Raising Chickens: It Really CAN Be All It’s Cracked Up to Be

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I began raising chickens for eggs and meat in 2014. By 2019, I had developed a routine of what I ordered when. I had a set time of year for when I would order chicks. In 2020, when I set out to order my late-summer batch of birds, I realized I would have to wait more than a month later than usual. Every hatchery I looked at had sold out.

When I went to our local hardware store to talk to the employees about their chick sales, they confirmed what the New York Times had written in the article America Stress-Bought All the Baby Chickens. People were snatching up chicks as fast as they could in the midst of lockdown. They turned to baby chicks last year for the same reasons they turned to gardening and home cooking. A combination of boredom, irregular stocking of grocery stores, and the need for activities to keep children busy led to massive amounts of people buying baby chicks.

While in general, I think any project that brings people closer to the natural world is a good thing, chickens are a responsibility. I am concerned about how many people bought baby birds without doing the necessary research.

Are you interested in starting your own little home flock?

If you are considering raising chickens, here are some things worth keeping in mind. For a good overview of maintaining healthy birds in general, I strongly recommend Gail Damerow’s Chicken Health Handbook. She has useful, detailed information on bird health and some handy charts that can help troubleshoot various issues. It’s a great resource to have on hand.

Depending on your climate, you will probably need to keep chicks inside most of the time until their adult feathers come in, at about five weeks. That may change if you have a larger quantity of birds. But in general, I’ll assume people will start with a little backyard flock of four to six birds.

Before you buy chicks, go to the hardware store where chicks are sold and look at how they set up the areas where they keep the birds. The stores near me usually have a round watering tank, with wood shavings in the bottom and a heat lamp.

Decide what works best for you and set it up before you buy the chicks

Cages can work well, but the round watering tank has some specific advantages. The solid sides keep heat in, and the round shape makes it impossible for a baby bird to wedge itself in a corner. Of course, if you also have a pet cat inside your house, as I do, you’ll need to cover the top. I have a chicken wire piece I’ve cut to the correct size and placed that over the top so my cat can’t start any trouble.

Be sure you are diligent about keeping the babies warm. In the past, I’ve placed a birdcage inside a huge cardboard box to help retain heat, which worked well. I cut the top off the box to observe the birds easily. That also helps airflow and prevents fires from the heat lamp. Having the sides of the box surround the cage helped keep the birds warm. Here’s some more information on raising baby chicks on a budget.

Where will you keep them when they get old enough to go outside?

You will need to plan where you will keep them outside when they are old enough. How you design your outdoor coop depends significantly on your climate and your predator load. Where I live, the birds of prey are so plentiful and aggressive that you must have a completely enclosed chicken run. One of my friends keeps birds in town and had part of his run knocked in at the top during a storm. Hawks grabbed every one of his chickens within the day.

Farm supply stores often sell chicken coops. Or, if you’re a little handy, you can always build one yourself. There are plenty of free plans posted online. Here is a guide that I found straightforward and easy to navigate: Chicken Coop Plans.  Daisy has a plan from her California homestead where she used an old swingset as the basis of her coop.

Choosing to run lights in the winter is a personal preference. I never have. My little homestead only has 100 Amps, and I need to save my electricity for my house and freezers. Additional eggs in the wintertime aren’t worth it to me. Many people do put a light in the coop, and the birds will produce more eggs if they have that extra light. The hormones that stimulate eggs are triggered by light, not heat. Even if it’s quite cold, birds can still produce eggs if they have artificial light.

Where can I find more information about raising animals in my area?

Online forums can be beneficial in finding out what’s appropriate for raising animals in your area. Facebook used to be an excellent place for this, but after PETA bought stock in Facebook in 2019, they made it impossible to buy or sell animals. Many people posting about homesteading projects related to animal husbandry found themselves booted from Facebook due to violating “community standards.” (I left Facebook last year.)

Many people have shifted to MeWe to discuss animals and much more. The Organic Prepper recently made the move to MeWe to share informative posts on prepping, current events, survival skills, and more. Daisy also has a group called Prep Club on MeWe and a forum on her own platform for sharing information and asking questions. More experienced homesteaders can buy and sell; if you’re looking to get some information, you can observe and ask questions. If you don’t want to use social media, I would strongly suggest trying to see what people in your area do regarding housing and predator protection.

When prepping for your setup, choose knowledge over convenience

Ordering everything online has become very common. However, if you are a newbie, I strongly recommend physically going to a farm store to talk to others and observe their setup. I grew up in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area and would have had to drive for at least half an hour to get to a farm supply store. I know ordering online is so much easier. But there’s no substitute for a conversation with an experienced person.

And if you take up the time of a sales clerk asking a lot of questions, you should probably spend some money at their store. If you try to do something worthwhile, like raise your own food, most people will respond to that and be helpful. Remember, it is essential to ask questions before buying animals that become a responsibility.

What about feeding my chickens and cleaning the coop?

You have many options when it comes to chicken feed. Plan for your animals the way you would plan for yourself, and always keep at least a few weeks’ supplies on hand. I try to re-stock while I still have a month’s worth of feed. Again, what kind you buy is mostly a matter of personal preference. Farm supply stores often carry a few different types, but if you are set on a specific kind of feed (organic, soy-free, vegetarian, GMO-free), you may have to do some digging. I have been ordering the same organic soy-free feed for years and know my feed producer. If you have a small number of birds, you may not need to have a direct relationship with the feed producer.

When it comes to cleaning the coop, you may want to build a compost area if you do not already have one. Chickens and gardening go well together as hobbies and help each other become less wasteful. Chickens will eat any bruised, bug-infested, or otherwise inedible produce from your garden. After at least six months of composting, decomposed manure and bedding make an excellent soil amendment for your vegetables.

What will you do when your chickens no longer lay eggs?

No one likes to think about it, but you need to decide what you will do when your chickens no longer lay eggs. Will you keep it as a pet? Chicken feed is not free. Or do you like chicken soup enough to learn how to turn your former egg-layer into a meal?

Keeping pets is a personal decision. I happen to love chicken soup. Some friends taught me how to process chickens. There are also some great YouTube videos out there on how to process chickens. Many of the videos involve expensive equipment that you need if you’re processing dozens or hundreds of birds. But if you are only processing one or two old egg layers, you probably only need a few very sharp knives (essential for killing a bird quickly and humanely) and a pot big enough for scalding the bird afterward to loosen up the feathers.

I can’t overstate the importance of sharp knives for processing chickens

When I first learned about processing chickens, I went to the hunting section of a sporting goods store, thinking they would have the best knives for processing animals. But when I started talking to the clerk, he told me that I should go to a culinary store (like Williams-Sonoma) to get the best knives for processing chicken.

For me, the most essential knife is the big, heavy, sharp knife you use to dispatch the chicken. A sharp, heavy knife will cut deeply and cleanly, severing the carotid and giving the bird a rapid death. I use a Wusthof chef’s knife for this, and I get it sharpened once or twice a year at my local hardware store, depending on how many birds I process that year. I also keep a small (6-inch) knife for the actual gutting. If you buy a knife from a store like Williams-Sonoma, they will often sharpen it for free once a year. I don’t live incredibly close to a Williams-Sonoma, so I pay the $5 to my local hardware store. Of course, if you are good at sharpening knives, you can do it yourself, but I do not possess that skill.

Backyard chickens can provide food, entertainment, and educational value

But, remember, they are a commitment.

If you want to get a little more hands-on about raising your food, chickens are an excellent introductory animal. More experienced homesteaders often joke that chickens are the gateway drug of homesteading. They certainly were for me. I started raising chickens as a little side-gig. Soon I found that I needed livestock guardian dogs to protect the chickens and then found out I needed hooved animals to keep the dogs happy. All I can do is laugh at myself sometimes.

I love chickens, and you may find that you do too. Just do your homework first before deciding whether or not they’re right for your home.

Are you thinking of raising chickens?

Are you planning to raise chickens yourself? Have you started already and have valuable information for others? Drop it in the comment section below. We would love your input.

About Joanna Miller

Joanna has been homeschooling three children since 2012. In 2014, she moved to the High Plains of Colorado. She and her children began a little homestead, gardening and raising chickens for eggs and meat. One animal led to another, and these days they have livestock guardian dogs, chickens, geese, ducks, alpacas, goats, pigs, and one very spoiled cat.

Picture of Joanna Miller

Joanna Miller

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  • Excellent info. My DW went to our local grocery store the other day only to find out the all of the canning supplies had bee bought. This store is in a small Southern town with many ranches near by. According to the Manager, who she knows from church, they have NEVER seen/sold out of canning supplies before. He chalked it up to the pandemic, and said ” Lots of Town People are out of work, so they have started gardens and learning to can their crops”.

    • It’s been the same in Colorado. The canning supplies were totally gone until the week after the election and since then we’ve have some, but not nearly the selection we used to have.

    • I have been watching canning jars at a local hardware store in southern California. The store is has been out jars most of the time for probably a year now. I asked someone who worked there and they said Ball tells them they are out of stock. It would appear the jars are selling faster than they can make them.

  • I use heat rocks (the kind people use for snakes, lizards and other cold-blooded reptiles) with an adjustable rheostat. I think it is better than a heat lamp, does not disrupt the chicks diurnal cycle. Cover it with puppy training pads for easy clean up. The heat rock does not get hot enough to catch anything on fire or harm the chicks.

    If you are only going to process one or two chickens, I just dry pluck vs using scalding them.

    Some people also recommend not feeding them for 12-24 hours so their digestive tract is empty in case you accidentally cut the GI tract while gutting the chicken.

    • Yes, I confine them with only water for about 12 hours before their big day as well! You must be better at dry-plucking than I am though, if I don’t scald it seems to take me an hour to pluck the birds 🙂

    • Tried both dry plucking and scalding methods. Finally settled on just skinning the chicken. Family diet had always preferred skinless chicken parts anyway.

      Concur, 12-24 hours prior to processing withhold feed. Only time I don’t observe this is when I opt not to eviscerate and butcher all edible portions of the bird (legs, thigh, breasts).

      backyardchickens.com is great source/forum for chicken raising tips and questions.

  • I had a problem with hawks taking my chickens (my chickens live inside a fence but the top is not covered). It was solved with Nite Guard reflective tape hanging from the tree branches and a fake owl on top of the fence and another on top of the coop (Hausse bird scarecrow fake horned owl).

  • We let our chickens work for us. We pen them inside our garden all winter. They eat all the weeds, till the soil and leave lots if nitrogen. We do have ti put up a bird net iver the top though or hawks eat them.

  • As I recall at the time, quite a few chicks weren’t surviving their trips to the various stores either because of shipping delays. Quite sad really.

    Back when my dad and I used to have a small flock of meat chickens, we eventually found that skinning them was simpler than trying to preserve the skin. There are plenty of ways to preserve moistness in meat without the skin, especially if they are going to be a stew bird anyway.

    Agreed about chickens and gardening being a great match! Chickens can also eat things like the whey from cheesemaking enterprises, and if you bake eggshells so they no longer smell like fresh, you can also feed them those to help build back their calcium reserves. They can be pretty noisy when grown up, especially after laying an egg, so that might be a concern if you have neighbors. (Hens make an amazing racket when they are celebrating having laid an egg and that’s even with no roosters.)

    That said, I enjoyed having chickens when I raised them. But I wouldn’t suggest it to a novice unless they had someone good to ask questions of.

  • I looked into raising chickens in our local area, and reluctantly decided against it. There are two main reasons for my decision:

    1) Feed. Most of the year in the local area there’s absolutely nothing for chickens to eat other than the feed that one gives them. Chickens then are totally dependent on their owners. In a SHTF situation, they then are one more responsibility to take care of.

    2) Predators. Any time of the day, a coyote or bobcat can come by, though they are more common at night (I’ve heard coyotes singing at night). During the day there are large hawks that individually can take down an adult chicken, though they usually hunt in packs of three though I’ve seen as many as six in a pack. At night there are owls large enough to take out an adult chicken.

    Between local responsibilities and predators, that leaves us with caged chickens for their own protection (I’ve seen a pack of hawks on a neighbor’s cage) which can never range free. For the local situation, I’ve concluded that chickens, though they might be fun, are impractical. Even so, it was a temptation. If I ever am in a different situation, I would certainly reconsider.

    Each local situation is different. This is not to discourage people from raising chickens, rather to warn that it’s not for everyone. For those who can, enjoy.

  • We have had the neighbor’s free range chickens decide that our little homestead is their permanent home. It started out 4 years ago with 3 older hens, then the neighbor was given several big roosters last year. Somehow the hens chose 1 rooster, predators eliminated the remainder.

    The hens choice has done a superb job of protecting his flock. Guardian & his ladies roam our yard & pastures, keep crickets, mice, snakes & other creepy crawlies under control, provide entertainment, companionship & occasionally eggs.

    At night Guardian takes his flock out to the barn to roost & keep my horse company.

    We have built an oval chicken pen from several 5′ tall x 16′ long horse panels. The oval shape keeps any chickens from being trapped in a corner. We are working on a secure, predator proof ‘lid’ for the pen. That will most likely use cattle panels as the framework, covered in vinyl coated wire garden fencing.

    Our climate is fairly mild here in NW Florida, so we have a cattle panel Yurt covered in tarps & a smaller A-frame coop. Eventually we plan to build a more substantial coop.

    At present, a young hen is setting a clutch of eggs in the yurt. When her chicks hatch, we will move her to the A frame coop as it is the most predator proof shelter. She & her chicks will stay in that pen until the hen is done teaching them. The chicks will stay in that pen another 2-3 months. I am hoping that they will roost & lay eggs where they have been raised.

    I have some of the NiteGuard solar powered units mounted at various heights to deter predators. I credit those little units with keeping a lot of predators away from the chickens & goats. The NiteGuard units flash all night. Mine are 2 years old & still going strong. I will be ordering more as backups from Jeffers soon.

    Lisa Steele’s Fresh Eggs Daily weekly newsletter & blog has a lot of good information on chickens.

  • I have done all the research. However, we have a purebred beagle as a pet. He does not play well with others and is very territorial. So chickens remain on the ‘some day’ list.

  • BEWARE THE RAT! Once upon a time 3 years ago I had chickens. The first batch we got were past the baby chick stage and we were assured they were hens (got them at auction). Well 4 of the 8 turned out to be roosters which we discovered when they reached puberty and began crowing. We replaced them with 4 more hens. The hen house was newly built with cinder block and concrete foundation that the building was set on but the flooring itself was dirt.
    After about a year hens started missing, and then I found a carcass. We thought maybe a fox was getting in so did all the necessary security measures to no avail. One day I mentioned the problem to a lady at church and she said, “honey, you got RATS.” I could not believe it. She told me her rat story and I went home to see if I could find any evidence. Sure enough, the rats had dug underneath the concrete/cinder block foundation into the hen house and were killing off the hens. To make sure this is what I was dealing with, I put blocks of rat posion in the outside tunnel (where the hens couldn’t get to) and next day the bait was gone. I gave the remaining few hens to a friend and loaded the hen house up with bait for the next 2 weeks to get rid of these rodents. Did not know Rats would kill chickens until then. I have seen them eat through concrete in a rental property I once owned.

    • Wow. Did not know rats would kill full-grown birds. I’ve had snakes get my babies but not rats. Learned something new. . .

  • I’ve read that raising chickens is about as much effort as having a cat. Overall, I think this is a fair assessment. Keep in mind, as the article repeatedly said, it’s a commitment. How are you going to go on vacation to the beach for a week when your animals need to be fed?

    Being a non traditionalist, for our 20th anniversary this last fall, I got my wife four chicks and a kit for brooding them. We kept them inside, in a bin with a heat lamp. We used a reptile IR lamp so they could have a night / day cycle and proceeded to raise it up each week to lower their warming temperature. When you get them, initially you need to keep them at about 105F and then decrease 5 degrees per week until they’re ready to go out in 6-8 weeks.

    We ordered ours through a hatchery and chose the sex (F) and had them shipped USPS overnight. I let the local PO know they were arriving and gave them my phone number and they called upon arrival. I unboxed them, giving them the necessary drink of warm water and put them in their bin. For the first few weeks, we did watch for pasty butt and cleaned a couple of them.

    We bought a cheap coop from warfare and it is under a car port that has a 16’x16’ (dog) kennel around it. We’re also building a bigger coop to hold about a dozen birds.

    They mostly eat chicken feed, but love vegetable scraps. You need to give the, grit once in a while too. Watering is another issue, especially in winter.

    The litter is another issue to consider. They will poop on everything and their coop / hut will need periodic cleaning. Also, you will want to consider nesting area that is separate and keep chicks out of it until they are ready to lay, which occurs at 6-8 months.

    In writing the above, I’ve intentionally referenced several things that crop up that you need to learn about, come up with a plan to deal with, etc. As was said, they are a commitment. That being, said, they’re a lot of fun, especially to watch. And yes, they are a gateway drug, I mean animal.

    Final word is that there’s a lot of You Tube videos out there with excellent information on how to get started.

  • 1. Besides the online sources and local farm store, your local Extension Office can be a good source of info on raising poultry.

    2. While a big, expensive knife might be helpful, a box-cutter with replaceable blades is sharp and easy to use to kill and bleed out a chicken. A smaller, easier to manage blade might keep you from cutting yourself when you have a knife in one hand and a flapping chicken in the other.

    3. Check with your local butcher (even at the big chain grocery stores that have a butcher). They may sharpen knives for you. Kroger would sharpen knives for free. Don’t know if they still do or not.

    4. I had a problem a few years ago with predators; hawks & owls, raccoons, foxes and possums. I ended up doing some midnight hunting to deal with the raccoons, foxes and possums. As for the hawks and owls, they are protected and killing them is a punishable offense, so you’ll have to do what you think you have to do to protect your flock. Just don’t talk about it later, no matter what your solution is. If you are in an urban or suburban area and can’t hunt with a gun, a crossbow or high-powered pellet gun can be almost as effective.

  • I’ve had chickens, ducks, and rabbits for the last 8 or 9 years. I throughly enjoy them. I had a hawk get into the first pen nearly 30 years ago. Then when we ordered chicks, rats killed them all. Didn’t try them again for years. At my last home rattle snakes were taking the eggs and kilked a few hens. Glass eggs in the nests did a number on the snakes. Here it’s dogs but i’ve build sturdy enough to discourage the dogs. I have 2 roosters and 5 hens that free range. The roos have done a good job of protecting their ladies. Im building a new pen and coop. Once its done I’ll work on catching the hens and roosters. They get along well enough I have hope hopes of penning them together. If not I’ll put one set in with the ducks. My hens that are in the old old coop do fine with new hens. I seldom but young chick’s anymore. I but pullets between 6 weeks and 4 months each year. Less work and not a lot more expensive. All the critters like fruit and veggie scraps or garden trimmings. I grown some graIn and buy the rest at a feed mill. There is some volunteer alfalfa along a community irrigation ditch. I cut that to feed fresh and dry some for winter. I sla I grow sunflowers for seed. A full flower hung in the pen is a fine toy and good food for the hens.
    I hear coyotes sing frequently but they haven’t come in the yard. Y young bear came in the yard but he didn’t like the fiesty roos and left.

  • Sorry. I would like chickens for the eggs. But I dont know how you can say you love your chickens, then slit their throat.

    • My family came from a village, and I know how village people deal with that. They do love their chickens, but the job of slitting their throat usually goes to someone that is less bothered by it. It helps that they know from the start that it has to be done… unlike people in cities, that somehow manage to ignore that the meat they eat comes from an animal. Just because you don’t see it, it doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

  • First dont get 4 get 30 why then no heat lamp bs they will huddle and self warm so long as no draft.

    Second to do that get a big tub or box we use an old beat up water container for cows 100 gallon size.

    Use a piece of wood to cover top .the holes in free water container let’s it vent.

    If its colder the chicks will grow feathers faster. You need to watch for first week for pasty bum. Have a box or divider so you can handle and check chicks every day for first week.

    Use kambucha in water it works as good as antibiotic without negative consequences. Feeding scoby is a treat thing just either leave it larger than a swallow or dice it to fine.

    If you are using heat use a regular light bulb a 100w bulb will be warm enough go down 20 watt per week unless you get a super cold spring.

    Chickens are dumb a broody chicken can be placed with 10 chicks and 80 percent of time will take it as hers and take over heat and cleaning service.

    If you have dogs make sure they are chicken safe. Most will gladly have chicken dinners.

    Rat issue use plaster mixed with sugar 50 / 50 they eat it and doe from constipation. Plaster only sets once so no worries of cat or wild life eat after. It’s way cheaper that rat poison and safer.

    If in country free range hour chickens the roosters crow a certain way to let you know about predators and will hide under cover after first few dumb ones die.

    Egg shells um you dont need to dry them just crush them if you get an egg eater just chicken soup it.

    Chicken on commercial.feed for layers burn out in about 1.5 years so you need to replace flock every year. Meat birds on commercial feed take 6 to 10 weeks.

    On natural feed it takes 6 months to reach maturity and full size.

    Use diatomaceous earth in the chicken coop a few times a year to kill any infestation of lice/mites. Dust whole place so it looks like flour explosion. This stop the problem before it starts. Also good for compsting later.

    Get ONE kind of bird do not mix bantams and full sized breeds and expect the smaller ones not to be lower in pecking order.

    Knife dont go to those stupid expensive stores like William’s Sonoma… go to a place that supplies commercial kitchen supplies get knives there you can get a good knife( handle feel in your hand) for $20 that will last a decade in a slaughter house daily use

    For those of you who have instant hot water just turn up temp to scald feathers off. If dry pluck use pinch metheod no more than you can pinch between two fingers and then pull against the direction of feathers.

    For gutting just take time do it slow speed comes with time do not rush or you get punctures in gut … you should be using bleach bath anyways go sterilize birds just rinse in clean free flow water after not a tub like some use.

    Those kill cones ect are good for high production for home kill dont waste money…when getting bird ready for kill hold it by feet upside down till it calms( blood to brain) then place lay its head on clean piece of fire wood and chop.off head. It will flap a bit and you will have a little blood spray so dont do it inside and with nice clothes on.

    Then just hang up.with twine from legs at height you can clearly see the vent on chicken. We use hay bale twine left over from the round of hay during winter.

    You need to chill chicken in a fridge for atleast an hour and it has to get to 4 celcius in that time. If you take too long to process the chickens get tough are the rigamortis cycle does not complete properly. Its cant freeze either so no using a freezer.

    If tough just pressure coke it to tender then re boil bones for 4 hours at max pressure with salt and herbs to get amazing bone broth.

    You will also notice unlike store chicken the breast bone is solid not cartilage. Chicken skin comes in different colors from different breeds so dont worry about colour differences.

    A maggot creator is great way to feed chickens but it brings predators.. our dogs take care of that mainly for us but you need to make sure you can handle stink and the attention rotting meat brings.

  • Please, please do NOT use a heat lamp for baby chicks! The rest of the info here is great, but heat lamps are dangerous and cause untold number of fires each year.
    Brooder-type heaters are so much safer, and allow the chicks to maintain their circadian rhythms as well as escape the intense heat if they don’t need it. You can get them from Tractor supply for about 40.00 and they won’t burn your house down.

  • Our poultry is considered “livestock” as opposed to “pets.” We are responsible to care for and protect them, sure, but their purpose is to feed our family, whether through eggs or meat. We usually keep 2 roosters so in case something happens to one, we still can have fertilized hatching eggs. (Zero tolerance for birds that chase kids without good reason, though.) Occasionally, we’ve also allowed an older hen earn her feed by being the training hen for the new batch of chicks – – showing them how to forage and when to go in at night. Otherwise if they stop laying or otherwise providing value, then their value is in the freezer.
    I also happen to think it’s very good for my kids to both understand the responsibility of raising livestock, and to have a clear understanding of where their food comes from. Two lessons plenty of adults don’t comprehend. 😉
    In choosing poultry my criteria are:
    * Friendly / calm around kids
    * Heritage breeds that can reproduce and have some foraging instincts
    * Able to handle both winters and hot weather
    * Decent amount of eggs but also dual purpose for meat

    We’ve found Orpingtons, Australorps, Cochins, Buckeyes, Sussex, and Brahmas fit our criteria well.

  • Oh my, how I loved my four hens. In a past house, I was able to keep four beautiful and funny mixed breed hens as egg layers and pets. They spent their chickhood in my den in a large birdcage so if I ever left the backdoor open they would run in and jump up on the table where the cage used to be! Funny birds. I built them a coop that only good sized bears could open and allowed them to free range only when we could watch them. We had enough eggs for us and to give away. The blue green Easter Eggers were always a hit. Friends couldn’t believe they weren’t dyed.

    I was bed bound for six months after a bad accident. My wife would get one of the girls, put her in my lap and she’d settle down and sit with me for awhile. (A garden fresh strawberry encouraged her) A healthy happy hen is a cool creature and not nearly as dumb as people think.

    I miss those girls.

  • 5/18/ 2022. I’m enjoying 25 new pollets this Spring. A mix of varieties plus 6 that are home hatched by a friend from her 4 varied kinds of chickens. They are flowing up fast. The oldest one should be laying eggs in late July to August. The next batch by late August to September. The odd ball mixed bunch are younger laying varirties and could start in July. The youngest they may start first. Also their average life span is 2 years while the others often I’ve to 4 or 5 years but laying does slow after 2 years. My rooster here is an astralorp. Since the eggs are are a major source of protein i don’t mind if some get broody every year. Excess roos become soup. Old hens stew up best. A few months old are the best fryers.
    I hold a chicken by its feet till it settles, lay its head on a chopping block and swing my hatchet. Quick. I don’t pluck. My wrist it too weak since surgery. A good skinning knife suits me fine for cleaning. Hatchet for legs at the “knee”. The knife easily disjoints the wings and legs.

  • About Knife Sharpening.
    Over 50 years of sharpening for myself and for customers gives me a perspective on knives, their quality, what works well – and what does not.
    Knife sharpening is not difficult nor mysterious. It requires some coordination and a certain amount of tenacity.
    It amuses me when people over-buy cutlery – especially when they fall for designer names or infomercials with a slick presenter slicing over ripe tomatoes with a flick of the wrist.
    A friend (Mike) was a trapper who skinned over (2,000 coyotes one year) with a one knife. A knife brand that many would consider marginal at best. Note, hair dulls knives very quickly.
    The reason Mike used that knife brand was the metal was not so hard it took hours and special equipment to re-sharpen.
    One of my suppliers from a famous knife company once said, “The cheapest knife can have the best steel – the difference is in blade design and workmanship.”
    If you watch sharpening videos they will use all types of instruments from stones to sharpening steels to diamond lapping devices, to electric powered sharpeners and nearly all claim to have “the way”. Most of these are expensive and/or tedious to use.
    I do not get any compensation for recommending their product but a suggestion about a tool for those who would like to sharpen their own:
    A company in Texas “AccuSharp International – (www.accusharp.com) makes a hand held sharpener that can be used to keep the edges up to par – between pro tune ups. Accusharps are relatively inexpensive – less than 15 bucks.
    Follow the instructions exactly and you will be amazed at how well these work.
    Also don’t buy the cheap Chinese copies – they don’t work nearly as well.

  • Hi Joanna! I’m a 73 year old “flower-child” from the 60’s. Like so many of us flower children….we wanted to get back to Mother Nature…..so right after getting married at 21 and 19….we got a care taking gig up the California coast near Valley Ford in Sonoma, California. Since you didn’t mention one of the most difficult parts of raising chicken…..slaughtering them…..so I’m taking a couple minutes out of my busy life as an expat in very rural Esaan, Thailand (where I’ve been over 28 years now) to share something you may well already know but didn’t mention. I learned this from some very dear old Portugese farmers who helped us out a whole lot as we were learning about getting “back to nature”. If one ties the chicken’s legs together and then hangs them upside down for several minutes….all their blood rushes to the head…..and the main artery get very engorged and sticks out thus becoming very easy to see. One quick “slit” with a sharp knife……stand back and let the chick flop around as the blood leaves its body!!! I’ve tried chopping their head off (YuK) but this hanging upside down first for several is the most “humane” I’ve ever done. The bird goes into a sort of a trans when all the blood is in their heads!!!! Congratulations for getting out of the city and “back to nature” Joanne and Family!!! Many Blesings Upon Your Journey!!! Rollee Rolstone

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