Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Poultry Keeping....Flock Management

   Poultry are one of the easiest and cost effective livestock a homesteader can raise. In addition to eggs, our poultry are also raised for meat and for garden maintenance. Our flock is maintained on a limited free range system; after several years, it works for us.
   Housed in a converted barn stall, our flock resides in a coop equip with nests, roosts and feed/water access. Near their coop/stall large feed barrels hold our mix of layer grain and scratch which is given twice a day. The small coop range door (just their size) stays closed until noon each day- this gives ample time for morning grain rations to be cleaned up and nests to be filled with eggs.
   Once the coop door opens our hens have free range of the farm for the rest of the afternoon; open access to grass and grub (bugs) until sun sets. As the sun starts to fade we give evening rations. We also give "mash" or kitchen scraps which may contain: yogurt, fruit/veg peelings, egg shells (washed and crushed), breads/pastas, etc).
   Five gallon water fountains are kept in our coop (shaded to keep cool) and are refreshed in the afternoon- in the summer shallow water pans are filled and set in the shade to help the birds cope with heat stress. In cold weather we use heat lamps hanging from  the ceiling to keep the poultry warm in the evening.
   In managing our flock's health, we try to use the minimalist approach. Sick or injured birds are isolated and assessed; using medication only if necessary. I do not use electrolytes or maintenance medications for my flock. Our hens are allowed to brood and molt as their nature guides them; they also raise their own young if the successfully hatch them.
   As I have mentioned before, we keep roosters with our hens for fertility and protection- one rooster for every ten hens. Dependent upon the breeds we have, our maintenance plan is to refresh the flock every other year. Hens that go out of production are culled once new hens are ready to be brought in. When we add new layers, we try to add new roosters from their own flock- it seems to work better that way. I use a fence panel to section off part of the coop for placing the new additions (after the new birds are close in size to the existing flock). After a week we remove the fence panel to completely integrate the birds.
   There you have it; our version of poultry flock management. 


Lil'Suburban Homestead said...

Thanks so much for sharing how you raise your chickens! We keeps our enclosed in a run hence the name of my blog......however we do let ours free range on the weekends. I can tell your hens are sure living the good life and I really like your approach to sickness or injury we have 2 coops so we are able to do this as well. Thanks also for linking up to my Saturday blog hop...The Ole' Saturday Homesteading Trading Post at Lil' Suburban Homestead!

Simply Scaife Family said...

Thank you. I love your blog..very warm and inviting!

Heidi said...

Thank you for another informative post. I'd sure like to have a few hens again someday. Yours are beauties.