Currently we are down to one chicken and one guard goose.
Our flock of hens was up to about 14 the summer before last but due to age, foxes and buzzards the number has since dwindled. But we were not too fussed as we were spending a lot on feed and producing more eggs than we needed at peak times.
I’m looking to get a few more this spring, but not too many. Many another four or five hens and a new cockerel.
And more importantly I’m looking to have a zero input chicken operation.
Relying on externally sourced corn or pellets is expensive and not self sustaining.
From a prepping point of view I want to move to a system that will continue regardless of what is going on in rest of the world.
Having a cockerel (or two) means we would be able to keep rearing our own birds regardless. Although we would need to introduce fresh bloodlines from new cockerels every year or two to prevent inbreeding.
That is where community resilience would come into play. Hens, cockerels and eggs are great for local bartering and swapping. We have done quite a bit of that already.
Feed-wise we are not looking to raise birds for meat as we are vegetarian now so a high input diet is not needed.
We only give the birds a small amount of mixed corn each day now but I think with better planning that could be eliminated altogether to make our egg production zero cost and totally self-sufficient.
Because of foxes in the area we can’t let the chickens free-range even with the guard goose in action, but they do have a good sized fenced compound to roam in.
That compound will be doubling up as a second orchard this year with the planting of at least dozen mixed fruit trees. In a few years windfalls from the trees will add to the diet of the chickens.
I have just been re-watching Justin Rhodes “20 Creative Ways to cut Chicken Feed Costs by 100%” video.
Some of his suggestions are a little hard core for the here and now – using animal carcasses and roadkill for example. And others such as slaughter by-products and excess cows milk don’t fit in with our operation.
But others are quite usable. We don’t produce anywhere the quantity of food scraps and kitchen waste as Justin’s much larger family appears to, but what we do produce already does go to our flock. Surplus eggs also go back to them when we have too many to give away.
Soldier flies, worm composting, forage crops like buckwheat, blackberries and winter squash are ideas I am going to try.
I’m interesting to hear other ideas. Do you keep chickens? Do you buy in food, or are you self sufficient?
That’s it for now. Time to sleep.
I wonder – do chickens dream of electric eggs…
[ images from @pennsif ]