Episode-1396- All About Keeping Chickens

Our Rooster Upgrayedd More than Earns His Keep

Our Rooster Upgrayedd More than Earns His Keep

I think perhaps the hottest thing in the modern homesteading trend right now is keeping chickens for both meat and eggs.  It isn’t hard to understand why!  The chicken and mankind go back thousands of years as allies.  I figure the natural fit is mostly that chickens will eat almost anything people will eat and many things we won’t.

Hence you have a bird that lays eggs almost year round that in many places can make its living off your scraps and the surrounding land.  Once trained to a coop, which takes about a day on average it will put itself to bed at night and always come home unless something eats it.

If you want more of them you let a hen do all the work and hatch and raise the babies.  You take older birds and excess males and turn them into surplus meat.  At least that is the philosophy that chickens were raised under for most of history.  Today things are not as simple, in some cases they could be and in others modern reality conflicts with what would be easiest or cheapest.

Join Me Today to Discuss…

  • What is great about chickens
    • Easy to raise
    • Produces eggs
    • Provides some meat
    • Provides entertainment
    • Largely self sufficient
    • Produce fertilizer
  • What is not so great about chickens
    • Poop management
    • Can be destructive
    • Cost of upkeep
    • Housing requirements
    • Winter needs
    • Dealing with culling
  • Ways of raising chickens and my thoughts on them
    • Coop and run
    • Tractoring
    • Free range
    • Restricted free range
    • Paddock shift management
  • How many birds do you want (layers)
    • Most hens lay 5-6 eggs a week in peak
    • My hens tend to lay 3 eggs off peak your mileage may vary
    • Birds will eat about .25 pounds of feed a day, budget for it
    • I don’t consider roosters money sinks, they are guardians
  • Coop Size and Perch Size Requirements
    • 4 sq ft. per bird of floor space
    • 10-12 inches of roost per bird (at highest level)
    • For confined runs minimum 10 sq ft per bird
  • Thoughts on some layer breeds
    • Rhode Island Red
    • White Leghorn and Crosses
    • Production Reds (sex links)
    • Black Australorp
    • Buff Orpington
    • Your Own “Mutts”
  • Raising meat chickens (thoughts on breeds)
    • Cornish Cross
    • Heritage Whites
    • Red “Freedom” Rangers
    • Delaware Chicken
  • Protein Requirements
    • Layer Chick Starter (20% protein)
    • Layer Grower (16-18%) No Calcium Supplementation
    • Layer “Laying Phase”  (16-18%) With Calcium
    • Broiler Starter (20-22% protein)
    • Broiler Growing (18-20%) Be Careful
    • Broiler Finisher (15-18%) Not Required it’s about fat!
  • Feed Options
    • Commercial
    • Organic
    • Non GMO
    • Grocery Waste
    • Brewers/Distillers Grain
    • Fodder
    • Growing Feed
    • Kitchen Wastes
    • Pasture
    • Insects
  • Final Thoughts and Just do It

Resources for today’s show…

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36 Responses to Episode-1396- All About Keeping Chickens

  1. I wonder how many times you will virtually argue with Paul Wheaton in this episode 😀

  2. Regarding the “just don’t live there” argument, isn’t that the same logic people use against libertarians saying “if you don’t like it here, move to somalia?”

    • Modern Survival

      No and it is a stupid assertion. It is a golf course community Jake, get a clue. LOL

      I have a BIG problem with people changing the rules but if a bunch of idiots build a development with stupid rules and you know the stupid rules going in and you try to live there and violate them anyway, you are the problem.

      Just like when Yuppies move to the country and bitch about pig and cow smell they are the problem.

      • Thats true if it really was a bunch of blue hairs making a golf course city, but on the other hand now that they are a bona fide government they can potentially start annexing… like a virus.

        If it formed and then they moved there sure they get what they asked for, but if you live somewhere, they build a golf course and then annex the regular suburbia around it in a land grab, it is. However, I don’t know the history of the “city”

      • My only response in opposition is whether or not the people lived there BEFORE the golf course and all that.

        But to be frank there comes a time when you have to decide whether or not you have enough in common with your neighbors and move on.

        We may have rights, and governments SHOULD protect our rights, but we have to face reality, and sometimes that’s moving to “Greener pastures” whether you want to or not.

  3. I wrote a post last year about this urban chicken keeping “free to a good home” problem. As an urban poultry keeper and (generally) an advocate of the practice, I’m way past fed up with urban poultry keepers not figuring out if they are adopting pets or livestock before they take that box of fluffy day-old chicks home from the feed store. Good episode, thank you – really enjoyed it.

  4. Burbsteader

    Great show Jack. How about doing an “All About Keeping Ducks” episode?

    • Modern Survival

      As my “duck keeping” has about 12 weeks of experience at this time, I don’t feel qualified. You guys should harass Jon Dowie about doing an interview on ducks.

      • Bullshit. Don’t sell yourself short. =)

        Maybe its not a “this is how you raise ducks” episode, but perhaps it could be a “this is how I’m doing it right now. This work doesn’t work”. Although you kinda did that not too long ago, but it was more of a short blip about it.

  5. I have 10 acres of land in the Texas panhandle just outside of Amarillo. I am planing to start raising chickens. I have access to an almost unlimited supply of used residential wood fence. When I get this fence 95% is in usable condition minus the bottom 4 inches or so that I can rapidly cut off using the bottom 2×3 as a guide for my circular saw. Can this be used to hold chickens as is or would it require some kind of modification like adding chicken wire to the inside or out? I have an area 300ft x 200ft give or take that I can use for this. The area is covered in wild grasses, “weeds”, yucca plants, and mesquite trees. I have a family of 5 with one teenage boy and another that will be soon. My whole family loves eggs we could eat a dozen a day maybe 2. What would you recommend I do given the situation, resources, and desires I have described.

    Thanks in advance to Jack or anyone else who has suggestions and guidance.

    • Start with 6-12 birds and go from there. How do you know if you will like it Try it, but start small. I started with 8 and loved it, went to 40, which is too many for me. I’m in the process of getting it back down to 14, as my average would be a dozen a day. Thinking you will eat a dozen or 2 a day is great, but it’s every single day. I give most of mine away. I lose money when I do a breakdown, but the small degree of freedom it gives and quality of eggs makes it worth it.

  6. Brent Dutcher

    I would really liked to hear this episode but for some reason on the android device we got yesterday episode again. Even tho it titled all about chickens, just wanted you to know Jack.

  7. I just tried to download this episode on my android app and it keeps playing yesterday’s show. Anyone else running into this? I uninstalled the app and reinstalled and still have the same problem.

    • Modern Survival

      Some times the android app screws up when it happens come here and directly access the show, I won’t answer this any further or in any more detail, I don’t run that app and can’t fix your problem.

  8. Great show Jack, we are doing broilers for the first time this year. I was nodding my head at a lot of it and also learned some great information.

    Also love the comment: “Go price out fencing and how much do you want to pay for chickens and eggs. ” This needs to be said more in the permaculture world. $500 for an electric fence for 6 birds is expensive. I moved to a property without fencing, took a look at the electric… decided to just permanent fence it. To permanent fence the area was the same cost of a good poultry electric setup. Had other reasons for a permanent fence like kids, dogs, and alpacas which can’t use electric on.

  9. My next meat birds are going to be Delaware’s from Whitmore Farm. They have been selectively bred for the the ideal meat bird. I have seen their birds in person and I thought “that would be some good cacciatore”. The birds were huge and very healthy.

    • Modern Survival

      They will likely do well for you, just plan on a 14 week or 16 week cycle. If it takes less great but plan for the worst and hope for the best as in all things.

  10. Excellent show, Bok Bok Bok!!

    Having chickens is a learning curve, you don’t take them to the vet for a cough. As newbies, we’re learning quickly as we stumble along and enjoy great eggs. The next hurdle will be learning to ‘harvest’ the geezers.

    An idea for a future poultry topic is Guinea Hens, there is a lot of myth and half truths about them. They seem to be great tick eaters, snake killers, and watch dogs in the body of a pre-historic poultry. Gentle on the garden, roost in the trees. Will they crap on the cars and roofs? So loud as to drive the neighbors crazy? Never had any personal experience with them, what are some of the potential negatives and positive features?

    You nailed this topic, great job.

    • gator bee gal

      I love my guineas. I pasture my poultry (chickens, ducks, guineas, turkeys, and geese) with electronet part time and let them free-range part time. The guineas’ range is definitely much farther than the other fowl. I ended up having to cut my hen’s wing feathers because she was going over the fence into my neighbor’s yard and then couldn’t figure out how to get back (OK, so maybe not the smartest birds :P). They do occasionally perch on the roof of the house or the pergola, but we haven’t had any issues with poop. They go to the chicken coop at night to roost with the chickens. One thing to keep in mind with guineas – they take MUCH longer to “home” than other fowl. We lost 8 nearly full-grown keets because I let them out of the tractor a little too soon and they wandered far from home and never came back. A few weeks later one of our neighbors found 3 of them in his barn, lol. Their alarm call can be quite loud, but in our experience they don’t do it too often and it doesn’t bother me at all. I have a friend, however, who can’t stand her neighbor’s guineas because apparently they screech all the time. I guess it depends on the individual situation.

    • My sister raised guineas and I can tell you several things. They got to be the dumbest birds out there. They mosey around doing their own thing regardless of people, animals, or vehicles. They range far and wide, over a half mile. They are noisy, I can hear them at my house a half mile away. They do hammer the ticks.

  11. caduckgunner

    Jack, in one of your youtube videos recently, you were showing the ducks and chickens in what appeared to be (I think….) movable fencing. Do you have a link to what you used and how you like it? The stuff I havelooked at far has not been impressive. Thanks.

    • Jason Elliott

      Jack can’t use the eltro-net because of shallow soils. He uses cattle panels that are either held together with heavy duty zip-ties or carabiners. He also attached a another fencing material on the inside of the cattle panels, the inside fencing has holes that are only about 1/2″ to an 1″ big and should be able to be found at your local farm store.

      • Modern Survival

        Yep spot on and that is only for young birds or cycles of meat birds. The main flock has a 1 acre area fully fenced they free range in, I am looking for a contractor to install fencing on that area to cut it up into three 1/3rdish acre paddocks.

  12. Regarding fencing.

    Another approach is what we’re looking at doing which is creating semi-permanent paddocks with electric fencing, just not the netting type. That way the fencing arrangement can still adjust with your needs, but you’re not out there constantly moving fences (which I can attest is a pain in the ass). We also move electric net fencing in forests and brush areas, the biggest pain in the ass of all.

    All one needs is step in posts, and electric twine (its like a rope). Set up your fence configuration and rotate through.

    Another option is batching these moving of fences by putting perhaps a few paddocks together (maybe 4 in a big square). That way your movements are very minimal. One thing that might help with that is creating a mobile coop that can be opened from 4 directions and you attach your fencing to the coop. That’s actually a pretty bad ass idea…

    • Octagonal chicken coop with eight doors leading onto eight paddocks (four sides and four corners. Patent pending.

  13. Yesterday evening I went out and listened to part of the show while holding my 6 month old son and watching the hens chase bugs. Great info!

  14. Hey Jack,
    Im breeding a BO rooster to RIR, BO and BRocks right now to see if I can get some good dual purpose birds so Ill let you know how I make out. If I breed the rooster back to the F1 hybrid, and do that for 8 generations will I get a 100% buff orpington hen? Im not clear on this result with line breeding. Great show, I enjoyed it!


  15. We have an ongoing series and comparison of the Freedom Rangers (male), Barred Rock (female), and a few Broad Breasted White Turkeys all running together in a paddock shift system.

    They are all the same age, and the posts provide a side by side comparison starting at week 1.
    The most striking comparison difference photos thus far were week 3 ( http://www.therewasafarmerhadablog.com/2014/07/pppp-report-week-3.html ) and the week 5 update just went up this morning. The books try to explain the difference in growth rate between layers and broilers but I find the comparison images really drive that message home.

    Folks who have raised their own layers and broilers may not find it as interesting, but I don’t know of anyone else who has done this sort of comparison before. Enjoy.

  16. I am growing potatoes in straw this year as an experiment, because I don’t need my hog panels til slaughter day I placed hog panels over the straw so it wouldn’t blow away. It appears to be serendipity because the tater patch is about 25′ from the coop for my free range chickens… they picked 1 or 2 leaves before they figured out the leaves suck and they don’t mess with the tater patch.

    Another 25′ beyond the patch is a pile of loose straw, they have to go over or around the patch to get to the loose straw and they are ripping that pile every day. If there is a forum thread for this episode I’ll post pics.


  17. Very enjoyable and informative show. If I may give my 2 cents: jump in and learn. In other words, build something, get the birds, enjoy and learn. You’ll make mistakes but it’s not the end of the world. Really, don’t be afraid. Do it.

  18. Hey Jack, I really like your show and want to listen to the topic. I was wondering if you would be open to amending your list: “Join me to discuss…” followed by a time stamp then the topics listed? In this case it was 17 full minutes before you started talking about chickens. Thanks for a great show and lots of great content.

    • Modern Survival

      Um no, if you want to take the time to do that you can. Do you have any idea how much work goes into producing a show?

  19. Supplemental light will hasten the onset of henopause in your layers.

    • Modern Survival

      Sort of, as I stated a chicken is born with all the eggs she will ever have, if you get more in one year sooner or later that has to come from somewhere.