make a huge contribution to our savings account. And that’s a good thing, especially in 2009.


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .



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Post a comment below.

 

Rooster Shamblin
1/24/2010 11:44:23 PM
http://roostershamblin.wordpress.com/ please read my chicken blog. 40 years experience raising chickens.

George Hanna
7/27/2009 2:41:28 AM
Can I mix laying hens with meat chickens in the same coop and run? Also what about turkeys? Can I have then in the same coop, etc.?

nataly
7/15/2009 11:20:44 AM
My mom grew broiler chickens last summer. They brought her so much pleasure because they grew very fast. But sometimes she worried about them because it was difficult for them to walk. So, if you grow broilers yourself, read books about poultry diseases. I found one at http://www.picktorrent.com. It was of great help. But I believe there are lots of others. Just don't lose time, it will be of no use to treat the bird which is already big. It is better to find out first what exactly vitamines and food it needs.

Hank Will_2
7/7/2009 12:57:24 PM
Hey Daniel -- If you wait until your chicks are around 8 weeks old you can switch them to a grower ration. I have switched them as early as 6 weeks with no problems other than slower growth. Good Luck. Hank

Daniel M Boger_2
7/4/2009 1:13:59 PM
I have been trying to find out when I should take my chickens off of the starter food.My Chickens are 6-7 weeks old. I have them on started food right now. when do I go to the next level. Thankyou Dan

Missy
2/7/2009 12:28:23 AM
I just wanted to say that my husband and I live outside of a large city in Massachusetts. We built our new home a year and a half ago, and just added chickens to our list of "pets." We originally got them as a new hobby. Having lived in the city my whole life, thought it would be a nice change of pace. I never realized it would be so much fun. We have more entertainment from the chickens than our dogs. It really is wonderful to just sit down and watch them do their thing. It's almost relaxing, putting life into perspective with the tough times we all face now. They really are low maintenance, and I can't wait to get them in my garden to get rid of the nasty pests we get around here.

Shara
2/6/2009 9:03:08 AM
Anyone have ideas on how to keep hawks away? We have a terrible time with them. We wish not to keep the chickens in a pen. Should I get an outdoor dog to protect them? I tried the fake owl...but that only worked briefly as the hawks seemed to learn it was fake. Any ideas would be grateful! Thanks

tksinnott
1/31/2009 2:21:23 PM
This was my first visit to Grit. I like the article (and the picts). I just wanted to add that when you get chickens your fiends will love getting any "extra" fresh eggs too. Also, it should be stressed that you don't have to live way out in the country to raise chickens. I live 40 miles from NYC and have 16. I just got them last May. My wife has two blogs about our experience: http://www.meet-the-chicks.blogspot.com/ and http://cooping-it.blogspot.com/ Chickens are great!

Hank Will_2
1/29/2009 11:45:35 AM
Thanks for the kind words, Paul. I say go for it. We can't ever have enough posts on chickens. When I was very small, we would travel to the Minnesota State fair. Even though it pained my mother to let me roam free, she would drop me at the poultry barn for a couple of hours so I could marvel at all the fantastic variety. No one else in my family particularly dug poultry ... or the smell of poultry. I still think the most peaceful moments of my life were sitting on a sack of feed in the red-brooder-lamp-glow of the chicken house, warm with the smell and murmur of comfortable chicks.

Paul Gardener
1/29/2009 10:49:51 AM
Good post Hank. Strangely, I had a nearly identical post half written yesterday for "Growing Possibilities" to be put up today. I'm holding off and will tweak it to cover some different information. I for one can never get too much chicken talk! I totally agree with you on comparing home raised eggs and meat to the bland industrial counterparts. The costs may not be less for those, but compared to buying a similar quality product it is MUCH less! P~



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