Today, we conclude our two-part series on raising chickens! Heather “HippyHomesteader” Harris will explain what to feed those cheepy, egg-laying machines.
Again, you can find Heather at:
Food for a free ranging chicken is pretty easy, they go and scratch up what they need 90% of the time. You will still need to provide some supplementation, but it’ll be much less.
For those who are penned in all the time, feed costs will be higher. Commercial feed costs about $12 a 50lb bag in my area, and it lasts my “free ranging” flock of 10 about two months right now. You can also make your own feed, and there are recipes all over the internet on how to do that, but for me a lot of the ingredients had too high a cost to justify doing that more than once.
Of course, in the winter, when worms, bugs, and other goodies are in shorter supply, feed costs go up universally.
Water is a must at all times. If a chicken is without water for even 12 hours, it can throw off their laying of eggs by up to two whole weeks! A rainbarrel with an automatic waterer is nice for free range girls, and a heated water bowl works great in the winter.
OR, you can use an old ice cream pail or an old pot. Chickens really don’t need the fancy-schmancy water bowls. For chicks, we add a couple of pennies at the bottom of the bowl or
water dish. They see the bright shiny coins, and try to peck at it.
Thus, they really get a feel for where their water is.
And, lastly…think of lighting. Chickens need about 12 hours of
daylight to keep on laying eggs. In the summer, that is usually no
problem. But, in the winter when the days are shorter in length,
adding a small 40-watt bulb on a timer in their coop can add the
needed hours of “daylight” to keep them laying. I know some chicken keepers that do not do this, as they want their hens to have the “winter off,” and say it’s healthier for them. Maybe, but for me personally, I like to eat in the winter, too…so if they are getting feed, I need eggs from them. I haven’t had any birds die early or get sick from doing this, either.
Having chickens can be loads of fun, and they are so relaxing to watch. I like to get a chair in the evenings, as the sun is going down, and tune into some serious poultry therapy. They are social birds, and can even “bond” with their owners, making them one of the most fun pets I have ever had.
****Many thanks for sharing your expertise with us, Heather! I didn’t realize chickens needed 12 hours of daylight to lay! Any questions or comments on chicken-raisin’? Fire away!****