Chickens & A Full Schedule

Phew!!! Life sure can get crazy and consuming.

I currently have a lot of obligations on my plate with work and other time consuming commitments which has lead to a big slow down in blogging. I have 5 blogs started but none are finished as of yet much like the other small projects I have going on. This seems to happen every spring, weather warms up, work gets much busier and it’s hard to keep up with day to day commitments. Unfortunately, I even take a break from the food bank in the late spring until early fall as I’m so busy I just don’t have the extra time to spare.

I have some exciting things coming up in my very near future. I had a recycled paint company read my blog and give me an amazing opportunity to use their paint on a DIY project, which I’ll be starting asap. I’m just thrilled to be given this amazing opportunity to do a project and then to blog about it. Like I’m some kind of a professional reviewer or something. I’m clearly not but I’m still so happy about this opportunity. What?? Really?? Me? Wow!! I’m just getting through quarter end with work, then I will start the cabinet I plan to redo. This paint company has done some AMAZING things with our left over paints and have made their business a zero waste manufacturing facility. Wow right?!! But I’ll fill you in on all that when I blog my DIY cabinet do-over. Coming soon!

We’ve also just decided to get backyard chickens for our own eggs and eventually work up to supply us with meat. I don’t wear shady sunglasses when it comes to ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ labels and I completely acknowledge it still isn’t a pretty picture for the animals grown for human consumption. I know for ‘organic’ chickens the label doesn’t represent much more than a feed and life without antibiotics here in Ontario (Chickens and Pigs are hormone free in Ontario, with beef cattle still approved for hormones – not milk cattle), however, the standards of care are still deplorable and should be questioned.

Regardless of the labelling ‘organic’ or ‘natural’, chickens typically are still over crowded in big barns with barely any room to move as they grow to term.  The chickens aren’t kept in poultry cages which is good, but the crowding for a profit is still less than ideal.  The practice of castration still takes place, often without a sedative (can’t give drugs to an organic chicken), and beak clipping is still happening way too often. When chickens are JAMMED into an area without sufficient room roam and do what is natural for them, pecking and fighting happens. Beak clipping keeps each bird safer and less harm to other birds, but it’s still a barbaric and painful process for them to endure.

From my research the death rate of organic and natural chickens is higher than farms that use antibiotics in their feed.  The increase in death is due to the organic/natural policing of not giving antibiotics to the sick chickens. Chickens get sick because the barns are jammed full and aren’t cleaned out and sanitized until all the chickens are hauled off to slaughter. Typically there are thousands of chickens in one barn (barn size dependent of course) and that is a lot of poop which produces ammonia and bacteria.  Too many chickens succumb to lung and other illnesses and they die a terrible slow death.

In a more natural environment chickens scratch their litter and poop and help break it down. With the deep litter method I plan to use, important microbes grow to keep the ammonia under control and this also keeps the chickens healthier.

This labelling of organic and natural also heavily advertises access to fresh air leaving us with the image of chickens outside in a grassy environment. Access to fresh air simply mean fans get turned on and/or barn doors get opened but still containing the chickens indoors. Access to sunlight is either through skylights, windows and/or open barn doors. The image we have with the label organic and natural is of happy clean feathered chickens forging and scratching in a green rolling pasture, but unfortunately it usually isn’t the case. Absolutely, there are some small family run farms that practice in what I would consider a true organic and natural terms, but let me assure you this is not the norm for typical organic and natural labelled chickens.

For years I have wanted chickens and with 23 acres why wouldn’t I have them right? I know the chicken caring etc., will primarily be my responsibility which is why I had to make sure I was willing and able to take on the work load. For a few years I homeschooled my son and we were so busy with his sports etc., that adding care of chickens to my list was too overwhelming. Flyp now is in high school and Einstein works a lot, like I mean 7 days a week, 12 hour days. Ahhh, the joys of having a small business. Anyways, they don’t want to add to their already long days the day to day care of chickens, but will help out when needed of course. So getting chickens had to be all about me. I’m ready.

I also wanted to make sure that I could take care of the chickens the absolute best of my ability, give them everything they need to have a happy healthy life. I take ownership of animals very seriously. I also wanted to make sure that I could take on the mentally of these farm animals to have a purpose and are not going to be my pets. I love animals and had to reset my ways, so that when the birds are done laying eggs (years from now) that they will be culled and consumed. Yikes!! Might be the dogs dinner, but either way, the chickens have a purpose here; Compost, eggs and be happy and healthy!!

Once I get the handle on my egg laying chickens and how to keep them happy, the plan is to add the meat breed to the flock, hopefully by the fall.

We have a shed that we are turning into a coop and building a 10′ long x 6’wide x 6′ tall screened in area for them. We have an old screen door we will be reusing to put on the screened in area so I can easily get in, I just need to replace the screen on the door with some sturdy wire for their protection. They will free range when I am home, but we do have raccoons and coyotes in the surround areas, so if I am going to be out for the day at least my girls can be in the screened in area doing their thing. We will add nesting boxes and a roost to the inside of the shed. I’m hitting Habitat For Humanity Reuse Store in a few towns over this weekend, to buy a few windows for their shed and hopefully find a skylight. I am also picking up sand and we have a big old garden wagon that we’re taking wheels etc off to make them a sand bathtub. I will be using the deep litter (known as DL) method in the coop with my girls and hopefully that works as well as everyone says. I have sourced a supplier for Non-GMO, soy free feed for my chickens and I plan on them also eating plenty of kitchen scraps as well.

The breed I’ve chosen is Plymouth Rocks. I decided to get only this one breed for now as I’ve seen online they can be bossy with other smaller breeds of chickens, plus these girls are hardy for our winters and will lay eggs with enough sunlight during the winter months. Most breeds of chickens slow down and even stop after moulting for the coming winter season. Plymouth Rocks are also known for being friendly, great with dogs and other farm animals and people. Plus plus plus. Now to train the dogs to not see live chickens as dinner and not make the connection that their carcass they eat everyday is that live moving feathered animal over there scratching up the lawn, this will be the real challenge ahead of me. I’ll have to put a light on a timer to come on at approx. 5 am during the winter months if I want eggs, but that’s all minimal in my opinion. I also decided I didn’t want 1-2 day old chicks, too much babysitting and work. I’m getting 5 Plymouth Rocks at 6 weeks of age, and they arrive May 19th. We have a lot of work to do for their arrival. I’ve definitely done my homework, after all it’s been 3 years in the making.

I will make Einstein eat the first few eggs, as I will be nervous and worried I will crack open a fury chick. LOL!! Einstein is great for being tested on, like when I got my needle pen for testing blood glucose, I used Einsteins fingers to figure out which setting is best. HAHA! What a good sport eh??

I’m looking forward to starting my DIY re-do cabinet and blogging all about it. I hopefully can start this weekend if the weather is suitable. I’ll have to paint the cabinet outside on the deck, so it can’t be raining or excessively windy – bugs will stick to it. I’m not a clean painter, so the best place is the deck for me. I’ll also blog about the shed to coop transformation and I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of crazy chicken stories for the first little bit. I’m giddy for my girls to arrive and I’m sure I’ll love them like a pet. I see tears in my future.

I’m off into my day and it’s going to be a long busy one, so the sooner I get at it the better!!

Cheers,

Sandy

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