As promised in the last post, I wanted to update you about our new chicken venture! We’ve decided to push ahead even though everything is not perfect. For now we’re going to do the best we can and improve as we go.
As I mentioned last time, I’ve been reading Joel Salatin’s You Can Farm and in it he mentions how some of his successful friends got started. One that really got my attention was a guy who raised broilers in his garage. I didn’t even have time to think before I smacked myself in the head and went “DUH!”. The answer to our problems with affording coop supplies was literally three feet from the quail pen.
Our garage is well over 35 years old, if not more. It’s not in the best of condition and it’s not going to be a pottery studio anytime soon, so I figured we might as well use it while we can!
The Chicken Plan:
We’ll pull the dog kennel into the garage (it should fit easily) and we’ll set it up. We can bed the chickens down pretty deeply in the cage with hay and wood chips (we can get some) or straw. This is only a temporary move for the chickens. Since they will be babies, I don’t want to keep them in the house for 8 weeks and I don’t want them out in the snow too early. The chickens will be protected from all predators and they will be out of the elements for the winter. Don’t worry though, I’m not heating the garage so they will still be able to form all their down feathers that they need.
We will be going down to Justin’s mom’s house long before we need the supplies, but she has chicken waterers and feeders in her old hen house. We’ll bring them home to use and possibly invest in a heated waterer. Since the chickens will be in the garage, electricity will be easily available and won’t short out due to wet conditions.
Getting the Chickens: I have already gone ahead and ordered the chicken hatching eggs. They should be here by Oct. 30th or so. I’ve decided to hatch the eggs since it’s a cheaper alternative to buying pullets and I can’t afford to buy grown chickens from people or have them shipped. We want between 4 and 8 laying hens. Locally people are selling worn out factory breeds that I don’t want for $15 a chicken and pullets are going to cost about $30 in shipping or more for two of them. Not worth it. Plus, I have this fancy-schmancy incubator I built myself, might as well use it!
I was sorely tempted to order a flashy breed that I found, Splash Blue Wheaten Ameraucanas (on ebay)…..good god they are beautiful. But I spoke with Justin about it and we decided to indulge,but be more functional. So I decided on Ameraucana for blue eggs to make me happy, Plymouth Barred Rocks for dual purpose and possible hackle sales and Rhode Island Reds as a dual purpose, but mostly egg producing bird. I’ve ordered 6 eggs of each. My hope is to get an Ameraucana rooster and breed olive eggers, but we’ll see. If we keep any sort of rooster he will be nice. The first sign of asshole-ish-ness and he’s cooked, literally. I’m not about to keep a bird I’m afraid of, that’s pure nonsense.
We will be building some nest boxes to put in the kennel as well (hopefully they will use them) and I’ll supply them with a short roost. I have a local guy who can bring me spoiled hay. I’ll probably have him bring me a couple more round bales to keep for bedding for the winter. When spring comes I’ll have a huge supply of mulch for the new raised beds and the chickens will move outside to start tearing up the landscaping for me. If need be, they can also clean up raised beds once they are done with a set of veggies or if I have a pest problem.
With all this in place, the quails and chickens will cost us less than $40 a month in feed and supplies. We’ll scarcely even notice a difference after the eggs start coming in. We’re hoping for the 4-8 hens, but if we end up with more, we may keep the hens but extra roosters will go into the freezer, we really have no need for them.
So that’s the plan! I think it’s going to not only be doable, but it’s going to really put a dent in our grocery expenses (we eat a lot of eggs!) and help my bakery flourish without so much cost! We have pretty bad avian flu going on in the chicken factories around here and I can’t afford $3.50 a dozen for eggs that I’m going to bake into a loaf of bread. ESPECIALLY if they are of such low quality. Our hens will lay high quality eggs that will improve my food and be cheaper than the store. It’s a win-win situation!
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