Here a Cluck, There a Cluck

Posted on June 24, 2010 by Courtney

Today’s post is written by our newest Greenist, Howling Hill!

One of the easiest ways to green your kitchen is to keep a small flock of chickens. Easy to care for, versatile, relatively quiet, and amusing chickens are a must have for any microsteader* with a little space.

When Wolf and I first discussed getting chickens we had a fair amount of fear. Neither of us had any idea how much work they would be. I can say without any deception chickens are very little work. Feed and water them, collect the eggs, and chickens pretty much care for themselves.

Feeding is easy. We give our flock a combination of foods. First, they have access to our compost pile, which they love. Within days a clump of rotting vegetables and fruits is a dark, wonderful compost ready for the garden.** Second, we give them all kinds of table scraps (no meats though): vegetables, fruits, breads, cheese, yogurt, nuts. Third, they get egg-laying chicken feed, though we use that to supplement their diet, not as their only food source. Fourth, they eat bugs so their poop will attract flies, etc. the chickens will scratch through and eat the larva of the flies, the flies themselves, mosquitoes, snakes, chipmunks, you name it. Chickens are omnivorous and they will eat anything including each other and their own eggs, so just be vigilant.

Housing is also easy. Wolf built the Coop de Ville in 2008. While every flock we’ve had has slept in the coop on their own, the current group (12 of them) won’t sleep in it. At first we were going out there every night to pull them out of the trees and put the Ladies into the coop, but that got old fast so we just let them roost at night. In the morning there’s usually a couple out of the confines of the chicken yard (our chicken yard is fenced because of a fox and because they can’t really control their descent from the trees. Because chickens are a flock animal they want to be together so they don’t wander far from their yard.) The Ladies go in to the nesting boxes every day to lay their eggs without us having to teach them how.

The chickens don’t make too much noise. When they do it’s because (1) they laid an egg and must announce it (this lasts for just a few minutes); (2) They got separated from the flock and are calling back to it; or (3) Ms. Foxy-Fox is lurking around and they’re calling out “Danger Will Robinson!” to each other.

The Ladies don’t need a lot of space. Some people keep their chickens in a coop all the time but Wolf and I feel they really need to get some walking around and scratching space. We would’ve given this flock some more room in their yard but we ran out of fencing and couldn’t afford to buy more. If you have a small city yard just a couple chickens should live there because you don’t want overcrowding issues.

Regarding the eggs, it depends on the type of chicken you get. We have cinnamon queens which are a hearty New England crossbreed designed to withstand the cold snowy winters. Wolf usually culls the chickens before winter comes though he said he wanted to keep them over the winter this year. That’s not going to happen when we move to Massachusetts (unless we can take them with us). The Cinnamon Queens lay an egg a day for the first year or so then slow down. We have 12 chickens and we’re totally awash in eggs. This is a good source of income if you can get some steady customers. We sell ours for $3/dozen.

To know your egg is fresh and from a healthy chicken is really easy. First, the brighter orange the yolk the more animal protien the chicken has eaten (bugs, snakes, mice, etc). Second, when cracked open there are three layers. (A) The yolk should stand up tall and be orange. (B) the white clear middle should be thick surrounding the yolk and stand up. (C) the thinner outer part of the yolk spreads out. If you crack an egg into a frying pan and it spreads out to the shape of the pan it’s not a new, healthy egg. Some spreading is good but you really want the egg to hold its shape.

*combination of “micro” and “homesteader.” Someone who keeps a garden and chickens.
**Don’t spread it when it’s “hot”. That is, give it some time to cure. Chicken poop is really hot and can ruin your garden. Peppers and tomatoes can be planted into a bucket of poop and soil though.

8 Comments +

  1. [...] to join their illustrious group and, of course, I said “yes!” You can see my first post Here a Cluck, There a Cluck. Comment early and [...]

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The comment’s server IP (74.200.245.190) doesn’t match the comment’s URL host IP (74.200.243.251) and so is spam.

    June 24th, 2010 at 8:57 am
    Pingback by The Greenists and Me « Howling Hill
  2. I kept chickens when I lived in the country. They are two-legged garbage disposals! Why don’t you feed them meat scraps? I did, with no bad results. Our town ordinance regarding “agricultural operations” is vague enough that I might challenge it with two or three hens.

    June 24th, 2010 at 10:25 am
    Comment by Abby
  3. Wolf is the one who’s vehemently opposed to giving the Ladies meat scraps. He feels much of the contamination in agribusiness comes from giving animals tainted meats or foods they cannot digest. For instance, giving cows corn and ground cow to eat or giving pork tainted meats.

    June 24th, 2010 at 10:46 am
    Comment by Howling Hill
  4. Ah, another drawback to apartment living. I’d love to have a few chickens.

    June 24th, 2010 at 2:18 pm
    Comment by mickey
  5. I love that backyard chicken-ing is becoming so popular. Chickens really are an easy way to utilize waste and have a nice return from your back yard!

    The color of your egg yolks is not actually because of the animal protein. It comes from plants – carotenoids, including beta-carotene that makes them that nice orange color. This is why free range chickens have nice bright yolks – they are getting lots of fresh greens in their diets.

    Animal protein is an essential part of chicken health but it doesn’t affect yolk color. (There’s no reason Wolf should be so against meat scraps as long as you know they are coming from safe sources; they are actually good for the birds as long as it is not dirty CAFO meat, which often has fecal, fur & feather contamination!)

    I’m looking forward to reading this site more often!

    June 24th, 2010 at 2:40 pm
    Comment by MaggieMaeFarm
  6. Thanks for commenting Maggie! I appreciate you letting me know the information I was dispensing wasn’t accurate. I strive for accuracy so please don’t hesitate to correct me when I’m wrong!

    June 25th, 2010 at 8:11 am
    Comment by Howling Hill
  7. Very informative post.Just the thing for those of us who are considering chickens! Thanks!

    June 27th, 2010 at 7:54 pm
    Comment by Rob
  8. This is such a great post! Thank you so much for writing about this, HH!!!!

    June 29th, 2010 at 9:41 am
    Comment by Allie

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If It Doesn’t Smell, Don’t Wash It

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According to Real Simple, if every American made an effort to launder less — cutting out just one load of laundry a week per household — we’d save enough water to fill seven million swimming pools each year.

So if it looks clean, and it smells clean, call it clean and wear it again. Consider hanging worn clothes out on your clothesline to freshen them up between wearings.


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