One Community feels that modeling ethical and humane animal stewardship is essential and for The Highest Good of All in today’s world of diverse needs. We anticipate many cultures and communities globally (and for the predictable future) will either need or choose to use animals as food and/or raise them for their other byproducts. With this in mind, we see an opportunity for One Community to demonstrate Highest Good methods of doing this. Our team consisting of vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores, has elected that the omnivores will be raising chickens for eggs, some meat, and to use their manure as fertilizer. We approach this process with respect, gratitude, and love for these creatures and will continuously share here our open source collaborative efforts and our experience once on the property.
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When raising chickens one thinks primarily of fresh eggs and organic-based meat. However, the additional advantages are numerous and worth mentioning here. Whether you are an urban chicken wrangler or small farmer, by raising your own chickens, you can also control their food intake, any needed medications and/or treatments, and provide a living environment maximally supportive of their general happiness and wellbeing. By doing this you will have happier and more ethically maintained chickens, higher quality protein from the eggs and meat, and an increased overall nutritional content.
Beyond this, further benefits of raising chickens include:
Raising chickens to be happy and healthy, like taking care of any animal, requires consideration, planning, and a commitment to the complete process. We discuss here all the relevant details with the following sections:
“I think we have an OBLIGATION to provide a life for <the chicken> that’s better than if it were in the wild.”
~ Paul Wheaton ~
There is much to determine before committing to raising chickens. Before receiving your chicks or chickens, ask yourself these questions:
Your reasons will determine what breeds to consider. These questions might seem frivolous, but there have been many people who did not realize how much work and time was involved in caring for their chickens and the birds suffered accordingly. Chickens need care and attention as much as any pet. Even through the winter when the snow is high, they require fresh drinking water and food. Once you have asked yourself these questions and have decided yes, you can and want to do this, your next step is research. This time stamp from the video below is a good place to start ▶ 0:39.
Our preference when selecting a particular breed was based upon the following five factors:
At One Community we will raise free range chickens for both eggs and meat. If we can obtain chickens locally we will do so, otherwise we will order from a reputable NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Plan) source and have them shipped directly to assure healthy chicks. This National Poultry Improvement Plan program varies depending on state requirements, but generally the breeder agrees to have their birds tested for certain diseases to ensure disease free flocks. If ordering from a non-certified NPIP source, ordering one-day old chicks significantly improves assurance of disease-free chicks. Our site location will determine local breed availability and if we cannot locate enough of the following we will have chicks shipped. Here are 15 breeds we believe will suit our parameters:
Here are our selected breeds:
The Australia Black Orpington (Australorp) has been bred with Leghorn and Rhode Island Red chickens, among others, resulting in a champion egg layer and a very good quality dual bird for meat. The standard sized birds are heavy, with a male weighing between 8½-10 lbs and a hen between 6½-8 lbs. They have been known to lay over 300+ eggs/year, with an average of 250-300. They tolerate confinement but are healthier if free-ranged. The Australorp are easygoing and friendly, a great bird for beginners since they require little in the way of ‘special care’ and are easy to deal with as they acclimate to being handled very quickly. They aren’t flighty or noisy, are cold hardy, and make good flock-mates. The usual attention to parasites and other minor issues of chickens is the only primary concern.
You can learn more about this breed here: Australorp Chickens: Everything You Need To Know
The Blue Laced Red Wyandotte was created for a dual purpose: a hen that laid well and provided good meat. They are eye-catching, easy-going, and exceedingly friendly (occupying an owner’s lap), especially if reared around people. They are excellent for farms where children are present, as they are generally docile and mild tempered. The Blue Laced Wyandottes mix well with other breeds but don’t socialize much, preferring the company of their own kind.
A good quality chick runs about $30.00 to $40.00 per bird! Although they are much cheaper at hatcheries and private breeders, in some cases the purity and quality of the strain has been compromised by sloppy breeding done in a rush to produce numerous chicks and generate income. Blue Laced Red Wyandottes are a case of ‘buyer beware’. If someone is offering you one for $10.00 – be cautious, you get what you pay for.
The Wyandotte is no more prone to problems than any other hen. Their dense feathering needs regular checkups for lice/mite infestations and treated accordingly. They shake off cold weather very well and are a favored breed in the upper Midwest and North Eastern states. Tolerant to heat, they still require shade and ample cool water. Egg production for this breed usually runs a respectable 200-240 eggs per year. These eggs are medium-sized and light brown or cream in color.
You can learn more about this breed here: Blue Laced Red Wyandotte: Egg Production, Temperament and More…
The Buckeye is a friendly bird and generally not afraid of humans, therefore they are quite easy to manage for the novice chicken wrangler. They are good foragers and mousers and they withstand long, cold winters while continuing to lay through the winter months. Most Buckeye hens will lay about 200 eggs/year. They enjoy tagging along with their owners, often clustering around their feet. Other than the normal affliction of parasites, these birds remain healthy most of the time. The Buckeye are not as plentiful as other breeds but worthy of adding to one’s flock.
You can learn more about this breed here: Buckeye Chicken: Is This All American Chicken Right For Your Flock?
Originally bred to exceed meat and egg production of existing breeds, the Buff Orpington are now often considered the perfect dual purpose chicken. They are docile and friendly, interact well with people, enjoy being held, and often become pets of their owners. As a result, they are great for 4-H exhibitions (a U.S.-based program for providing hands-on educational experiences for youth) and children; therefore fitting in well on small farms and urban lots. The Buff Orpington tolerate confinement very well and although they will free range they rarely forage, relying mainly on feeders. As they are such large birds, they have a tendency towards laziness and should be allowed to exercise as much as possible.
The Buff Orpington are reliable layers of large brown eggs, about 200–280/year. If you are raising them as a meat bird, they are table ready around 22 weeks. Their only downside is their tendency towards broodiness. However, if you wish to raise your own chicks, then the buff is a good choice. They are good mothers and care very well for the chicks. High temperatures are not well tolerated, so shade, ventilation and lots of space should be provided for these large birds. Winter is a breeze for them with their extra fluffy feathers; they simply shake off the cold. Because their feathers are so dense they should be checked regularly for lice and mites and treated accordingly if either are found to be present. Many folks treat them with poultry dust regularly due to difficulty spotting parasites amongst all their feathers.
You can learn more about this breed here: Buff Orpington All You Need To Know: Temperament and Egg Laying
The Delaware is well suited for small homesteads and are people oriented, having been described as calm, friendly, curious, and intelligent. They tolerate children, making them suitable for 4-H projects and are low-maintenance personable birds, very watchful and predator savvy. They love foraging and free ranging in open areas (both urban and suburban). Maturing quickly, they can be harvested sooner, making them an economical table bird. The Delaware are also good layers of large/jumbo brown eggs.
Other than usual expected bouts (short intense period of time) with parasites, the Delaware are a healthy bird. In the winter their combs can be subject to frostbite but that is easily preventable with a comb coating of Vaseline.
These are some of the comb types chickens could have. Which one does the Delaware breed have?
You can learn more about this breed here: Delaware Chicken: Care, Egg Laying and Pictures
America’s oldest chicken breed, Dominiques were supposedly brought to the Americas by the early colonizers and used for meat, eggs, and feathers for pillows. They are low maintenance and self-sufficient and are a very cold-hardy bird with a gentle and calm disposition, making them ideal for those raising chickens for the first time. Their medium sized brown eggs can number as high as 270/year.
You can learn more about the Dominique here: Dominique Chicken: What to Know Before Getting One
An ideal candidate for cold climates, this bird has a strong personality and is high on the pecking order. In a flock they will mingle with those of the same breed and ignore others. Lice can be a problem due to their dense feathers but otherwise they are a healthy bird, preferring shade in the summer heat and plenty of cool water. Golden Laced Wyandotte do well in confinement but enjoy foraging in open areas. They can be noisy, so are better raised in a country setting. Tending toward broodiness, you may end up with a few additional chicks instead of eggs, but generally they will provide about 200 eggs/year.
You can learn more about the Golden Laced Wyandotte here: Golden Laced Wyandotte: Egg Laying, Broodiness and Temperament
The Jersey Giant is a very large bird with males weighing in about 13-15 pounds and females near 11 pounds. In general they are a docile mellow bird, good around children, and often become pets. They produce very large eggs, light to medium brown in color, and approximately 200/year.
Due to their size their meat production is superior to most birds and a single chicken can feed four people, though taking 8 to 9 months to mature, it is not a quick maturing bird. Vitamin and mineral supplements are necessary to maintain bone and muscle strength, but if they are allowed to free range they will gather many of the nutrients they require from the land. The Jersey Giant will cost you more in feed over time since they eat more and take longer to mature, but they are a robust and healthy breed. This is a superb bird worthy of the time and effort required in raising them if you have the space and inclination.
You can learn more about the Jersey Giant here: Jersey Giant: Size, Egg Laying, Colors, Temperament and More…
Truly a good dual purpose hen, the New Hampshire is a good meat bird and provides about 200 large, light brown eggs/year. It is a family friendly bird, making great pets and they are easy to tame. These birds are not too noisy and will tolerate confinement, but they do like to forage around your yard looking for tasty treats. As good foragers, they will reduce your feed bill. A medium-sized bird, they can be quite food aggressive and are willing to push and shove flock mates out of the way; certainly not good if you have shy, docile breeds already. It is best to not put them with more docile, easy-going breeds but you can reduce this bullying behavior by having several feeding stations that are spread apart from each other.
The New Hampshire are people friendly, intelligent, and cold hardy. In addition, they tolerate hot weather but need shady spots in the summer. They are robust, sturdy hens with no major problems healthwise. The usual health checks for parasites and other common problems is all that is required for this breed. Quick to feather out and mature, a decent layer of 3-4 eggs per week, and dressing out to a table weight of around 8 lbs for the boys and 6 lbs for the girls; the New Hampshire are a great all-around bird for the family. They are thrifty birds that are well worth considering if you wish to raise birds that are truly a dual purpose hen.
For those wanting to raise your own chicks, the New Hampshire are a good choice as they also go broody fairly frequently and are good setters. They make great mothers too if they are allowed to hatch their own. Some broodies have been known to accept other chicks under them too, but naturally this will vary from hen to hen.
You can learn more about the New Hampshire here: New Hampshire Chicken All You Need To Know: Color Varieties and Temperament
Plymouth Rock chickens are a dual purpose breed suitable for both meat and egg production. They are one of the most low-maintenance breeds you can raise. These birds do not require anything other than chick starter for young birds aged 0-12 weeks and then laying feed for the rest of their lives. Supplement extra protein during molts to ensure your birds grow strong new feathers. They are very vigorous and hardy birds and do not suffer from many of the health conditions that every other bird occasionally deals with. They are a larger sized breed, cold hardy, long-lived, and hens can reach about seven pounds. Plymouth Rocks have a friendly disposition, are curious, make good pets, seldom broody, and do well in confinement but are happier with a little running room. They lay large light brown eggs year round, tolerate both hot and cold climates, and are a good chicken for beginners as they interact well with humans and other pets.
You can learn more about the Plymouth Rock here: The Plymouth Rock Chicken: All You Need To Know
This dual purpose hen is one of the most prevalent birds across the world. Known for their hardy health and continuity in laying, their medium to large light brown eggs generally number well over 200+/year. Their personality ranges from docile to raucous and pushy, but they are always curious, friendly, and never quiet! The hens enjoy the company of people and chickens, but roosters can be aggressive, so care should be taken to select the least aggressive roosters and remember to keep them away from children.
The Rhode Island Red are active foragers, scavenging for bugs and seeds, and they are not averse to the occasional frog or mouse that happens to wander in their direction. They will tolerate confinement, but love nothing better than investigating the yard for any tasty morsels.
These robust birds will take almost any climate in stride. They do not seem overly bothered by cold or heat, but do be sure to provide suitable accommodations and to care for them properly.
You can learn more about the Rhode Island Red here: Rhode Island Red: What to Know Before Buying One
Salmon Faverolles are docile, friendly, curious, often comical, and tend to be at or near the bottom of the pecking order, so watch them carefully to make sure they aren’t bullied by more assertive hens. As for eggs, they are good layers of tinted/very light brown medium-sized eggs. They lay an average of around 180-200 eggs per year, roughly 4 eggs per week, and lay well throughout winter. If you are looking to put food on the table, these birds dress out at a decent weight for a small family. Opinions are divided on their broodiness.
Their beards and feathered legs are overly prone to lice. Check regularly to make sure your flock does not have an infestation. If you do need to ‘dust’ them be careful around the eyes and beak, the dust can be irritating to both. Feathered legs are also prone to scaly leg mites. The feathers make it very difficult to spot until the problem is noticeable. Again, regular checking should keep things under control.
Other than this, they are a robust and healthy bird with an expected lifespan between 5-7 years. If you want a hen that makes you smile, loves to cuddle, is great with kids and as a pet, the Salmon Faverolles may be for you. Their comical antics are sure to bring a smile to your face and if you raise them from chicks they will love to be held and fussed over.
The Faverolles do not fly well so they really don’t require high fences to keep them enclosed. They do well in confinement, but if these birds are allowed to free range they are good foragers and will be pretty happy in a smaller yard, although more space is always better.
You can learn more about the Salmon Faverolle here: Salmon Faverolle All You Need To Know: Personality and Egg Color .
The Wyandotte is one of America’s oldest, most well-known and loved breeds. It is an unusual bird in that it was really the first American chicken ‘created’ with dual purpose in mind. They are fairly dominant with other birds so are often near to or at the top of the pecking order. They don’t appear to bully other birds but are assertive and are seldom bullied.
The Wyandotte has copious, beautiful feathers making it suitable for colder climates such as the upper Midwest states, Canada, and the Northern New England states. It will tolerate warmer weather, but needs to have shade readily available and of course plenty of cool water.
They are reasonable layers, averaging around 200 light to dark brown eggs each year. The fact that they lay throughout the winter months may be the clincher since many other breeds slow production or stop completely during the coldest months. This breed is ideal if you’re looking for a strong yet docile breed that lays well.
The Wyandotte make great mothers and are prone to being broody which many folks find undesirable if they don’t want or can’t have more chicks. Also, the desire to be broody cuts down on egg production quite significantly. Several people use them to hatch eggs from breeds that aren’t good at being moms or being broody. They tolerate confinement well but are good foragers when allowed to free range.
This breed is not prone to any unusual chicken ailments. Since they have thick, dense feathering, lice and mites can be a problem if not checked regularly. Generally the Wyandotte is a calm and tolerant bird, which makes for an easily handled and compliant bird that is ideal for beginners. This is very important in the 4-H arena where the birds are generally raised by youngsters.
You can learn more about the Silver Laced Wyandotte here: Silver Laced Wyandotte: Egg Production, Temperament and More…
Curious by nature, the Speckled Sussex sometimes get themselves into mischief but are very resourceful birds and cold hardy as well. The birds’ popularity can be explained by their thriftiness. She lays a lot of eggs, the meat is delicate, and they are tolerant of a wide range of climates. The Speckled Sussex is an excellent layer, averaging at 4-5 large brown eggs per week (200+/year). They are reputed to lay well through the winter months perhaps only taking a pause for the molt. This breed tolerates confinement well, but if they are allowed to free range they excel, reducing the feed bill substantially and removing pests from the garden. When raised as a meat bird, the Speckled Sussex dresses out at a very decent 7 lbs for hens and 9 lbs for roosters.
Perhaps because of their easy-going temperament, this bird is fairly low on the pecking order and can be subjected to bullying with larger, more assertive birds. Speckled Sussex have a tendency towards broodiness as well. They do not like the heat too much as their feathers are quite dense. Shade and cool water should be available for these chickens at all times.
Speckled Sussex hens are friendly and docile and are well suited for small children and families, they enjoy being part of the family. A mellow bird, they are very suitable for farming or 4H projects for young farmers. The Speckled Sussex can become firm family favorites and even enjoy lap time with you.
You can learn more about the Speckled Sussex here: Speckled Sussex: Egg Production, Temperament and More…
The Sussex have been bred as a dual purpose hen, excelling at both meat and egg laying purposes. They have enjoyed a steady, if not spectacular, success for many years because of their reputation as a steady layer, good meat bird, and having a gentle disposition. They are a docile but a confident and friendly bird that is easy to handle. This breed loves to forage and they are very good at gathering much of their needs from the garden, which makes them thrifty. They are intensely curious so may follow you around, ‘helping out’ in the garden or waiting for treats. Sussex are all-around hardy, especially in the cold. Summer heat is tolerated as long as they have shady spots to rest and access to cool water. They really don’t have any notable health issues except a propensity towards obesity.
Sussex are non-aggressive birds; even the roosters are reported to be mellow. They should not be put in with pushy or aggressive breeds as they will be at the bottom of the pecking order and may suffer from bullying. They are gentle, friendly, and low-maintenance birds that are fast to mature; with the exception of the speckled variety which matures slowly.
Egg laying ability varies with the particular variety of Sussex that you choose, but in general the Sussex will supply you with 4-5 large brown eggs every week. The really great thing is that they will continue to lay through the winter when most other hens have shut down production for the year. It has been said that the only time the Sussex take a break is when they are molting. They do have a tendency towards broodiness and make great mothers.
If you want them to continue laying eggs, it is advised to keep their weight down, otherwise they can be fattened for the table. The respective weights should be 9 lbs for roosters and 7 lbs for hens. The Sussex is generally a no fuss bird and will not require any special handling or treatments.
You can learn more about the Sussex here: Sussex Chicken: Breed Information, Care Guide, Egg Color and More
When you get chickens for the first time you have a few different purchasing choices. You can purchase hatching eggs, chicks, started pullets, or adult birds. Each choice has its merits but it’s really about what you feel is best for you. Economically, the most inexpensive option is the chicks. Pullets will cost more because of the care, feed, and time expended to raise the bird. Adult hens in their prime are the most expensive, and rescue and ex-battery hens are usually cheaper than pullets but more expensive than chicks.
If you decide to hatch chickens, you need to find a reliable source of fertile chicken eggs; eggs sold in grocery stores are not fertile. You can order fertile eggs from a hatchery or from poultry farmers with roosters in their flocks. If you are U.S.-based, make sure you are getting your fertile eggs from a National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP)-certified flock to reduce the risk of disease. If you are looking for purebred chickens, one of the best sources of information a breed club. They will help you to locate reputable breeders in your area. Fertile eggs should be less than 7 days old and stored at 55-60°F temperatures. Even with those eggs, you can expect a hatch rate of around 80%.
While the best hatchery device is a brooding hen, there are a lot of incubators on the market that range from very small to large in size and from automatically set up to almost manual daily setup. Remember that not all the eggs will hatch, no matter how good the incubator is.
Incubating a fertilized chicken egg requires a 21-day schedule. If you have an automatic incubator, follow the device manual. If your incubator requires your help, use the following spreadsheet; it will provide you with information about each day of the incubation period.
For cooling, take the lid off the incubator for a period of time. Periodic cooling happens in nature when a broody hen leaves the nest at least once a day to drink, eat, and poop. That is the reason why we need to replicate these conditions for your incubated eggs.
Another important part of incubation is rotating/turning the eggs. All eggs must be physically turned to prevent the developing chick from sticking to the eggshell. Do not forget to mark eggs with an X on one side so you can easily tell if you have turned your eggs or not.
It is critical not to raise the lid of the incubator starting on day 18. On this day, provide a non-slip surface for the hatchings. Hatching will start on day 21 and by day 23 all healthy chicks will hatch. Expect roosters to hatch also; there is a 50% chance that a chick will be born a rooster.
If ordered locally, or incubated at home, chickens are generally not sexed so you will not be certain of the numbers of roosters vs. hens. Online hatcheries will guarantee the gender of chickens. Craigslist is another source, but look for NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Program) certification from wherever you order to assure healthy chicks▶ 03:42.
You can order any number combination of roosters and hens, but if you order a simple “straight run,” typical results run from 5%-50% or more roosters and the remainder hens. To ensure the desired sex be certain your chickens are sexed▶ 8:09.
The best time to bring on young chicks is during the spring season, and this will vary with your geographic location. April is usually a good month for receiving your chickens, therefore order them the previous November to assure you get the breed and sex you wish. Often the chicks will be sent to your local post office so be certain to retrieve them immediately upon arrival. Ahead of time, bring this to the attention of the postmaster so there is no delay when receiving them, as their longevity is only three days from their origination point to their final destination. Upon arrival, immediately take the chicks to the location you will raise them and provide them with water. Once you introduce them to water, both feed and water should remain available thereafter. You will initially keep them inside to acclimate and about 4-6 weeks later, or when the outdoor temperature reaches 75°F, relocate them outside. Should you have cooler temperatures than this, supplemental heat is required▶ 10:09.
Checking, monitoring, and training your chicks upon arrival and during the first week is important. Immediately upon arrival to your site, individually check the chickens physical health for any visual abnormalities. It is then critical to dip their bills in water and show them where their food dishes are positioned. Once you feed them you must have clean water and food available at all times. Immediately contact your source breeder if there are any problems or concerns ▶ 29:39.
After you have received your chickens and everything seems in order, one problem to be aware of is “pasty butt”. It occurs whenever the excrement attaches to the fine fuzz alongside their vent (anus), acting as a plug while preventing excretion and leading to death. Monitor them closely, especially during the first week ▶ 32:02. There is also a demonstration on how to prevent this here: ▶ 32:34.
Before your chicks arrive a brooder is required for temporary safe housing and warmth. The brooder is a heated enclosure that can be a plastic/cardboard tub or box used to confine chicks with their feed and water for about six weeks, until they are ready to live outside. A specific area within the brooder must contain a temperature controlled heat source in at least one portion▶ 20:20. The heat source can be a specifically designed and store-bought mechanism or a simple heat lamp. Throughout the initial week, maintain 90-95 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. Starting in the second week, reduce temperatures by about 5 degrees every week for four weeks, until you reach about 70 degrees Fahrenheit ▶ 43:00. View this video segment for further details on brooder setup. As your chickens grow you will have to locate them to a larger brooder ▶ 38:42. Also, here you can see a solution that prevents unwanted wood shavings from entering into their food and water ▶ 41:13. As your chickens continue growing and become more curious they will want to escape their confines. An easy containment method preventing brooder exodus is demonstrated here ▶53:07. Here is additional information on a brooder and its contents.
Once the chicks are set for outdoor living, be certain to have a coop on site and ready for habitation. You can build your own coop, purchase a manufactured coop, or repurpose an existing barn or smaller structure ▶ 13:55. Be certain to predator proof your coop and know what predators are in your area. An electric fence works well for ground predators. If you have burrowing critters, you may have to bury hardware cloth extending out a foot or two away from the fence as a deterrent. If you have an open run you can use colored mason line to keep aerial predators away by allowing a two-foot separation between strands to interfere with their flight path ▶ 16:55.
Here are particular coop design features worth considering:
After about a month indoors you will want to relocate your chicks to their new outdoor quarters. If the temperatures fall below 60°F at night you will need an additional heat source. For the first couple of days, keep them contained to the coop so they understand that it is their home. When you then release them into their run, they will learn to automatically gravitate back to the coop at night, where they will remain safe. One option to enhance this is by keeping their food and water in the coop. After about 3 or 4 days of coming and going to and from the run and the coop, your chickens will automatically return to the coop even if their food and water is placed in the run or under the coop. See further details here ▶ 1:00:14.
After spending a couple days in their coop the chicks will be ready to explore their run. This initiation will begin their daily outdoor access as they come and go from the coop to the run at will. Simultaneously there will be a transition from starter feed to grower feed at this 4-6 week timeframe ▶ 1:08:22.
After a month or thereabouts, when they are 8-9 weeks old, it is time to introduce them to any other flocks you may have. Their introduction to larger birds should begin with a fence separation created by their run. After some time they can be allowed to come and go through a small door that prevents larger birds from entering the chicks run.
Here are some tips for introducing new chickens to a group, which means a re-establishment of the pecking order:
If the intermingling of the two flocks progresses satisfactorily then they can mingle at will ▶ 1:12:30.
Open source plans of our chicken coop design with step by step building instructions can be accessed here. Below are some images from our designs.
Our chicken coop (10’ x 12’) is designed for the 65 chickens that have access to outside roaming and only use the coop for laying eggs and for roosting during the night. It can be built as a mobile coop on a trailer or as a stationary coop. Cost analysis estimates and material lists can be found here.
Chickens will lay their eggs just about anywhere they feel comfortable doing so and being creatures of habit, they will continue to lay where they have laid in the past. There are certain requirements that all hens desire in a nest box:
The standard recommendation for nesting boxes is 1 box per 4 hens. However, you don’t have to go standard when it comes to nesting boxes. As we said, chickens will lay just about anywhere they feel comfortable… It is possible that they will lay eggs in feed bags, high corner shelves, wheelbarrows, cardboards, pet carriers, laundry baskets, and old milk crates.
Here are a couple of cheap DIY nesting box ideas for you to check out. Use whatever material you have to create your unique nesting box for your chickens.
In addition to the chicken coop, you will also need to fence in the area where the chickens will spend their days pecking, scratching, and living happy chicken lives. Fencing in this area properly is essential to protecting your chickens from both ground-based predators (foxes, coyotes, raccoons, docs, mink, and weasels) and aerial predators (owls and hawks).
A fence of about 5-6 feet in height is a sufficient barrier to help block ground predators (like raccoons, snakes, coyotes, foxes, weasels, and stray dogs) from getting through and to keep chickens from flying over the top of the fence. There are a few common types of fence materials fitting for chicken keeping purposes: Chicken wire / poultry netting, welded wire (or hardware cloth) fence, and electric fencing.
Chicken wire and poultry netting is a good solution to keep aerial predators (eagles, hawks, owls and falcons) from diving into chicken run, but they are not strong enough to protect chickens from ground predators. Chicken wire and poultry netting are both lightweight and can be easily moved. Chicken wire is manufactured of thin, flexible galvanized steel wire with 1-inch hexagonal gaps. A dog, fox, or raccoon can rip through chicken wire in no time; it was designed to keep chickens in but not ground predators out.
Advantages of chicken wire / poultry netting:
Disadvantages of chicken wire / poultry netting:
Welded wire (or hardware cloth) fences are stronger than chicken wire and give better protection to the chickens. Welded wire comes in different square sizes. Welded wire fence in ½ inch size will keep the smallest predators (like weasels, snakes, and mice) out of the coop when used on all of the openings in the chicken coop and the lower parts of the run. Another option for welded wire is the ½” x1” size fencing that is sometimes called rabbit fencing. This is a great choice for the chicken run.
Advantages of welded wire fences:
Disadvantage of welded wire fences:
An electric net is a great choice for fencing. It is a popular predator deterrent and it also helps contain chickens. These fences can be plugged into an electric outlet, or you can hook it to a solar charger. They can also protect your chickens from bears, but if bears are a concern to begin with, the best solution to not attract them to your chicken coop is by feeding your chickens outside of the coop and keeping the feed away from the coop at night in a sealed container. To set up an electric fence you need: electric netting, grounding rods and wire, a solar charger or electric outlet, a voltmeter.
Advantages of electric fences:
Disadvantages of electric fences:
If you decide to install any type of permanent fence for your chickens you should consider adding hardware cloth or chicken wire to the bottom of the fence. Predators can dig under the above-ground fencing. To avoid foxes, coyotes, and other burrowing predators getting inside the fence, bury the hardware cloth / chicken wire about 12-24 inches inground all the way along the fence.
Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of raising chickens. Sixty to seventy percent of the cost of raising poultry is feed. A wide range of high quality commercially prepared feed is available from many sources. Birds must be fed diets that meet their nutritional requirements to achieve maximum production. Commercial poultry feeds contain numerous similar feed ingredients and several types of rations are available (for example: starter, grower, finisher, and layer rations). Different types of rations are formulated to meet the specific requirements of different types of birds. Therefore, to choose the best diet for your flock, you must first know the species of bird, the age of the bird, and for what purpose the birds are being raised (eggs, meat, or dual purpose).
The most convenient way to feed your birds is by purchasing a balanced pelleted or crumble diet. Poultry feeds are referred to as “complete” feeds because they are developed to contain all the nutrients required for growth and health of the bird. Many feed rations prepared commercially today are in pelleted and crumbled form. Medicated feeds are also available to prevent certain diseases. For example, coccidiostats are included in the diet with medicated feeds. If preferred, it is possible to obtain unmedicated feed. Check feed labels to see what additives have been included.
Formulating and mixing poultry feed is a complex process that ensures a diet contains all of the nutrients required by a chicken. Specialized software programs are usually required to formulate a poultry ration. Therefore, it is recommended to feed your chickens a high quality commercial feed which can be purchased from most local farm stores.
A common mistake in feeding poultry is choosing the wrong feed. For example, feeding a broiler ration to egg layers will result in a calcium deficiency because of the lower levels of calcium in a broiler diet; this would not meet the nutritional requirement of a layer. Also, it is not recommended to mix grain into a complete commercial ration as this may dilute the nutrient content of the commercial diet, thus resulting in a nutrient deficiency. When birds are not fed a complete ration, it may lead to feather picking, lameness, a decrease in production, and even death.
In most cases, birds should have continued access to feed so that they are provided with the proper level of nutrients at all times. Vest and Dale (2002) reported estimates of feed consumption for layers and meat birds at different phases of production. Poultry will eat several small meals throughout the day, thus visiting feeders several times a day. Birds should be allowed free access to feed. When providing feed to your poultry, make sure the feed has protection from the weather. One of the easiest methods to achieve this is to place the feeders inside the coop with the chickens. Another method is filling feed troughs so they are less than half full. Filling feeders with only enough feed for the birds to consume in one day will also minimize waste. This reduces the amount of feed loss, as well as allowing the caretaker to control rations for the birds.
If placing the feeders inside housing is not feasible, there are feeders on the market that have lids and rain shields to prevent the feed from becoming wet, allowing feeders to remain outside. Contact your local feed or farm store to find out what feeders and poultry supplies they carry. The type of feeder used for your operation is dependent on individual management practices. Be sure to keep feed troughs clean and dry as well as supplied with fresh, dry feed regardless of location.
After purchasing the correct feed for your birds, keeping it fresh is very important. Feeding old, moldy feed can cause your birds to become very sick. There are several options for storing feed. Large metal or plastic bins are popular for storing large quantities of feed. Make sure any container being used has a lid that will keep the feed from getting wet and prevents rodents access. Metal containers are recommended over plastic containers because rodents cannot chew through metal containers as they can through plastic. When rodents gain entry into containers, the feed becomes contaminated. DO NOT feed contaminated feed to your chickens. They may become sick or contract a disease from contaminated feed (see Avian Diseases of Concern). Any type of storage container can be used as long as it is sealed so your birds and unwanted pests (including other farm animals) cannot gain access to feed.
Remember, feed is an investment. As stated earlier, approximately 70% of the cost of raising poultry is the feed. Feeding a high quality feed to your flock will promote bird health and performance. Although purchasing low quality feed will save you a few dollars in the beginning, it may cost you a lot more in bird health and performance. Productivity, reproduction, and health of the flock largely depends on the quality of feed they receive. Additionally, feeding the right feed for the type and age of the bird you are raising is simple and vital to a productive flock. Keep in mind the better the birds are fed, the more productive they will be.
However, we have a few suggestions on how to effectively save money on feed without compromising the health and performance of your chickens.
About a week before your chicks arrive purchase a “chick starter”. Be certain it is a “chick starter” as this has a higher protein content and contains different minerals than a grower/layer feed, more suitable for young chicks. There are many different brands but there are two general types of feed to consider: medicated and non-medicated. Medicated feed helps to prevent coccidiosis, a common condition with chicks when they are exposed to the outdoors and soil. The non-medicated is more of a natural approach. For those of you wanting an organic approach, definitely go with the non-medicated ▶23:25. When you start feeding chicks you should supply grit ▶44:15. Chicken grit supplement aids in grinding their feed for improved digestion ▶08:56. If you decide to make your own chick starter feed, we have included two recipes below with 20-22% protein:
Organic baby chick starter feed recipe:
This recipe makes approximately 17 cups of feed. You can add chopped boiled eggs, fresh grass, spinach, dark lettuce, or kale to the day’s feed.
Another great simple homemade feed recipe for egg layers was put together by Justin Rhodes, a permaculture chicken raiser (check out his youtube channel).
Chicken feed formula:
Baby chickens should have access to water and food and all times. Introduce your new chicks to drinking water by dipping their bills into water ▶29:40. Electrolyte supplements added to room temperature water are a good energy source ▶24:47. Also, apple cider vinegar mixed with their water is good for potassium, energy, antiviral effects, and parasite prevention ▶26:06. Water quality is critical for healthy animals, especially chickens. Add garlic to chicken water and scrub and cleanse bowls regularly.
About day four after your chicks hack you can begin supplementing their diet with treats, differentiating their understanding of their daily primary food source. Scrambled eggs are a good protein source as they are already familiar with feeding off the yolk when they are still in the egg ▶34:07. You can start gradually transitioning chickens to the whole grain when they reach 6 weeks old.
Treats should comprise only small amounts (approximately 5-10% of their diet), don’t overdo it. Cooked quinoa, tomatoes, and sprouts are also acceptable, but do not give them dried seeds, beans, rice, cooked white rice, or white bread ▶46:38. You can simultaneously train your chickens to recognize your voice before you feed them a treat. View this method here ▶34:33.
Raising chickens under fruit trees allows them to feast on fallen fruit, while weeding and fertilizing as they go. Every element should perform multiple functions. A poultry fence can grow climbers or act as a trellis for espalier fruit trees and screen out an unsightly view.
Here’s a feed additive suggested by Geoff Lawton during a course he taught with Bill Mollison. If you’d like to buy the DVDs of this course, you can find them here.
Pat Coleby was an Australian pioneer of natural farming. A keen observer, she penned seven books based on her extensive experience in the animal and farming world. To increase animal health, she offers the following recipe that is presented here by Geoff Lawton. Large animals like dairy cows can be fed daily, while smaller animals can suffice with a weekly feeding of this same recipe. The feeding frequency varies depending on the size of your animals. This recipe is good for 10 chickens, fed once a week. Feeding animals this mixture of minerals improves their health and mineralizes their manure. The manure will have all the below ingredients in a plant soluble form whereby they take in those minerals. Additionally, the manure can be composted, added to gardens, and/or fed to fruit trees, worm farms, etc.
The ingredients for this recipe can be sourced from most any farm supply. At feeding time, simply add the solution to a bucket of forage and stir. The result is a highly mineralized feed and among other benefits, it helps keep animals parasite free. Animals have mineral deficiencies which people incorrectly diagnose as a health issue (the minerals help break the cycle of parasites in the pasture).
Coccidiosis is a significant disease for chickens, especially affecting young chicks. It can be fatal or can leave the bird with compromised digestion. There are chick feed mixes that contain a coccidiostat to manage exposure levels and to control the disease. After multiple infections, surviving chickens become resistant to the coccidia. It is an intestinal parasite naturally occurring in soil that chickens are frequently exposed to and treatment is performed with corid (one teaspoon/gallon of water for five days). Due to a side effect of influencing vitamin B-1 uptake, a B-1 supplement is added when treated by corid ▶54:04. Chicks can naturally build an immunity to coccidiosis ▶48:42. To help build a chick’s immunity, begin introducing them to native soil at about week three or four by adding a couple of garden plants to their diet that have a bit of native soil on the roots ▶54:55. Also, by simply mixing a couple handfuls of wood ash with native soil provides a dust bath to reduce mite infestations ▶26:55.
Many of us walk into a store and pull a carton of eggs off the shelf placing minimal or no thought into the content’s origin. Instead of distancing ourselves from our food supply as modern society would dictate, permaculture can be deemed as our interaction with natural systems, bringing us closer to these natural systems. This need for closer connection and deeper understanding goes beyond food and represents the heart of permaculture.
Chickens (and this could be extended to poultry in general) are often used as examples of a perfect closed cycle from a permacultural point-of-view. They consume kitchen scraps and garden waste, and supply eggs and meat. They provide manure which in turn is used to create more kitchen scraps and garden waste. The eggs they produce feed us but also create more chickens. There is no waste and the process is cyclical and ongoing.
Chickens enhance a permaculture garden through ingesting insects, fertilization, scratching the soil (tilling), and aeration, leading to soil building and improved growing conditions. Your chickens will appreciate having open access to a daily food scrap pile. The scrap pile can be left in the open or enclosed by a short wall where they can freely come and go. An enclosure of four square feet with about an eighteen inch-high wall is ideal. The chickens will spend hours within its confines pecking, scratching, and pooping, producing the best compost imaginable in a very short time. The soil within the confines of the rest of your chicken compound will also greatly increase in fertility. The constant aeration, due to chickens’ constant scratching the ground for insects, combined with their ongoing manuring creates high soil fertility.
The chicken tractor, a moveable chicken accommodation, also makes good use of chickens and in our case is a portable coop with or without an attached closed run. It has a couple of wheels on one end and handles on the other and is transported from site to site by a real tractor or by human labor. Chicken tractors can be just about any size, but are usually about four feet wide and eight to ten feet long. Remember to keep them light in weight unless you have a motorized tractor for transportation. Build them large enough to house several chickens comfortably, and strong enough to keep predators out, but light enough to move without too much effort. They are excellent parked in a proposed new garden site or over a difficult weed patch that needs taming. In this way the chickens help conserve human energy by directly performing their work. Notes that they are suitable for rabbits also! Here are a few examples:
Chicken tractors can be designed to be placed over dormant and pre-dormant garden beds and serve as a summer home for singular or mixed breeds, conveniently keeping mixed breeds separated during breeding season, touching on the permacultural principle of multi-function systems. Sometimes this requires something as simple as thoughtful and proper placement.
Well considered placement leads to yet another of the essential elements of permaculture: the sector map. Assuming that a fairly accurate map of the property has already been drawn, the sector map ensures that any new elements introduced will be installed in the optimum location, where they might in fact serve more than their one intended purpose. For instance, strategic positioning of a shed or clump of bushes can create a useful microclimate. The south wall of the shed can also form the support for espaliered fruit trees or grape vines and further, if the shed is painted white it will help to reflect heat and light back onto the plants close by.
Vines planted on the north side of a shed in a windy location will probably not produce any fruit, whereas in the microclimate described above those same vines can be expected to produce a good harvest. This is why it’s so important to draw up a zone and sector map before any serious changes are made. It’s not that complicated. Included elements will be compass points, prevailing winds, water sources and flow, and sun angles for both summer and winter. This information can be drawn on an overlay placed on top of a property map showing elements already present on the land, such as dwellings, outbuildings, pathways, etc. These maps will indicate where best to locate, among other things, the chicken run. Generally you want the chicken run close enough to facilitate twice daily visits (zone two or three) but not close enough to draw rodents and pests to the livable structures (zone one). Further, you should place your chicken run preferably not upwind but reasonably close, as in the spring and early summer with the chickens laying to capacity, the surplus can be overwhelming. There’s something very beautiful about a fresh laid egg, still warm from the nest box, and the way it binds us to our presence in nature.
Raising and harvesting chickens ethically is essential. This will be handled exclusively by the people choosing to eat eggs and chickens so that respect is paid to the preferences of non-participation for vegans and vegetarians. The lives and deaths of animals will also be handled with respect and gratitude. As an example (we may do this differently), here is a video of someone we consider respectful of the animal who’s life she is taking, but still she is showing how to kill the chicken.
Once on the property, One Community will open source project-launch blueprint the complete process of taking care of chickens from purchasing to harvesting and every detail in-between. We will do this so that people with zero priorknowledge can raise chickens and integrate this into their own individual lives or as part of the One Community complete open source self-sufficient teacher/demonstration community, village, or city model. Upcoming resources will include:
Our team will raise chickens for eggs and meat and utilize their manure as fertilizer. We approach this process with respect, gratitude, and love for these creatures and will further expand this page with our open source collaborative efforts and experience once on the property.
Q: How does the raising of animals fit into your Highest Good of All and Earth Stewardship Philosophy?
Our Highest Good of All Philosophy is non-dogmatic and supportive of diverse viewpoints (and diets). We recognize humanity will most likely and for the foreseeable future continue using animal products and we believe it is in the Highest Good to demonstrate the most ethical methods. In areas like this where some ideologies may prefer a 100% vegan or vegetarian organization, we do our best to communicate what can be expected on the property so people can choose whether or not that fits with their own desires.
Q: How is your raising of chickens in the Highest Good of chickens?
We feel that humanity’s dietary needs and desires will stay diverse for the foreseeable future. Because of this, we see that demonstrating a process of reconnecting people to their food, the process of raising and caring for animals, and sharing and spreading ethical and humane animal husbandry that treats the animals and the entire process with respect, love, and gratitude is beneficial to animals being raised for food around the world.
Q: I’m vegan/vegetarian, will I have to participate in harvesting or eating animals? Will animal parts be cooked with my food?
No, you will not have to participate in any part of animal husbandry that you don’t want to if you are not using animal products. Additionally, all vegetarian food will be prepared separately from animal foods.
Q: Who will be processing the animals into food and other byproducts?
Omnivore team members will be responsible for handling this. We believe that part of ethical animal husbandry starts with education and awareness, and that it is in the Highest Good of all life on the planet for humans to be educated and aware of the process the animals go through to become food and other byproducts. Our values model is also one that includes the aspect of not asking someone else to do for you what you yourself are not willing to do. With all that in mind, we have elected to have ALL members that will be consuming animal products participate in the entire process of the animals’ lives, from birth to table. Yes, that means that if you plan on eating meat at One Community, you would be expected to assist in processing that type of animal from beginning to end, including ending an animal’s life, at least one time. For children, the parents will help determine the age and level of participation of processing.
Q: What if I do not ever want to participate in processing animals or animal products?
Only those who have elected to participate in eating or using a specific animal product will be asked to participate in processing of that animal or its byproducts. Vegan community members will not be asked to partake in any part of the animal life cycles. This also means that if no one wants to process a particular animal (or any animals), we will then agree on a different sustainable source of food for our community.
Q: Will you be using hormones and/or antibiotics for any of the animals?
No, as a practice and a policy we will not put anything on or in our food (plants or animals) that we would not want to eat.
Q: What if I really want to be a part of One Community but I don’t agree with raising animals for food?
We hope the larger global vision and benefits of One Community outweigh the food choices of some individuals and we believe that being a vegan or vegetarian at One Community will be an opportunity to educate and demonstrate to pioneers and our visitors how to eat a plant-based diet properly and sustainably. We hope this will lead to plant-based dietary choices growing worldwide and we also respect the choices of those who prefer to remain omnivores.
If our model does not suit you, you may want to instead consider joining us as a Satellite Member (click here for the Invitation Form), consultant or volunteer (click here for the Consultant’s/Volunteer’s Page), and/or just follow our progress. We expect other communities will follow with different views on these issues and we will happily be promoting the success of those that are part of the open source and free-sharing network of teacher/demonstration communities, villages, and cities that we are helping to create. Here are the best ways to follow our progress:
Also, the objective of One Community is to build living blueprints open source so everyone can then use them for duplication in whatever diverse way suits their needs and desires. If you feel like you’d like to see a different version of One Community, we invite you to embrace the task of working with us and using everything we’ve already created to form another iteration of this idea, with a new set of rules/policies/guidelines. That way you can attract the people who share your values and thus like your rule sets, which provide another for The Highest Good of All option with a potentially very different approach.