By Sherman Shifflett
(Intro by Jim Brewer: More and more folks, even those in urban areas, are raising chickens. The difference between a fresh and a store bought egg is night and day. Plus, they’re fun to have around. Here are some notes from Sherman Shifflett, a regular CvilleBuzz contributor, about his experiences raising chickens.)
Except when I was in college and in the Army (drafted during the ‘Nam era), I have raised chickens all my life. I no longer have cats, housedogs, hounds, cattle, pigs, guineas, etc., but I still have a few chickens. I give most of the eggs away.
Chickens are really not much trouble. Like everything else, they need food, shelter and water. I have 8 hens and 2 roosters. I have a big lot for them to roam, but I had to enclose it with a wire cover. It wasn’t cheap, but it’s a big lot.
Occasionally, I’ll let them out into the yard to eat grass, but I have to be there. We have too many hawks and varmints around.
About once a month, I spread wood shavings on the floor (I have a dirt floor in chicken house) and sprinkle a little granulated lime to control the odor. And, I throw some crushed oyster shells into the lot. Also, I have a large feeder, so I can leave them for a few days. Water freezing, however, is a problem during the winter.
Chickens need about 3 square feet per bird. I have a couple of game hens to use as brooders. Rats will kill baby chicks and eat eggs, and snakes will also eat baby chicks and eat eggs.
When snakes swallow eggs, they wrap around a bush or small tree to break the egg. One year a big black snake was eating my hen eggs. I saw him, but was not able to kill him. I placed a glass egg in one of the nests and the glass egg disappeared. The snake also disappeared. Never saw it again.
A friend found a small portable chicken house with handles. It was large enough for 2-3 hens. He placed it out in the field, close to house, and just moved it every week or so to allow his hens some fresh grass.
I just love to hear the roosters crow and I keep a few hens to make them crow.
Chickens start laying at about 6-7 months. They lay very well (depending on the breed) for 18 months or so. Then they go through a molt and don’t lay as well afterwards. That’s the age big egg producers send them to the soup factory. The average life of a chicken is 3-4 years, but I’ve had a game hen for 12 years and she was grown when I got her. She still kicks ass.
When it comes to raising chickens, buying eggs are cheaper, but store-bought eggs can be 3-4 weeks old.
By the way, I use chicken manure on my garden and yard. If you keep fresh wood shavings and a little lime in the litter, there’s not much odor.