Chicken Farmer Crash Course – Keeping chickens is easy
Brooding- is simply keeping the chicks in a warm place until they can go outside, a rectangular cardboard or plastic box with high sides will do fine. Place a lamp on one side, allowing the chicks to control their own temperature by moving closer or away from the light. Keep feed and water availlable, clean as needed, and keep other pets from eating them.
Constructing a Coop or Tractor- You want the best possible home for your chickens, but they’re suppose to reduce expenses, look for materials being thrown away. Using reclaimed material adds character, and this is the perfect project for using alot of things otherwise slated for the landfill. I prefer to frame with a few new pieces and then fill in with various reclaimed materials(old homes being renovated are a great source), this keeps it square, but eclectic. I try not to leave any flat boards on the inside that the birds can perch on, they will poop on them, and since the mulch can’t cover it, flies will linger for days. Making nest box doors makes getting eggs quick, a feeding window makes dumping food in the coop easy. Of course you should make your coop to accomodate your needs, whatever they may be. My first chicken tractor, and my most recent coop.
Input/Output-Feeding a half dozen chickens will cost you about $5 a week with grain, of course chickens are omnivores just like us, so try feeding them food scraps, stale bread, pulled weeds, insect pest, unwanted fruit, free range them under the house, in piled leaves, or in cover crops such as clover/rye, they love all of this stuff, and it turns your waste into those lovely country eggs, and saves you money. From 6 hens one could expect between 2-3 dozen eggs a week, that should be plenty for you, and your nieghbors, friends and family. Each hen creates a cubic foot of manure every six months, perfect for a gardener or small farmer.
Cleaning the Coop/Harvesting Nitrogen With chickens, you really can divert alot of waste, and what’s waste to them, is also a valuable commodity. Chicken Poop is a great fertilizer when properly composted. It must be piled up, wet, and turned after being removed from the coop, this will start the composting process, molasses also helps activate/stimulate decomposing microbes. Within 8 hours temperature of the pile should rise to 140-160, to sustain this temp water(preferably with molasses), and turning every 3-5 days will keep your pile active. In 3-6 months, you’re left with rich soil, this is a sustainable fertilizer plan, with no leaching effects. After all of the manure/cane mulch is removed, I let it sit for a day empty, perhaps the environment change kills any fungal/bacterial inhabitants, then I reload more cane mulch, and forget about it for a couple months.