Don’t confuse chickens are “hard” to raise chickens with chickens are “expensive” to raise…
In reality chickens are not any more difficult than most other things things around your homestead. Sure it takes some effort to get it right but this is what you do. Now the amount you can spend on feed will make you wonder if $30 for a dozen eggs is worth it… of course it isn’t! So lets look at some tips to reduce costs and have the chickens lend a wing doing some odd jobs around the homestead.
Food for Less If most of your dedicated chicken space is inside the pen, use some raised grazing boxes. Simply create a small enclosed area by standing some scrap wood on its side and nailing together. Fill it with a growing mix and then put some hardware cloth (metal screening) over the top and secure. Plant a variety of seeds and grains that will grow up through the wire cloth and now you have a scratch proof feeder!
You can grow feed yourself if you have the room. Most any greens do well. Any tomatoes you deem unfit, like the bug filled ones will be happily devoured. Don’t be afraid to give your chickens some of the kitchen scraps in addition to their feed. Why compost it when the chickens can enjoy it and it saves you money!
Chicken Labor Use your chickens for Springtime garden preparation. Add any natural amendments to the ground and they will distribute it for you all while knocking down weeds and eating bugs. If you want to spread compost, they will do that too and have a great time eating the bugs and grubs they find there.
Towards the end of growing season, take the fallen leaves and trimming and toss them into the chicken pen and they will have fun making you finely shredded plant waste with fresh manure blend. Don’t forget to set it aside for a month so you don’t burn your plants with their fresh manure.
Land preparation can be made easier by moving the chickens to an area you want to clear for say a new garden bed or building. Just keep them fenced in the area and they will have the ground cover loosened by the roots and make clearing much easier.
Coop Help Do your chickens “charge the gate” when you enter the pen or coop? Toss a handful of feed to the back corner first before you step inside. Use a sprint closure or bungie cord to keep the door closed. If you have “smart chickens” then put and extra latch on the inside of the door, so they can’t gang up and push out while you move around the pen.
Make sure when building a coop that you avoid flat surfaces to discourage roosting in flat areas. That goes for the ground as well and keeps the area from being soaked when it rains. Also, you don’t need a roost box for every chicken you own. Access to the roosts from outside the coop makes the egg gathering so much easier.
You will be amazed how much you save in both dollars and time by implementing these simple tips!
Photo Sources: hawk-hill.com backyardchickens.com coopconstructionguide.com homestead-honey.com