Working Chickens, Part 7: Utilizing Your Flock
When folks first get chickens, they often think of the obvious reasons for having them: meat and eggs. While these are both great reasons to keep chickens, your flock could be doing so much more for you. Here is a quick and easy list of ways you can get the most out of your chickens.
Chickens scratch and till.
It is natural for a chicken to scratch and till up the top layers of ground. It’s what they do! It’s how they find food. You can put your chickens on a garden bed that is full of weeds and spent plants, and they will prep it for the next planting season with ease.
Chickens make great garden food.
Chicken manure is hot. Not necessarily in temperature, but chemically. That just means that you have to let it compost for a certain amount of time before you can use it without chemically burning your plants. It is recommended that you compost your chicken manure for six months to a year. If you are using a deep mulch run, then you will have plenty of manure composting from year to year, and letting it set is not too much trouble.
If you are interested in the NPK values of chicken manure, check out this article over at Allotment and Gardens. Chickens and rabbits. my friends … (That’s what we have here at Haven Homestead!)
Chickens can be good pest control.
Chickens will make short work of nearly any insect that moves. Our chickens even eat slugs! Here’s a great article from MOTHER EARTH NEWS about using chickens as a natural way to control pests.
We often catch bugs, worms, beetles, and slugs and toss them to the chickens. We also toss aphid-infected plants into the chicken run. Our chickens love it, and our garden thrives.
Chickens can help clear unmanageable land.
As previously discussed, chickens like to eat greens and bugs. If you have a brambly, grassy, weed-infested piece of land, pen your chickens up there for a few months. Their scratching and grazing should at the very least help knock it back to where you can manage it. At most, you will have bare dirt that has been well fertilized and is primed and ready for the cover crop seed of your choice!
Chickens are great “garbage disposals.”
Every kitchen produces kitchen scraps. Onion skins, potato peels, apple cores, leftover pasta, bread crusts, soup gone bad … You name it, and we’ve fed it to our chickens. This accomplishes two things: it keeps my garbage can from getting stinky, and it helps to lower the feed bill.
You do have to be cautious that you aren’t going to make your flock sick. Chickens shouldn’t have citrus peels or anything with too much sugar. Some folks say you should avoid uncooked green potato peels, uncooked or undercooked beans, or any part of the avocado for toxin reasons. Here’s a great chart from Backyard Chickens (Scroll down to the bottom for the list on what not to feed and why).
Chickens are great entertainment.
Chickens are fun to watch, plain and simple. Just pack a camp chair out to the pen and chill. Watching your chickens can be more fun than watching TV; at least, I think so. It’s like meditation entertainment. I love it.
Chickens are great learning tools.
We don’t just raise animals on our little farm. We raise kids, too. Having animals, especially chickens, is a great opportunity to teach your children responsibility. You can use chickens to teach your children about anatomy and biology. You can use chickens to teach your children about God. You name it, you can probably use chickens to teach it. Thus, our chickens are also learning tools. Yours can be, too!
The last installment in this series is coming soon! It is:
Raising Your Replacement Flock, Roosters and Chicks
By Lindsay Hodge
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.
Keeping Chickens Warm During Winter
Keep chickens warm this winter and prevent illness, frostbite and more with these tips to keep your flock healthy — even in the coldest temps — so you can enjoy fresh eggs all winter long!