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Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

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Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby klr650teach » Nov 02, 2011 11:33 am

Do we have any folks here into raising chickens?

I have a fairly large garden plot that measures 45x45 feet square. No where nearly as big as I would like to have it but it provides us with most of our veggies we eat all year round once the harvest comes in and goes into the freezer.


I also have 9 dual purpose hens that I keep for eggs and meat. And each year I usually raise 25 meat birds as well. I want to easily enorporate them into the garden cycle. Note the word "easily". I'm not into endless shoveling and turning of compost heaps and can't be dragging the coop to where ever all the time either as I have carpul tunnel in both my hands from barbering all these years with the scissor work etc.

I'm thinking a larger pasture type of area all for the chickens where I can throw in all the yard waste and let the girls have there way with it, scratching, eating, pooping, more scratching and mixing etc. I thought maybe the addtion of wood shreddings from tree removals as top dressing for them to mix and play with. High carbon material like the chips/sheddings to be mixed with the chicken manure and other yard waste by the chickens with partial break down in their area. A few times a year go into the chicken lot and just rake up the top layers and add it to the garden as a top mulch only.

Anyone who has kept chickens will confirm that it is amazing to watch the material you throw into the chicken pen disappear and be turned into chicken manure. Anything left in there mixes with that manure and becomes awsome garden plant food. And if using enough high carbon material like leaves, saw dust, wood chips and shreddings there is no danger of plant burning from the chicken manure as the blending of high carbon material with high nitrogen material takes the heat out of the manure to be safely used in the garden.

These are just some of my thoughts. I have the chickens. I have the big yard to accomidate it all. And I am getting closer to retirement at age 55 in two years so I want to set things up now while still younger so that it gets easier in time......not harder.

I would love to hear any other ideas you all might have and suggestions that might make it easier for me in my later years. I won't give up my garden!!!! :x .

Teach
Penticton, BC in the Sunny Okanagan Valley. Zone 5a
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby CdnChelsea » Nov 02, 2011 12:50 pm


I would love to raise my own chickens although I know very little about them. To have our own eggs and meat would be ideal. At least I would know what they were eating. It scares me to think of what commercially raised chickens are forced to eat.

My main concerns about raising chickens would be keeping them over the winter. The extra cost to keep them warm would be a problem for us. I'm also wondering if you can raise chickens through the warmer months only.
Then there is the threat of predators getting into the chicken coop and killing them. We have raccoons, possums, and coyotes around here. I sure wouldn't want to encourage them into coming on our property.

Are you planning to completely fence them in, Teach? I'm thinking it might be quite costly.

Great discusssion :)

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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby davefrombc » Nov 02, 2011 1:28 pm

Chickens are great......and can take very cold weather as long as they have protection from wind and rain in their coop........But.......... You will need to make sure they have unfrozen water to drink , and egg production will likely slow or stop in an unheated coop; and you will need to check a couple of times a day or end up gathering frozen eggs .. Then there is the little matter of killing and cleaning your pets when the time comes. Can you do it ?

You can get chicks in spring and raise them to butcher in the fall for meat birds. Laying hens will begin producing eggs at between 5 and 6 months age. You will need a good coop for your birds , and a well fenced run for them; or the predators will get them .
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby klr650teach » Nov 02, 2011 3:07 pm

Chickens can take the cold no problem and some breeds more so than others. I am raising Chanteclers. They are Canada's oldest registered breed. They have smaller combs and wattles that make them less susceptable to the cold and being frost bitten as those parts are in reality exposed skin to the chicken.

Chickens are not affected by wind and cold nearly so much as drafts in the chicken coop. Our winters will dip down below -20 C and my birds are always outside by choice. They only go into the coop at night to sleep or to lay eggs. People would cringe if they saw the coop I have for my chickens as it it nothing more than two pieces of ply wood forming an "A" shape with a wooden drawer from an old desk to lay in. Thats it! Wooops, not quite........one end is closed. They are not provided heat. They don't need heat to continue to lay in the winter. What they do require tho is a light on a timer that provides them with 10 hours of daylight per day. If they have that they will continue to lay. It is the light they need, not the warmth. I am originally from Saskatchewan and I've seen chickens out in the sunshine at minus 40 with a big smile on their face clucking and cooing away contentedly. They must be able to get their breast feathers down onto their feet tho so a perch is better than a plain floor to prevent the feet from freezing.

Chickens are very very hardy birds. Give them good quality food and keep them dry and thats all they need other than water..

As for security from predators..........I don't bother to fence them. I simply put an electrified wire around the coop and no coon I ever came across would go back for a second jolt after getting his first mind buzzing zap. Same goes for coyotes and dogs and bears. We have them all and the electric fencing does the trick.

I also raise meat birds called Cornish Rocks. From the time I get them as baby chicks less than three days old to the time I butcher them and put them into the freezer is only 8 weeks and the birds when butchered are between 4 to 5 lbs each. Just the right size for my wife and I as any larger and they would take too long to use up the left overs. So only 2 months start to finish.

Keep in mind these birds are going onto my table. I don't give them names. I don't make them pets. And I don't befreind them. Butchering your own birds is not a pleasant experience for the uninitiated. I grew up on the farm with it so it only bothers me a little bit..............just until I taste it on the table and then I have no more regrets as they are delicious and the texture is far different than the soft mushy meat you buy in the stores. Annnnnd I know what has gone into them. I don't even buy medicated feed for them when they are chicks. They either survice or they don't. Thats nature's way. Out of 25 birds I seldom don't end up with at least 23 and usually all 25 make it. They are easier than looking after a dog and would rank close to looking after an outside cat but the chickens will eat damn near anything and give back garden gold!

I forgot the name earlier for the type of coop I use. It's called a chicken tractor cause it can be moved around every few days to fresh ground. I will continue to use it but it will find a permanant home in the new pasture which will have a 4 foot farm fence around it with one electric wire 5 inches off the ground and about the same out and away from the fencing material.
Penticton, BC in the Sunny Okanagan Valley. Zone 5a
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby klr650teach » Nov 02, 2011 3:41 pm

Cost of fencing was mentioned and I fogot to address that. I priced out what is called wire farm fence which has a grid down at the bottom of 2x4 inches and gets wider openings as you get higher up eventually ending up at a 4x4 opening. This fencing wire costs roughly 180 dollars for a 4 foot x 330 foot roll. Pretty cheap actually. If you don't need that much you could share a roll with a freind. I priced 50 foot rolls from Buckerfields and the same amount of wire would have been more than a dollar a linear foot when buying the shorter roll.

Either way, that is not too bad when the cost can be amortized over 50 years as it lasts forever almost and once you start raising chickens there is little chance you won't want to keep doing it.

Chickens provide so much of the personality to my back yard it would seem void and lifeless without them there. They provide a person with a sense of being surrounded by vitality and a connection to the earth. A step backwards is not always a step in the wrong direction if you get my meaning.

Teach
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby CdnChelsea » Nov 02, 2011 4:19 pm


Thank you for all the GREAT information, Teach and Dave. :)

If you don't mind, I have a few more questions about raising chickens....

Do they smell bad as in do they have a foul (fowl) odour? I'm wondering if my neighbours would mind.

Kill them??? :o :shock:

Oh no....not me. I couldn't kill anything. My husband would have to do that. I can't even watch him clean a fish.



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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby klr650teach » Nov 02, 2011 6:09 pm

A fowl odor? Of course, they are fowl! What did you expect? LOL Kidding of course. The chickens themselves don't smell, only their droppings do if allowed to accumulate.

Couple things you can do; Give them more space to roam around so that the feces don't accumulate all in one area such as the coop. Second thing is to use a deep bed method which is a simple method of putting down continual fresh carbon material much like using a composting toilet. That way you get a layer of manure, then a layer of covering carbon material like sawdust, straw, hay, wood chips etc. as long as it is fairly obsorbant. It will soak up urine as well and help to keep the chickens feet dry. If the bedding is soupy from a rain................lay down another layer of sawdust to help it dry. If you only have a couple chickens I would not worry about it as they wont smell enough for them to bother you much less your neighbors. Except when you clean out the coop, Then there will be a couple days of odor but as long as the wind is blowing it will dry things out quickly thereby killing the odor once things dry.

Once all that stuff is dried hard, I put it through my garden shredder and then ad it to the garden as a top dressing or the compost mixed with carbon material.
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby davefrombc » Nov 02, 2011 9:15 pm

As Teach says , they really don't have a lot of odor as long as you don't let their droppings accumulate into a large mess. A half dozen to a dozen hens won't make a lot , and if you gather up any accumulation in the coop and mix it into your compost you really shouldn't have a problem. Killing and cleaning the meat birds is most definitely the hardest part of raising any bird or animal for food . When you are raised on a farm , you learn it is a part of farm life , but it really doesn't make it a lot easier. If you raise meat birds , do not name them, and do not make pets of them. Ask your neighbours about their attitudes to keeping chickens, if they live close by and could possibly smell them at any time. Some people will complain whether there is really any smell or not .. I always laugh at city people that buy property in farming area and then complain about the smell when the dairy farmer has been out in the field spreading th3e contents of the "honey wagon " ( manure spreader ), or the noise of the berry farmer using propane cannons to chase off the birds from the crop.
If you don't want farm smells and noises , don't leave the smell and noise of the city . Keeping a few chickens really shouldn't create any smell or mess to worry about , and the eggs will be far superior to any you find in the super market. Shells will be thick and the yolks unbelievably yellow compared to those pale excuses on the store shelf. The eggs will actually have some flavour.
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby klr650teach » Nov 04, 2011 3:56 pm

All good information, but for the very same reasons that Davefrombc states............if I were to do it all over again in a new area ........as long as the area allowed chickens........I would not even tell my neighbors. I'd just go ahead and do it. If and I say "If" a problem does arise..........deal with it then. I find all too often when people are given an opportunity to object............they will....... just out of fear of the unknown. By not consulting your neighbors and by staying within the law you send your neighbors a message.........."until what I do on my property directly or indirectly affects you, it's none of your business" and chances are you will never hear from them. The last thing I ever want to find myself in is a situation where everytime I want to do something on my land is where I have to ask my neighbor for his permission to do it. It is your land. Use it legally and to your benefit. And if your neighbor is on board so much the better, if not............oh well.

There are just way too many benefits to having chickens both for you and for your neighbors that I would never allow another neighbor to affect my decision about whether or not I am going to have them. If they don't like them or the sounds of the rooster crowing.............guess what...........I have to listen to their yappy little ankle biters all the time...........what's good for the goose I always say. Besides, the sound or smell for that matter of chickens are sounds and smells of the country style of living. If that is objectionable to them, let them go back to the city! Heck, even Vancouver city has passed new bylaws allowing folks in the city to have up to two hens for fresh eggs.

For me at least.............if youre in the country and the law allows it and is in your favour..........the issue of neighbors is a no brainer.

When I was first getting into or about to get into raising chickens I was not quite so set and firm in my outlook toward the chickens with regard to my neighbors. But now...........different story.

They provide organic fertilizer, consume and help clean up surplus yard waste, provide eggs, meat, keep insect populations to a minimum, provide pleasant sounds to listen to, make great pets (if you choose) and generally provide hours of entertainment just watching them do their thing.

That only scratched the surface to the benefits. I only know of one draw back and that is someone always has to be there to look after them. So they can tie you down somewhat. But I have suggested to neighbors that I am looking for a person to feed and water them while we go away in exchange for all the eggs they gather while we are away and I'm amazed.........even the once nay sayers jump at the chance to obtain those fresh eggs! lol

As I am sure some are gleaning from my posts here that YES I am a bit of a redneck in some of my attitudes but I don't feel they are attitudes that can't be justified. We have lost so many rights and freedoms in this country do to one person saying to another person that "you shouldn't be allowed to do that here". I don't know about you but I really don't want to give up anymore.

With that said, get your chickens, keep your chickens healthy and happy and look after them well and in doing so you will be a good neighbor because in reality..........if you do that..........your neighbors won't have anything to complain about with perhaps the exception of a noisy rooster if you plan to keep one. If you have done all that and your neighbor still complains do what you can to appease them but don't worry about it, you would not have been able to keep him/her happy anyway so just look out for number one..........you and your family and your family's food supply that will all be so much healthier to eat because of your chickens.

And just in case you did not know it...........you don't need a rooster for your hens just for egg laying. Only if you want those layed eggs to be fertile with which to raise young chicks from.

Teach....
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Re: Encorporating Chickens into the Garden Cycle

Postby Carlley » Nov 04, 2011 9:12 pm

I'm loving this thread. I've been 'on the fence' so to speak, about whether or not to incorporate chickens into our lifestyle, and read so much conflicting information that I tend to waffle every time I think I've made a decision. (I do not intend to keep roosters).

My main concerns have been for their requirments in terms of light and heat. We are off grid so even keeping a powerful light bulb in the coop operational at all times, which I have read is sufficient for the needs of the chickens, is an issue. But this topic has given me information from those doing it, that relieves many of my concerns.

I will abandon my plans for the coming winter at least (believe I might have said that at this time last year), but also got many other pressing projects out of the way this year and will restart my planning to incorporate a coop next Spring.

Keep talking about this everyone!
Carla
Indian Arm, North Vancouver, BC - Zone 7

Some people walk in the rain - others just get wet ! ..... Roger Miller
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