Our First Year With Chickens

in homesteading •  2 months ago 

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What we learned from our first year with chickens.

We haven’t quite reached the one year mark, but we have gone through all the seasons now. Once we were properly set up, I thought we were doing quite well. Until late winter/spring came..

So what did we all learn from our first 4 seasons of raising chickens? 

The plastic shed chicken coop served us well, but it has one flaw.

Because of the way the shed is designed, the doors cannot be opened all the way so it is up against the wall. The roofing sticks out a bit and stops the door. This turns out to be a problem due to the many windy days here. So to stop the door from flopping all over the place, we placed two cinder blocks on either side of it. Still not a great solution because then the top half is bending under the pressure of the wind. We’re not entirely sure if we want to keep this shed as a chicken coop, or maybe use it for wood storage and build/buy a wood coop. It’s going to be a busy season this year so..we’ll see!

Make sure our rooster to hen ratio isn’t so close!

We lost a hen because of this. Due to series of events that I can’t even remember at the moment, our hen to rooster ratio got way too close. I think we got to about 2 hens for each rooster. Which wasn’t terrible until those ladies upped their egg laying. Most hens developed bald backs, and one ended up bleeding from all the action. She didn’t last long after that. I could make hen aprons, but I don’t have much of a hand at sowing. So in the future, we will be butchering most roosters when they reach maturity. 

Do not keep too many chickens over winter.

Now, the only reason this turned out to be a big issue is because the snow built up so much we couldn’t effectively clean the bedding. We kept putting new bedding down when it was needed, but that only works to the point it builds up so high. Eventually, the Big Man went in there and shoveled all the bedding into a pile right out the door.  There it will sit until the snow is finally all gone. We may put in a larger chicken run door to allow a snowblower to get through. Again, we’ll see. (I’d rather keep less chickens.)

Need stronger fencing to withstand the snow.

Winter went so well in the beginning! The chickens enjoyed walking around in the run until mid-December. Then the snow came, and it came, it blew, and filled up the yard. That poor chicken wire is being stretched and pulled down by the weight of the snow. But we already have new, stronger fencing in the garage waiting to be put up.

Be more prepared before butchering.

Oh. My. Goodness. I don’t even want to tell you about our first go at butchering. It was a butcher of an experience! It was late and the kids weren’t in bed yet. The Big Man set up in the garage and just starts going at it without refreshing his memory with videos/articles first. It was utter chaos! The night wouldn’t have ended with so much frustration had we at least had the satisfaction of gaining meat in the end. But of course, the Big Man’s big mitts didn’t fit into the internal cavity. That was the one thing I didn’t want to do! I’ve dissected frogs and a cat, but there’s something about reaching your hand into something you can’t see.. no thanks. At least we’ll be better prepared for next time! 

Chester...

Who knew dogs could cause so much trouble? I don’t think I’ll expound too much on this topic because it’s a sore subject. I will say the strap-a-chicken-to-his-back method of discipline did not work for this dog. We’re still working on solutions.. 

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to learn so much from our first year with chickens. For the most part, everything went well! But what would a new experience be without some lessons to learn, right?

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Raising chickens has always been on the list of things to do one day. Thank you for sharing your experience!

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You’re welcome! The best piece of advice I could offer is to start out small until you’ve gone through all 4 seasons. That way you can make changes as needed without investing too much time, money, and permanency. I’m glad we only started out with 25-30 birds!

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Very good advice, but 25-30 doesn't sound small to me!

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It’s all relative! We have 65 chicks coming next week. The Big Man wanted more, but I said no way. We have many mouths to feed (with more yet to come), so 25 isn’t enough.

You've been visited by @thistle-rock from Homesteaders Co-op.

I am glad I don't raise chickens and have had no desire to... for me, they would be pets anyway, lol. Homesteading is a never-ending learning experience, even when we think we know it all, something beyond our control changes it!


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Haha, they are quite the creatures! I figured and I’ve heard that raising chickens are the easiest of the livestock to raise on a homestead. Still doesn’t mean there won’t be lessons to learn!

Even when you've done all the research, keeping livestock always throws up hurdles, doesn't it?!

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I've featured this post in the Homesteaders - Living Naturally newsletter.

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Yes, isn’t it crazy!? And thank you!