Raising Chickens: Survival Method for the Unemployed or Others who just want to be Self-Sufficient

English: An A-frame chicken coop in a Portland...

Image via Wikipedia

Image via Wikipedia

Raising Chickens:

Survival Method for the Unemployed or Others who just want to be Self-Sufficient

Well today I bartered one puppy for 25 chickens.  I got 2 five month old Rhode Island Reds, 14 six-week old Silver Lakenvelders, 3 two week old Buffs, and 6 one week old Dark Rhode Island Reds. I had several unused wire dog kennels, so I figured if they’ll keep a dog in, they’ll keep them out too, so I made the chickens a new home out of them.  I used several small plastic kennels to make them nesting areas inside the wire kennels and put fresh pine straw in them to nest in.  Square plastic buckets such as cat litter comes in also makes good nesting spots.  I topped the kennels with old shower curtains to keep the rain and wind out as well.  I still had chickens in the morning, so I guess my plan worked.  Otherwise Sasha and Shep would have gotten a mighty good tasty meal and I’d be out one good puppy. Anyway, I’ve done some research to find out how to care for my new babies.  So here is what I found out.

The domestic chicken is adapted for living on the ground, where it finds its natural foods like worms, insects, seeds, and grasses. The feet are naturally designed for scratching the earth. The large, heavy body and short wings make most breeds able to fly only short distances, but they can and will fly over fences. Usually a covered and enclosed chicken coop is safest to raise your chickens in. If an uncovered fenced area is used their wings must be clipped to about 1/2 their normal length on at least one side to keep them in the fenced area.  And make sure there is nothing they can hop up on to jump over the fence as well.  You need to also make sure there are no predators in the area that can get to them.

Only eight to ten weeks are needed to produce a broiler size chicken and six to seven months to produce a laying hen. The male chickens are usually raised until about 10 to 12 weeks old and then used for meat. You don’t want too many roosters or you’ll have a deadly cock fight on your hands. Most hens can now lay well over 200 eggs a year.  Hens will naturally lay their eggs on the ground, in tall grass or weeds unless provided with a nesting area. Once in a while, domestic hens will become broody and stop laying eggs and want to sit on their nests and hatch chicks. The incubation period for hatching is about three weeks. The baby chicks are covered with down and are able to run around immediately. Although they are able to feed themselves, newly hatched chicks can survive about a week without eating, subsisting on egg yolk that is included in the abdomen, which enables them to be shipped some distances.

You can buy your chicken feed at most Feed stores or Farm supply stores.  Baby chicks need medicated chick starter with 20 -22% protein for the first eight weeks of life.  After that switch to an 18 % grower ration.  Then at 16 weeks switch to a 16% complete layer ration.  Some people begin to feed some grain on the side at this time, but it’s not recommended because this lowers their protein intake.  If your chickens are range fed, they’ll feed themselves what they need.

Chickens need about one square foot per bird when growing and two square feet per bird when grown to full size.  When young they need about 2” feeder space and 1” watering space per chick and 3” feeder space and 2” watering space when grown.  When you first get your chicks, mix ¼ cup sugar in one gallon of water and give only this for the first hour then add their feed.

Chicks need 2-3” of bedding of wood chips or pine straw to help keep them warm and should be kept at 95º for the first week or so.  Drop the temperature about 5º each week or so depending on the weather.  When you get to 70º keep it there until no longer needed.  If it’s cold when you get your chicks, surround the area with cardboard or hay bales to help keep them warm. Old used corrugated street signs work well, too. Use a heat lamp with a 100 watt bulb at first and then bring the watts down as needed. One bulb should be sufficient for 25 to 50 chicks.

Lastly make sure the area is predator safe or your chicks will be expensive meals for predators. A chicken coop that is fully enclosed is best.  But be assured, dogs can and will chew through chicken wire, as I found out to my dismay last year.  This year I was doubly safe and put chicken wire all around the wire fenced area that they are in, just incase I have any escapees.   The old dog kennels seem to be working out well, as no dogs have gotten to them yet.  But one thing I found out the last time I tried this was that if the kennels are rolled over the bottoms have larger spaces for animals to get through and catch the chicks.  I found some strong steel links at the Feed and Seed Store and put two cages with their bottoms together to solve this problem, so I believe they are now dog tight.

One other problem is that if the chicks are too small for the kennel, they can squeeze through the openings between the bars.  One way to fix this is to weave 24” chicken wire through the bars of the kennel and that should solve the problem.  Make sure to use 1” wire if your chicks are very small.  Using smaller kennels for smaller chicks and larger kennels for larger chickens also helps. After topping the kennels with old shower curtains, I used the black plastic trays from the bottoms to make roofs on the kennels to protect from weather and put them all in a row against one side of the hose for added protection from weather and predators. Be sure that there is no water runoff into the area or you’ll have wet dead chickens. Lining them up keeps them from being easily turned over by predators. So if my chicken experiment works this time I’ll be on my way to self-sufficiency in spite of being unemployed.

To learn how to slaughter rabbits see this video.

If you liked this article, you might like my books

Charming Chicks, Homesteading Hens, and Ruling Roosters [Kindle Edition]

Chicken book cover








Kimberly M. Hartfield 


Living on the Wild Side which is now avail;able on Kindle

About mamaheartfilled

I am a mother of eight wonderfully challenging children and fourteen grandkids, of whom I am very proud. I am also a bi-vocational ordained evangelical minister, and a Christian Counselor. I received my B.S. degree in 2004, studying primarily in the areas of Psychology, with minors in Religion and English. I received my Masters Degree in 2009 in Psychological Counseling with an emphasis in Christian Counseling. I have endeavored to paraphrase the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. It is my hope that it will be of some use in the great commission of Christ. My ministry is primarily geared toward victims of sexual and domestic violence, including victims of childhood sexual abuse, whether currently or in the past. Since I have personally experienced the healing hand of God in overcoming many of the life issues that Christians may face, I feel qualified and compelled to discuss them in a truthful and open manner, as God’s word tells us that “We shall know the truth and the truth shall set us free.” God has brought me through such diverse tribulations as sexual, physical, and mental abuse, being a victim of a drunk driving accident, spousal pornography addiction, adultery, divorce, remarriage, a very brief, though unjust, incarceration, and having experienced multiple miscarriages and various other trials. I have been asked to leave two Southern Baptist Churches, due to my being a female, ordained as a minister, and fired from a SBC sponsored Christian School (mostly white) for speaking out against racial prejudice in the Family of God. Through God’s merciful forgiveness of my own sins and inadequacies and God’s grace given to me to forgive those who have been a stumbling block to me, I have overcome many of these adversities. God’s word tells us that “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to the purposes of God." Since I have this hope, I believe that God has blessed me with the ability to confront and relate these issues to the Christian community around the world. I hope to be able to use my personal experiences as a ministry of God’s grace and in the comforting of the people of God with the truth of God's mercy. I claim II Corinthians 1: 3 & 4 as my calling, which states: “Blessed be God, the Origin of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Origin of mercies, and the God of comfort; who comforts us in all our troubles, that we may be able to comfort those who are in trouble, by the comfort we ourselves have been given by God.” As I have received the gift of God’s healing, I hope to be able to bring the peace beyond understanding to others with the message of God’s mercy and grace. My love for the Sovereign Lord of my life, Jesus Christ, along with my passion for writing has drawn me to explore these commonly experienced crisis issues from the perspective of my own experience in the hope that I may bring an empathetic and compassionate insight to God’s people. I am now a published author and have several books in publication, including my autobiography, "A Little Redneck Theology." The views expressed in my writings are strictly my own insights, acquired from personal experience and diligent study of the related topics and God’s word concerning them. Though I am an ordained minister, my views should not be considered authoritative. I believe that the Christian community’s ultimate authority is the guidance of the human heart by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
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6 Responses to Raising Chickens: Survival Method for the Unemployed or Others who just want to be Self-Sufficient

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  5. pobept says:

    Hint: Place your broody hen in a wire bottom cage raised off the ground allowing cool air to enter the cage from the bottom. I use a old rabbit cage. Keep the hen in this cage 3 to 5 days or until she lays an egg then return her to the flock.
    Welcome to the world of being sufficient and living well for less


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