posted on Sep, 13 2010 @ 11:20 AM
I live on a working farm, this farm raises field crops, there are 20 acres out front and 20 acres out back. I limit my own gardening and animals
within about one acre of space (actually less than that). I have been at this home now for 8 years and my oldest chicken who came with me when I
moved in just passed on recently.
At any rate, I highly recommend Backyardchickens.com if anyone wants to meet up with knowledgeable people at this husbandry. As well there are
several sister sites attached Backyardherds, and TheEasyGardener. All of these are bulletin boards and I am not linking them, sorry.
My first several years I allowed my chickens full access to all of the grounds. They were very active at bug collecting but they also were very
active at eating plants too! LOL For some odd reason they always knew the ones I wanted to grow versus the ones I didn't. So it didn't take long
before I realized that all the seedlings were being taken before they could establish themselves. By Summers end the plants were always taller than
the chickens by far, but the diversity was lost and also most of my 'good intentions' were removed because they were consumed...voraciously! LOL
I have since learned to be cruel and start locking them away from my garden spaces. Up went the fences, but sadly anything 4ft and under means they
just fly right over. I had to provide runs that were enclosed on the top as well (both for my garden's safety and their own from predators). Now I
am at the point where I buy all the feed. I can no longer provide them the spaces they require to forage enough for a healthy existence.
As well I also provide straw for bedding and for cleanliness and sanitation. I now utilize "fly bait" traps which can get costly but is worth it,
and I have a collection of antibiotics, de-wormers, and vitamins for them. I typically spend about 2-3 hours worth of chores in regards to them,
watering, feeding, cleaning, and dealing with any problems. Mites were a problem at one time until I switched from the normal pyrethrin-based
products (the mites became immune) to Moxidectin which is a systemic pesticide.
Eggs are great, but come winter they stop laying unless you begin to provide more lighting. They cycle the eggs based on the amount of sunlight they
receive, not the temperature. I am fortunate that I do not have to provide heat for mine in the Winter, but there are so many States that fall below
20 degrees at night and this is when combs, waddles, and feet are at risk of freezing. Chickens after all are descendants of Jungle-Fowl and they do
not freeze well unless you have dressed them (farm humor there sorry).
The part that was the hardest for me was the Processing. This is the part that I always threw me, dispatching a little life that doesn't mean any
harm to anyone, raising a fluffy little babe into a fully feathered friend and then having to take them "out". One of the most important things to
learn is that dying of old age is cruel. It is painful and it is pitiful and has no place in a farm. If there is an injury or sickness the person in
charge should also be responsible enough to step up and do the right thing. Dispatching is fast and it is nearly painless. It does not stress the
animal out like a long winded illness or a festering injury.
Well, I won't live without chickens. Now I have two turkeys this year and they are like big dopey friends! LOL I thought through the processing of
the Turkeys and I cannot do it. Not by my hands, no way they are much too big. They will be dispatched by a bullet to the brain; it is fast, it is
Then the best part. Learning how to clean and prepare a bird, and then learning the importance of aging the meat enough to let it become incredible!
I have found with Chicken that 4-5 days of refrigeration is an excellent time-frame, some take it over 10 days. Fresh chicken is tough and needs to
be relaxed to bring out the goodness (it is in fact a "rotting" process). It is also nice to note that now some Countries are moving away from the
young birds because they lack flavor. In France a 3-year-old hen is the time to process, which brings in the best of flavors and textures to the
meat; very much contrary to how Westerner's see the chicken, they raise them in record time and then it is over, no life at all. Why not let the
bird have a healthier longer life, everything deserves to live, especially for flavor-sake!
OK, well I do love Chicken! I Love how the Rooster Crows all day long, I love how much my Mulch bin has benefited by the coop mess I clean
seasonally. My orchard is now bare of any greenery except the trees themselves. I Love having fresh Eggs! The taste is unlike a store-bought
bleached eggs that must be refrigerated.
Oh yes, in Europe it is not uncommon to see fresh chicken eggs kept in a basket or bowl in the kitchen, out in the open. Here in America it is
considered a "no-no" and most people fear an egg sitting out getting warm. The reason they can do this is that they have not "washed" the eggs at
all, and that the natural flora that envelopes the egg as it is passed from the Hen prevents bacteria from infiltrating the egg. An unwashed egg can
sit on the counter for up to 5 weeks before you use it, or hatch it! Seriously, an egg can sit for that long as long as you do not handle them (oils
on fingers) or wash them. I keep all my eggs on the counter, never in the fridge. I wash them as I am using them; however, I have had a hot kitchen
at times during the Summer months and I have opened several in mid-development as a result. That is kind-of sad to run into.
I think everyone should raise chickens. They are humble and even if you only provide them with a box they will think they live in a palace.