2015 GRIT’s Guide to Backyard Chickens
Raising chickens in the backyard is all the rage these days. Those of us who grew up on the farm may wonder what the fuss is all about, but we’re happy that others are learning about the benefits of that small flock in the backyard: fresh eggs and meat for a more healthful diet, entertaining hens pecking and destroying all the pests in the grass, and a means to become more self-sufficient and independent in these uncertain times.
GRIT’s Guide to Backyard Chickens again offers a way for novice flock owners to learn more about their poultry and the means for experienced chicken keepers to reinforce some lessons and perhaps glimpse something new. It’s also a great way for those who’ve been there and done that to connect with others who have done the same. Check out all the information contained in the sixth edition of this special issue, produced by GRIT editors for our readers.
You’ll find something for everyone and every situation in the pages of GRIT’s Guide to Backyard Chickens: from the basics to keeping chickens from experienced owners to what to do to help your flock during winter months, from incubating eggs to raising chickens for meat, from learning more about heritage breeds to creating the ultimate backyard chicken tractor.
Two experienced flock keepers offer a few great tips for the new chicken enthusiast. Anna and Mark have learned quite a bit during their years of tending the hens and roosters, and they want to share their experiences with others of like minds.
Jump-start your learning curve by heeding their advice. For instance: Don’t use an old-fashioned coop-and-run combo. The couple recommends a chicken tractor for small flocks so the animals have fresh grass every day. For larger flocks, try a rotational pasture. Or don’t mix up the flock; once the pecking order has been established, taking a chicken out of the flock may cause problems when the hen is re-introduced.
They went to the readers of their blog to learn more, such as learning what works in a coop by simply watching the occupants and what they like or what they reject.
Taking Care of Your Chickens During the Winter
Three GRIT bloggers, all of whom are experienced flock owners, offer personally and hard-won advice on how to prepare for winter and how to keep your chickens during those cold months.
Laura Damron, from her Acorn and Thistle blog, writes about the methods she uses to help keep her chickens in good shape no matter what the weather forecast brings. In her Natural Chicken Keeping blog, Leigh Schilling Edwards offers some common sense tips about winter and her chicken flock. And Melissa Caughey, who writes the Tillys Nest blog, talks about preparing for winter storms for backyard chicken keepers.
Whatever your area’s weather and however large your flock may be these bloggers provide timely tips and advice gleaned from their own experiences.
Perfect Chickens On Display
In this latest edition of GRIT’s Guide to Backyard Chickens, we have again published the article on Perfect Chickens, a nitty GRIT-y guide to heritage breeds. You’ll learn specifics on 25 interesting breeds that are unusual and far from the mainstream of chicken flocks. Also included is information from The Livestock Conservancy’s Priority List, which classifies poultry according to the number of breeding pairs and flocks that remain in the U.S.
Catch a glimpse of the Andalusian’s plumage, origins, and egg color, or the Catalana’s type of comb and TLC rating. Check out the look of the large Wyandottes, or the bantam Sebrights with their lacy plumage.
This year’s edition offers new illustrations of each breed from Leigh Schilling Edwards.
Left to right above, Cochin pair, Polish hen and rooster
Left to right below, Dominiques, Wyandotte pair
In an excerpt from their book “Plowing With Pigs and Other Creative, Low-Budget Homesteading Solutions,” Hank and Karen Will list a number of ways to feed your flock without breaking the bank, as well as provide you with entertainment, performing tasks you don’t want to do and doing the work of the chemicals you would rather not use on your property.
From mowing your lawn (to an extent) as they search for fresh greens to preparing the ground for planting by rendering hay, straw, grass clippings and more into wonderful mulch and compost, your chickens – hopefully heritage breeds – will prove to be the best investment you can make for your homestead or your garden plot.
With easy to follow directions and helpful photographs, author Elizabeth Williams details the steps to create your own chicken tractor that will allow your flock to forage on fresh ground each and every day.
She provides plans for her inexpensive and portable pen, including a nest box, roost and a place to hang a feeder, all while providing them with shade and protection from the elements and predators. “After piecing all of these requirements together,” she writes, “the resulting chicken tractor I constructed is based on a series of six panels and a nest box. The panels are connected with loose pin hinges for quick assembly and disassembly.”
Read this editor’s letter about her new chickens and their lively personalities.
Backyard Chicken Tools
What tools do you need to raise and process meat chickens? Killing cones are humane, and promote a complete bleed, scalding tanks, plucking machines facilitate easy feather removal.
Integrating Chickens, Dogs and Cats
Introducing the pets to the chickens has been a little more challenging than originally anticipated.