Chicken Advice You Won't Find in a Book: Part 3


Candi JohnsIf you would like to know the good, bad, and ugly of owning chickens, this article is for you. This is actually the 3rd part in a three-part series called "Chicken Advice You Won't Find in a Book." Here are the links to the first articles:

Chicken Advice You Won't Find in a Book: Part 1 — It covers why you need to collect the eggs every day and how we feed our chickens for free (mostly).

Chicken Advice You Won't Find in a Book: Part 2 — This article gets a little deeper in the land of chicken ownership. Here I discuss predators, illnesses, and why we don't keep water in the coop.

Today, I'm going to tell you why you should put the chicken food in the coop (if you provide the food), and try to set some realistic expectations about the lifespan of your girls (and boys).

First, let's talk about the average life of a chicken.

SIX: All your chickens are gonna die.

Man holding a chicken

7/29/2020 10:14:44 AM

Well, maybe. I did have a batch of turkeys with infectious bronchitis, and it was ugly. Some didn't die, but we ate those who survived long enough to recover and didn't expose any others. I currently have a Speckled Sussex that is 9 years old and she still lays an egg every now and then. Also a group that is 7 years old that includes a Golden Laced Wyandot, a Cuckoo Maran, a Barnevelder, a Welsummer and an Aracauna. I get two or three eggs per day from those 6 "old girls". We do raise meat chickens every year and manage to "only" lose one or two to the raccoons, but that's with double fencing, a wire top for the run and chicken wire buried a foot under a layer of dirt floor. My 32 new pullets have the same fencing arrangement. Our biggest predators are the neighbor's dogs and the owls that live in the top of the barn, so I fence everything. We live trap and shoot the groundhogs but "relocate" the possums several miles away out into the National Forest because a possum will eat 2,000 ticks a year and we do have Lyme disease in this area. So, is it possible to raise chickens that die of old age? Yup, but you have to build Fort Knox. I don't even have doors to my coops that close, and I don't have barn cats or dogs there as my farm is shaped like an "L" and my house is at one end and the barns/coops/gardens are at the other. Chickens do die. Some just die for no apparent reason, some are culled because they eat eggs, some get injured and can't survive. I find the "heritage" breeds live longer than the egg laying machines that are hybrid chickens, that chicks from a reliable hatchery have a lower mortality rate than the feed store babies and that good high protein feed helps. Ask Sparkle, who still is the "rooster" in our coop as I have only hens. She runs the place, because she has seniority. And, although they are "just chickens" and I currently have 61 of them, I'm gonna cry myself when that 9 year old force of nature goes feet up.

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