Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chicken little (as in that's how much I know right now)

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! Thanks to some wonderful readers who took the time to comment, I would strongly recommend checking out the comments under my December 15th post, where there are some great links and an easy fudge recipe...

Now, about those chickens....on Christmas Eve day, we took the children out and about and ran into someone we know who knows a lot about raising chickens. In fact, the law recently changed in our area so that now residents are allowed to raise up to six chickens (no roosters) in their backyards, so now it is an actual possibility for us to raise chickens! But before we do so, there is quite a lot of research to do, seeing as how I have no desire to get the chickens and have them die early deaths unnecessarily due to may lack of knowledge. Some of the things we learned (as I asked many, many (potentially annoying) questions:

--It has always been legal to have chickens here, apparently, as there were rules on the books that indicated how owners were to take care of their chickens. Why have rules on how to take care of chickens, etc., if there were no chickens allowed? As a side note, this reminded me of a law I once heard of that may or may not still exist in Massachusetts that stated that it was legal to let your cows graze on Boston Common. The clincher was that it was illegal to take your cows to Boston Common....

Anyway, the person we were talking to said that many questions were asked about the legality of keeping hens in the backyard, and said person got many answers indicating that yes, that the law indicated that it was acceptable to raise chickens. Then someone thought that it was not, and hence the following activities that led to the authorities limiting ownership to a flock of six. Readers of my blog(s) may remember that I myself called and asked whether we were allowed to have chickens in our backyard, and was told that no, no we were not. I have to admit to feeling a bit cheated when I found out that being permitted to have six chickens was actually a downgrade, when before, legally, we were actually just allowed to own chickens in general, according to the statutes already in place. Not that I would necessarily even want six, but sometimes it's just the principle of the thing....

---I want to raise chickens for the eggs, but according to this source, you really should rotate the chickens out every couple of years, which means that after you bring in some new chicks and all is going well with them, the older chickens should ideally end up as part of a well-balanced meal. This brings up a whole 'nother area of inexpertise (is that a word?) for me, which is the butchering of well, just about anything. OK, yeah, absolutely anything. But I do know enough that you have to know what you are doing if you want to get meat that's safe to eat when you are doing your own butchering. The person we were talking to mentioned that there is someone not far from here who will do the whole business for you for $3.00. I still think that knowing how to harvest our own meat would be a very useful skill to have, if I could stand it. I figure when it comes down to it, you do what you gotta do....but it definitely is necessary that you know how.

--If we were to get chickens, we would start in the spring. My main concern would be keeping the chickens alive in the Idaho winter, so I asked about coops, and the necessity of running electricity (or not) out to a coop in the winter. Turns out this person does use electricity. That would be something to figure out. I asked over at My Adventures in Self-Reliance (check the comments out under this post) and got some useful information about chickens and rabbits in the winter. If I understand correctly, the amount of heat that there is affects egg production, which is something to consider.

Well, if you're still reading, I still have a lot more to learn. Turns out that the person we were talking to actually makes and sells coops, and has a website here. I mention this because knowing how/where to get my hands on a coop would be one of my first concerns. Looking at the website is as far as I've gotten when it comes to that subject, but it is a place to start. Raising chickens would not exactly be cheap, and it was mentioned in our December 24 conversation that with a flock of just six chickens (and honestly, I would likely start smaller), the chickens wouldn't really pay for themselves. But then I thought, what price self-reliance? Oh, and when the question of cleaning up chicken waste came up, turns out it's one of the best things possible to add to a compost pile and/or garden....

So, a lot to think about. I also learned in the course of this conversation (I mentioned that I could be annoying, didn't I? :) ) that when you first get the chicks you keep them inside so that they will be warm enough. So spring would be the earliest we would get them anyway, and then they would be inside, and then if it continued snowing into June... (don't laugh, this is Idaho)....well, just a lot to think about.

As always, if you have more info, please share. Any errors about raising chickens in the above post are most likely due to my misunderstanding something that was said, or not remembering correctly, so please don't blame my source. I'm just trying to find out more and possibly add some "live storage" to my food storage efforts. Never a dull moment.... :)

6 comments:

HermitJim said...

Chickens can not only furnish eggs and meat, but a lot of entertainment as well!

You could spend the whole day just watching them sometimes!

Marie said...

Hermit Jim-- I bet they are amusing to watch, and it would probably be quite the challenge to keep my children from handling them too much when they are tiny--I just hope if/when we get them, I know how to keep them alive... Thanks so much for your comment!

Canadian Doomer said...

Did your source explain why you should "rotate out" your chickens? From what I've read, some chickens will lay for up to ten years, and some just won't lay at all.

I think, if I had chickens, I'd cull out the non-layers and the nasty-tempered ones, regardless of how old they are.

At any rate, in our city it was legal to have backyard chickens for a while, and then a few people (who were apparently NOT neighbours of chicken owners!) complained. Now those who have chickens are allowed to keep them but they're not allowed to have roosters - so no fertile eggs and no new chicks. And no one else is allowed to have backyard flocks.

Marie said...

Canadian Doomer--I don't remember an explanation for the rotating out of the chickens, just that it was a good idea. I also didn't know that chickens lived that long, so I think that I would see how it went if I had a good layer. If you have a chicken that will lay good, edible eggs, I don't see why you would just get rid of it--in my mind, if it isn't broken, don't fix it... :)
We aren't allowed to have roosters here, either, so no new little chicks. I guess it would be a good idea to get a couple of chicks a year, just so you could keep your flock as young as possible, in case there came a point where the rule became that you could no longer add to it. I don't know--there's a lot to consider. Thanks for your comment!

Prepared teacher said...

I am in the same spot, we live in the county of our town so we can have chickens ( not sure about rooster), but I am not sure I am ready for them, I need a chicken house and have to limit the yard time or fence in a little area because chicken poop all over the grass, garden and other places EWWWW. I also have dogs who do well with our cats etc. and would have to be trained to leave the chickens alone, so for us there is a little more work. But then again fresh eggs (great taste and nutrition) that I know about, and meat if we butcher, instead of 1.20 or so per dozen of eggs where the chickens were living in a box. So again its a hard decision especially if you go to all the work or money to build or buy a chicken house.....

Marie said...

Prepared teacher--We also have the issue of having other animals to adapt to the chickens and vice-versa, plus all the issues you mentioned with cost and mess...right now I'm leaning toward getting some, but am not sure, because as you say, it's a hard decision. Thanks for your comment--it can really help to have input from others thinking about the same issue!