House cleaning is like stringing beads with no knot at the end of the thread.

"Usually the Lord gives us the overall objectives to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but he expects us to work out most of the details and methods." -Ezra Taft Benson-

Monday, April 1, 2013

True Free Ranging Chickens

Oh my goodness, I was looking out the window and noticed a light colored circle in the back yard. I am not permitted to rake or much of anything right now. I hate confinement. What a pain in the arse. BUT, I know my chickens have been busy turning up the moss..

If you notice the lighter colored area, that is all moss. Just after I noticed the circle a few minutes ago, all of a sudden 8 hens and the rooster came running over to it. So I got a few shots of them working. I love it!
I could watch the chickens working for hours. They are funny. They will get all excited about one area and be there for a while. Then wander off, then like a ADHD person, remember it and come running back to a spot.
This is our white silkie rescue rooster. Yes a bantam, but he seems to be servicing ok, according to DH. That is one of his hens that will snuggle with him at night.

So I should probably tell the reason why my chickens free range. Aluminum. What?! Aluminum in their commercial feed. WHAT?!?!  YUP. I had some blood work done last year and they found my aluminum levels dangerously high. Well after I did some investigating online, I discovered a family in Utah suffering from aluminum poisoning also. Turns out, they linked it to the eggs they were eating. Their chickens were not let out, they were only fed bagged feed. Well, their feed was tested and turns out it has aluminum in it. AND the FDA has approved this practice!
As most know, whatever an animal eats, that is what is in its meat. .or in this case meat and eggs. Well, I didn't have to worry about eggs during winter as they stop laying for 2 months, but during this time, we finished using up our feed in bag and as usual still gave them kitchen scraps. And we kept them cooped during winter due to all the rain. Wet chickens are pathetic and they take shelter where they can find it when it rains hard, including on my front porch! YUCK!  I don't like chicken shiz. It stinks, it sticks, and it is slippery!

So, when the feed was gone, I started giving them some of my grains that seemed to be starting to turn a little rancid. And yes, still giving them chickens scraps daily. They actually liked this better! They started eating better, had more energy, and started scratching more.

Finally the rains let up enough to let them out. They followed me as I shook the grain container, and we went to a mossy patch somewhere on the property where I would sprinkle the grain. And they would find every morsel, and bugs and other fun things to eat. Including WEEDS!!  Hurray!! The best part? The eggs have rich dark orange yolks, and the eggs taste amazing! The flavor is just amazing!

Chickens love to forage. Really they do, and they get all excited when you turn a log over for them. My goodness, they all dive in! The one downside to free ranging is if you have inexperienced hens, they will lay in the yard and cover their egg to keep it safe. Fortunately with this group of 3 year olds, they run to the hen house and lay there. BUT....
The new ones won't have that luxury. Well, they will, BUT they will be in a tractor for their first summer/fall. Why? Because they lay and cover the eggs. These guys will have to learn to use the nest box. Which we will provide in their tractor. This is simply done with a covered cat litter box. Chickens like to lay in a dark quiet spot, so the covered litter box with bedding in it is perfect. AND this way we don't have to carefully rake where they were tractored to in order to collect eggs.

We are excited for our replacement flock. The one above is a california white. They are popular in Canada for their winter laying. So I am excited. Although with most chickens their first year, they still lay in winter. These are white eggers. We haven't done white eggers before. We always have Americaunas which lay green eggs, and then some sort of brown eggers as well. This year we are doing Americaunas, Buff Orpingtons (dual purpose) and California Whites. I am hoping one of the buffs is a rooster so we can hatch out our own chicks for meat. But we'll see. I don't want to order meat only breeds because I want the eggs too. We go through a lot of eggs here.

Trying to be self sustaining is hard, you have to sustain it! Gardens, animals, home.. wow.. but you know, if my ancestors could do it without power.. I can definitely do it with power, and then if I have to, I can do it  without. Either way, it makes me much more comfortable knowing how to do what I am learning.

We have been doing chickens for 12 years now. WOW, 12 years!! I have butchered chickens, I have cooked chicken, and we have collected hundreds and hundreds of eggs. And we love it!

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