have got to be the easiest, most forgiving, creatures for a small
farm to manage. While
any book you pick up on chickens would have you believe that they
can suffer from any number of perfectly horrible parasites and
problems, the fact is... there's nothing to them. They'll call
the shabbiest accomidations home (a friend of mine kept hers in
an old truck cap for years), make dandy pets, are virtually self-feeding
during the summer... will even reproduce themselves for you, if
you provide them with even the most basic shelter and protection
for them to set in. What they won't do is make you money (beyond
the scope of this site). But they'll more or less break even,
and provide you with fine fertilizer, fresh eggs, and hours of
cheerful entertainment. But... having said this, we've added a
new Flock of Your Own: Sheep In Your Backyard guide to our sister
site woolandfeather.com, join us there if you're interested in
Frontier Valley show aside, economics of keeping chickens are
pretty dubious. The henhouse, is built for about a dozen birds
(Department of Agriculture specifications) and cost us about $800
to construct (windows are from the cottage in Cabin
Cam!). We've stuffed 20-24 birds into that space, and had
some pecked birds because of it. Over the winter, 20 birds will
go through a $6.85 bag of layer pellets in about 10 days, about
$2.00 worth of cracked corn, and another $2.50 in straw. We sell
the eggs for $1.00/dozen because that's what the grocery store
charges for eggs. Ours are "better" but our customers
can't afford to pay more, and if we couldn't sell them, we'd either
feed them to the dogs or be forced to throw them away. Over 10
days, the hens produce about 12 dozen sellable eggs. Our "profit"
is $.65, or about $2.50/month. Which doesn't cover the cost of
new chicks, or any equipment which needs to be replaced.
economics aside, we have friends with a flock of about 40 birds
who do make money with their birds. They charge $2.50-2.85 per
dozen for eggs. During the summer they go to farmer's markets
with their eggs, and any extra eggs are turned into 10 egg quiches,
which fly off her table. They rotate their birds more often than
we do, and she slow cooks the meat and turns it into chicken pot
pies, which she sells from the freezer at her local grocery store.
obviously, if you're willing to work at it, your chickens can
make you money. But it takes her several hours a day to process
her eggs into the products she sells, clean the coops, take care
of the chicks, etc. It literally takes me less than 15 min a day
to care for my flock, even when we're raising chicks. Making them
the perfect addition to anyone's busy life.
a couple of years of trial and error we've settled on 8 hens and
2 roosters as the right sized flock for our household. The
two roosters are important. While you don't need roosters
for hens to lay eggs, they provide an important role in the social
structure of the flock, and if you don't provide a rooster, one
of the hens will stop laying, and start acting like one! Again,
a commercial operation would cull her, and cull the next one that
did it, on down the line. But we like our roosters, they're colorful
and have neat personalities.
roosters have defended the flocks
from dogs, led them to safety in a storm, and are downright colorful
little personalities. However, they do crow. Loudly, and with
style. Something which might not be appreciated by your neighbors.
We treat our roosters like pets, and our pet roosters stick around
for quite a while.
the Frontier Valley program
they showed several disturbing images of slaughtering chickens.
If the thought of killing your birds bothers you... don't! First
of all, there is always someone who will take a flock of older
birds for free because they do a dandy job of bug control, even
if they aren't laying up a storm. Secondly, if you turn your birds
into pets, do you really care if they are pumping out an egg a
day? Probably not. So don't worry about it. We live in a very
rural area and regularly there are ads offering flocks to give
away or cheap... you are under no obligation to eat your chickens
unless this is something you want to do.
eat our chickens... we don't eat our pets. So we have a couple
of roosters who will probably die of old age. They're amusing,
cute, and it isn't nice to eat your friends.
start with acquiring a flock.
request: how we slaughter birds
Us... We're in Stowe, Vermont!
Flock of Your Own: sheep in your backyard.