Raising and Incubating Chickens

| 10/18/2011 5:58:26 PM

Suzanne HeadshotAndrew and I were both raised with chickens. We each were used to the “standard” backyard operation. There was a wooden shed-like coop which housed nesting boxes, roost, feeder and waterer. This coop was located not far from the house and was surrounded by a small chicken yard made of wood posts and chicken wire. Both of our families kept on average of 1-2 dozen birds being mostly hens with a single rooster. I’ve always loved poultry of all kinds, and Andrew also likes birds but is an even bigger fan of eggs! So we always planned on having chickens. However, the first 6 of our 8 married years found us renting homes with land, but inside the city limits where poultry aren’t well thought of.

Two years ago we moved a doublewide onto a small corner portion of my parents land. This gave us time and the ability to save money to purchase our own land, which was our main goal. It also gave us a whole 1/3 of an acre with no restrictions! Well, no restrictions as long as my parents approved that is. Since we were not planning on living there long and my parents already had chickens in their barn, we did not need to build a permanent chicken enclosure. After a few months we found ourselves with an empty 10 x 12 foot chain link dog kennel. The idea struck us that this kennel could be turned into a portable coop for a few hens. So Andrew got to work modifying the dog pen into a chicken pen. By adding tarps to the top, an empty igloo dog house on “stilts” made of concrete blocks, a ladder for them to climb into it, and a few well placed boards running along the top to support the hanging feeder and waterer, we were ready to go! We headed to a neighboring counties poultry breeder and came home with 8 young hens around 6 weeks old. These hens were $5.50 each. Seven were a commercial egg-laying cross called a Cinnamon Queen, and the other was one Macey just had to have called an Americana. We were told these Cinnamon Queens would begin laying by five months of age, and would lay at least 6 eggs a week! Well, we were doubtful about that but wanted to give them a try. A few weeks after purchasing them, Andrew built a covered two nest nesting box on short legs to sit inside the coop. This was the perfect size and design for such a small number of girls in a tight space! Much to our surprise, by 4 ½ months old every one of the Cinnamon Queens were laying big beautiful brown eggs! Something that still continues 15 months later.

Cinnamon Queens in Dog Pen 

In December of 2010, we moved our home and family onto our own farm. Instead of that 1/3 acre lot, we now found ourselves with 24 vacant acres! We knew we wanted to switch to pasture raised poultry, and went about devising a way to do so in a manner that would compliment our other plans. This spring Andrew completed the first stage of our land improvements by fencing 2 acres in field fence and building a small barn. Inside this barn, was one large stall for sheep and another smaller stall for our chickens. This stall is assessable to our birds, but not to the sheep or guard donkey.

Chicken Stall in the barn 

To do this, we simply installed a 4 foot gate across the entry way, and build a wooden rail across the remainder of the opening with space between the rails large enough for our birds to come in and out but not the sheep. So far, this has worked very well for us! Inside we keep a 50 gallon barrel for feed (with a secure lid of coarse!), roosts, 4 nesting boxes, and a large hanging feeder and waterer. Now we had a nice set up, but only 8 hens! So we headed back down to the poultry breeder and picked up an adult barred rock rooster and 6 barred rock young hens. Rocky, the rooster, is still my favorite bird in the field!

Nebraska Dave
10/20/2011 9:07:02 AM

Suzanne, you have hatching chicken eggs down to a science. Your hatch rate is awesome. We usually just bought our chicks from the feed store. They came in the flat boxes with the big holes in the sides. Six weeks later they were ready to process and put in the freezer. We didn't have laying hens. Mom just raised chickens for the meat. She always processed the chickens herself which made the cost much lower. We finally gave up the chickens because our lesson learned the hard way was that chickens roosting in the rafters of the hog barn doesn't work. The dropping from the chickens will give the hogs pneumonia. We did have a chicken house for them to roost but they just seemed to like the hog barn better. So we just got rid of the chickens and that was the end of raising chickens. Your experience with chickens has been great and I can tell you have had experience with chickens before this adventure. Good luck with all your adventures in home steading on your 24 vacant acres.

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