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Fowl by: Zechariah

Ammi with her hen Rebekah

Ammi with her hen Rebekah

In our family we swap who has chicken and turkey chores a couple times a year. The girls usually have them in the summer and the boys have them in the winter, at least at night when it is dark and we are more likely to run into something nasty. One night, quite a number of years ago, when Dad and Mom where away, we went out to shut in the chickens (that was before we had turkeys) and found, while checking for eggs, a skunk in one of the nest boxes eating the eggs. It so happened that at that time we had a black and white cat, so it took us a little while to figure out that it was a skunk not our pet cat, in the semi darkness they look remarkably similar. Thankfully it did not injure or spray anyone and it left of its own accord. However the next day it was back eating eggs again so when Dad returned that evening he had to dispose of it.

Caleb enjoys a chick.

Caleb enjoys a chick.

Around our yard we have 4 animal sheds, made from a mixture of dog houses, packing crates and miscellaneous scrap wood. Surprisingly, enough time was put into them that they don't look half bad. In the largest we keep our chickens and the second is for our turkeys when we have any. The two small ones we use as brooding pens to hold hens and their chicks while the chicks are small. We have two large fenced in areas. One is for the chickens and the other, which is around our orchard, is for the turkeys.

Zechariah introduces the chicks to outdoors.

Zechariah introduces the chicks to outdoors.

"We feed our chickens (and turkeys) mainly on corn, with some chicken feed (which has a higher protein level than corn). We also send out all our table scraps and any food that spoils before use. Chickens need calcium supplement to make strong egg shells,so we take old egg shells and grind them up (so the chickens won't recognize them as eggs) and mix in ground clamshell. Chickens also need aggregate for their gizzards so they can grind up their food." Jeremiah

Fuzz is being replaced by feathers.

Fuzz is being replaced by feathers.

We get our corn from a local farmer by the hundred pound sack. This is not only much cheaper than buying it pre-cracked but it also last much longer whole. Because it comes whole we have to crack it before feeding it to our birds. For this we use an old electric leaf shredder we got at the dump and welded a grate in. It does not go very fast but it is all we have at this time. We have also used a larger chipper shredder which made it go a lot faster and produced a much nicer end product.


Chickens

Mother hen trains her chicks.

Mother hen trains her chicks.

We have mail ordered chicks several times over the years but usually we hatch our own in the Spring when we have broody hens. We try to hatch about five new hens a year (which is about 12 new chicks) so that our laying population is replaced about every four years. Sometimes, however, we do not have broody hens for several years, then we have to buy more chicks to replenish our flock. Our flock is kept at about twenty hens and one rooster to provide us with the eggs that we need. They give us anywhere from zero eggs a week in the winter to fifteen eggs a day in the summer. When we have plenty of eggs we freeze some for when the hens stop laying. Getting the eggs each evening is the responsibility of the person locking the chickens in, but if throughout the day someone needs eggs and we are out they will go out and check for more themselves.

Adolecence.

Adolecence.

We have not only had laying hens but also Cornish meat birds. The meat birds grew very fat and had health problems, I guess those two go together naturally. We kept them all summer and butchered them in the fall. After growing turkeys we decided not to grow chickens for meat anymore because the turkeys stayed much healthier.

Turkeys

A turkey chick.

A turkey chick.

We have grown turkeys twice. Each time we got about six in the spring and butchered them that fall around Thanksgiving. They required more care than the chickens but grew to 40-60lbs. We fed them the same as the chickens.

Turkeys do not seem to be as smart as chickens so we had to herd them into their house every night all summer long, whereas chickens will transition to a new place to sleep in a night or two. This took lots of time so I guess that it sort of makes up for their being healthier. We soon learned that they fly very well and that they love tomatoes because they flew out of their pen and got into our tomato patch, destroying all of them that were even turning red. They gobbled them up and swallowed the small ones whole.

Our turkey - Thanksgiving dinner.

Our turkey - Thanksgiving dinner.

Turkeys do seem to be more personable than many other birds as they would follow us around when we went outside and fly out of there pen each night and come stand on our back porch waiting to be let in! They never succeeded but they would still try! By the late fall the Toms would start fluffing up and strutting around, holding their breath (they turn blue in the face) and gobbling. Sometimes it would get down right noisy with three or four of them all competing.


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