You've dreamt about it. You've been pinning all the pins. You have got serious chicken fever. I hear you! Four years ago I was in the same place, my friend. The more I learned about these fluffy cuties, the more I fell in love. These amazing creature recycle our food scraps into delicious eggs, fertilize our yard better than any store-bought chemical, keep tick populations at bay, and provide us endless entertainment. So I put together a post that truly cuts to the chase of what you need to know to raise backyard chickens. We cover the basics, but I include tips that you may not have found thus far in your search. So read on my fellow chicken lover!
One of the worst feelings as a chicken owner is when you have a sick bird and you are at a loss on how to help them. An impacted crop in a chicken can be a death sentence if you don’t have the right knowledge or tools to fix the issue. Here on Green Willow Homestead, we’ve had two hens who have suffered from an impacted crop. Thanks to the encouraging words from an avian vet, some YouTube research, and my own grit - we were able to save one of the two through operating on them ourselves. In this post, I want to teach you about what an impacted crop is, the options you have to fix it, and how to successfully perform surgery on your hen in order to save her life.
Here at Green Willow Homestead, we have 40 chicken mouths to feed (and counting!). Our chickens are definitely spoiled. We allow them access to pasture, they freely browse a MOSA certified Organic Chicken Feed, and we give them all our chicken-approved kitchen scraps. When I started to keep track of our expenses though, reality smacked me right in the face. We were spending nearly $175 a month on organic chicken feed! With 40 laying hens producing 3 dozen eggs a day, we technically can rake in $450 a month in egg sales, unfortunately, in the winter this just isn’t the case. Egg laying slows way down as we lose daylight, but the amount these cluckers eat stays the same. I had to put my thinking cap on. How can I cut my feed costs when egg laying can’t foot the bill? Enter a food waste recovery program!
To put it simply, a food waste recovery program is when you partner with a local business that produces food waste, i.e. a restaurant or food shelf, to collect what would otherwise go to a landfill and, instead, compost it or feed it livestock. This partnership can be set up however you want it to: you can volunteer for food waste, you can barter for it, or you can just take it off their hands no questions asked. There are two types of food waste in the restaurant business: pre-plate food waste, which is all the prep scraps that come before food hits the plate; and post-plate food waste, which is what the customer leaves behind instead of bringing it home as leftovers. Both of these options can be recovered in a food waste recovery program.
In this blog post, I’m going to take you through why food waste recovery is necessary, how we got started doing it at Green Willow Homestead, and what equipment you need for successful implementation.
There is nothing more wonderful for a gardener than sharing the love of gardening with another. In this case, we are talking about sharing that love with your chickens! Not only will chickens love to be included in your garden, but they also can take some of the gardening work off your shoulders. In this post, we will go over how you can work with your chicken’s instincts to prep and clean up your garden during the growing season, fertilize your soil, and till your cover crops under when the timing is right.
Getting chickens out on your lawn has a ton of benefits, for the grass and for your hens! I ran into a serious conundrum when I wanted to free-range my chickens, they would never fail to stray a bit too far, get on the wrong side of the fence, and into our neighbors' yards. When I would open the coop door every morning, offering them their free-range freedom, I found myself checking on them every 45 minutes. It would disrupt my day, I was constantly stressed out, and the hens would always wind up into some sort of trouble. At that point, the only alternative was to keep them cooped up (hah), forbidding them access to all the wonderful things a free range chicken would have.
For those of us who enjoy six straight months of winter, we know the value of a good warm home. Chickens originally were jungle fowl, evolving in climates very much unlike our frigid Midwestern winters. As chicken owners, it’s important to make your hens comfortable for those nippy nights. When our flock grew from 8 to 38 hens (oh chicken math!) we needed a sustainable, cost-effective, and efficient way to house all our flocks from December to March. Enter, the temporary straw bale chicken coop.
Originally, we had our hens in our mobile chicken tractors, which have zero insulation. These tractors are fantastic for the summer because their construction allows for tons of airflow and shade, but with our cold winters we knew they would offer little warmth. The idea for straw bale chicken coops came to us mid-breakfast in late December right before we were due a couple big freezes. The benefits of a straw bale coop kept piling up as we thought about it. It took me a simple Google search to find a local farmer, who then delivered 77 bales of organic hay that weekend. Kismet! Let’s go over those benefits.
There are many reasons why homesteaders decide to bring a rooster into their flock. For me, there was a moment last winter where I woke up in the middle of the night and thought, “I want to hatch my own chicks.” In that late night epiphany, I knew I had to get a rooster in order to make that happen, because, well, mother nature. Now I have four gorgeous roosters and will never go back to having just hens. Let’s break down the pros and cons of owning a rooster to help you decide if having one is right for your long-term goals as a chicken owner.
I have sad news my fellow chicken lovers. We lost one of our Silver Laced Wyandottes last night. Cue the violin!
Paul and I have had the habit of going out to close up the coop around 7pm well after the sun has set, which I will admit was lazy on our part. Upon opening up the coop we found feathers everywhere, three chickens were cowering in the corner under the nesting boxes, four were hiding underneath the coop itself, and one was laying in the middle of the run with its head severed from its body.
Clearly, there had been a predator through our chicken run. This incident was especially troubling because whatever it was, it was able to get through or over our fence. Paul likes to call our chicken run Fort Knox, but after last night we are questioning our perspective. What could have gotten through and killed one of our birds?
Turns out I'm not the only one that feels like a fish out of water when the humidity and heat strike hard mid-July here in Wisconsin. My chickens were right there with me! Chickens and high heat plus humidity can be a deadly combination, especially this Wisconsin summer with the heat index climbing into the low 100s. So I wanted to share a few of the tips and tricks I've learned to keep my flock comfortable when I feel personally feel like melting.
Are you getting ready to own your very first flock? Congrats! I know exactly how excited and nervous you feel imagining those fluffy little chicks living under your roof. As someone who did her fair share of chick rearing research prior my first six chicks, there are seven very important things I wish I had known. This post is here to bring light to some very important factors I think a lot of bloggers miss out on when they write about the first few weeks of chick rearing. Read on to prepare yourself and your home!
Thanks for stopping by Green Willow Homestead! From chicken rearing to orchard planting, we've got our hands full and we love sharing what we've learned along the way. Follow along as we strive to live sustainably and turn these five acres from just property to a fully functioning small-scale homestead.
1. Joe Salatin
2. Rachel Carson
3. Wendell Berry
4. Temple Grandin
5. Sustainable Dish
6. Zero Waste Home
7. Allan Savory
Favorite Books of 2018
2. Bringing it to the Table
3. Holistic Management
4. The Small Scale Poultry Flock
5. In The Company of Women