Guide to Raising Chickens at Home – The Ethical Way

guide-to-raising-chickens-at-home-the-ethical-way

Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise; and maybe a little unusual, too.  

There does seem to be merit in the old adage when you consider the benefits of enough sleep, an active lifestyle and less time used to spend your money on worthless entertainment until the early hours of the morning.  

Even the people who hate “morning people” cannot dismiss the fact that daylight hours are more productive when we get up and go, after a healthy breakfast, obviously.

One way to help you move towards this healthier state of being an early riser who eats healthy breakfasts is to become a fitness fanatic with several alarm clocks and a green smoothie machine.  

The other much more practical and enjoyable way is to raise chickens at home. Call it a stab at becoming a free-range poultry farmer.

To be honest, to house chickens (or layer hens, specifically) you do not actually need to include a prancing, crowing rooster sitting on your roof before sunrise, but why not?  

The rooster rounds things off, keeps the hens in check, drops iridescent tail feathers to adorn your latest cap fetish and always looks beautiful with his multi-colored body sparkling in the sunlight.

Clucking, brooding hens, on the other hand, are essential if to producing plenty of nutritious eggs (and taking advantage of free pest control around the garden).  

The hens add a lovely touch around the home, especially where children are involved.

They provide lessons in caring for the environment and a great example of paying attention to detail, as they eradicate pesky locusts and other creeping things from your flowering plants.

Raising chickens is rewarding in many, many ways; especially seeing those hens pecking away at the ants in the quiet of the early morning.  

What a wonderful experience raising chickens alongside children, while enjoying the delicious produce on a daily basis. Hens also provide fresh, home-grown eggs (organic and free-range if you are so inclined).  

Eggs have got to be one of the most versatile animal proteins there are, lending themselves to awesome breakfasts, professional baking, binding, fluffing and even medicinal application (using egg whites on burns!).  

Here are some considerations before you begin raising chickens at home:

Free-range Days Only

Chickens need the stability of a home roost, the same as humans do.  

They cannot see well enough to fight off dangers that may lurk in the darkness – whether in a suburban or a rural setting.

It is all very well to let them loose to enjoy their freedom during the day, but at night, there are predators and icy winds which threaten survival. Keep them safe and warm to live another day.

Garbage in, Garbage out

A valid concept in most areas of life, garbage-in-garbage-out applies wholeheartedly to the diet of your layer hens.  

Be sure to feed them according to the kind of eggs you would like to eat yourself. Growth hormones will not only artificially enhance your poor hen’s natural state but will transfer straight into the egg product which you, your children and your community will be consuming.  

Be wise in the feed you provide. Stick with healthy, nutritious meals for your hens (they will be happier and you will be healthier).

Nature’s surprises

Like any pets, domesticated chickens need a firm, caring hand and occasional medical attention.  

Be aware of the little growths and “mold-like” substances which may appear on their beaks and legs, preferably catching early warning signs before it spreads to the whole flock.  

Also, consider the impact of chickens on your other pets.  Will your dog or cat be in trouble for eating a hen (or raiding the egg coop)?

They are only following their natural instincts, protecting their owner and taking advantage of the abundance of food items.   

You may need to introduce the pets to the chickens in a more humane way (like keeping the chickens locked up for a while until the dog understands they are not a threat or a snack).

If you do take on a rooster, it will be noisy, territorial and most likely quite aggressive at times – are you prepared for this intrusion into your personal space?  If not, leave him on the farm.

Mother knows best

Finally, there’s nothing fiercer than a mother hen, defending her chicks from the evils of the world.  

No less her eggs. To lessen the blow of her losing yet another (unfertilised) egg, set up the coop and laying boxes so you can remove the eggs quietly and out of sight.  

It will decrease the strain on the hen, and protect your forearms from angry pecking tantrums each morning.

The eggs will come when the hens are happy – daily, most likely.  If there is a rooster and you leave a couple of eggs to incubate, some adorable fluffy chicks may also pop out a few weeks later.

The plethora of chicken breeds lends itself to an abundance of choices according to your tastes and circumstances.  

Additionally, chickens provide hours of entertainment with their funny mannerisms and incessant quarreling over tasty morsels.  

It is certainly a boost to self-esteem to see an entire flock of hens running to greet you at the gate when you come home (even if they only see you as a meal ticket before bedtime).

Fun Fact:

Chickens are omnivores. They’ll eat seeds and insects but also larger prey like small mice and lizards. (From the Smithsonian Mag)