Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles about raising chickens that we plan to eventually adapt into an e-course.
Raising Your Own Chickens
There are many benefits of raising chickens. For one, they’re an excellent way to grow your own meat and eggs. It doesn’t take a big investment in time, space or money to get started, and by raising them yourself, you’ll have input and control over the quality of food that you’re getting from them. By taking good care of your chickens you can get the best quality, freshest meat and eggs possible. And the more you learn about your chickens, the better you’ll be able to provide for them.
Small Scale Production
I particularly like raising chickens on a small scale. In our family, we raise about 50-150 chickens at any given time. Some people might not consider that “small scale,” but with that quanity, we still have time to check on them every day–in fact several times a day. As we feed, water, gather the eggs and move their portable coops on our pasture, we pick up chickens and handle them regularly. We look for signs that they are healthy and for signs that they might need something from us, that we might need to change something in our care for them. Even though most of our chickens are the same breed, we tend to notice differences between various members of the flock–differences in size, and behavior.
You’ll Learn as You Go
As you raise your chickens, you’ll develop a relationship with them, of sorts. You’ll become increasingly aware of what they need, and when. You’ll recognize if and when they’re distressed. You’ll notice when they’re needing more feed and when they’re getting too much. You’ll continue to better understand their behavior, and in so doing, you’ll learn what they’re conveying through their behavior.
Caring for Your Chickens
When you care about your chickens, you’ll do your best to protect them from predators, to make sure they have plenty of feed and the right type of feed, to keep their waterers clean, to provide an abundant water supply, to make sure they have adequate shade in the hot weather, to make sure they have sufficient sunlight, and to ensure they have plenty of room for exercise. The better you care for them, the healthier they will be. The healthier they are, the better they’ll produce for you, and the healthier the meat and eggs that they produce will be. As a Joe Claborn, owner of Claborn Farms often says, “take good care of the chickens and they’ll take care of you”.
More Reasons to Raise Chickens
Another reason to raise chickens is for your children or grandchildren. Caring for poultry will enrich their lives and provide a context that will help them become more dependable and responsible.
If you’ve raised chickens as a child, or perhaps your grandparents raised them, you may have fond memories, as I do, of taking care of them as a child. And you want to build similar memories and bonds with your children and grandchildren and other children in the neighborhood. These are all great reasons to raise chickens.