Backyard Chickens?

kma's picture


Are there any backyard chicken people here?

I kept a few for a few years but they stopped laying and went to the "retirement farm". I was going to take this winter off but there are so many free chickens available on craigslist that I'm getting back in the game.

(Side note: there was a rush of new people keeping chickens last year, wonder if they're tiring of it and giving them away?)

My project for this year is to figure out if I want to do a bulb setup in the coop to extend laying in the winter. It will need to be solar so I'll be starting that research soon.

Also hoping to acquire some more from Craigslist so it will be my first time merging flocks. Fun times!

David Trammel's picture

Yes, there are chicken people here. I don't but then I have friends who do, so I can buy them cheap and fresh. I'm sure people will chime in soon.

David Trammel's picture

In the meantime, here is a series of videos from Soul Food Farms which should help you out with your baby chickens.

Part 1: Baby Chickens Come Home:

Part 2: Introducing the Baby Chicks to Their Little Hen House:

Part 3: The Chicks are Getting Bigger:

and an additional video, How to Choose Food for Baby Chicks and Layers:

kma's picture

Thank you for the links David! I do love watching farm videos.

David Trammel's picture

Here's a way if you have chickens.

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David Trammel's picture

This company puts some premium coops out. Too expensive for me though. Check out their watering and feeding set up though. You could fabricate them pretty easily out of pvc pipe.

We're going to have a guest blog post from a woman who picked up a couple cheap from a divorced couple. They were in bad shape as were the birds.

kma's picture


Thank you for all these resources!

Here on the (not-quite-a) homestead a few interesting things have been happening.

For the first time since we began chicken keeping 3 years ago, a hawk got one of the ladies. Very surprising. Very stealthy as well since we
were home and heard and saw nothing. We've upped the defenses. Apparently decoy owls scare hawks so we've acquired and are testing that.

By chance, the day after the chicken-napping we were scheduled to get 4 more ladies to take the flock to six. I was able to get 5 so we're up to six - which is the most I've had to date at one time. Adjusting to the rhythm of increased watering, increased food, and increased eggs!

I loved your upscale coop link. I've spoken to Mr. KMA about trying to put together a side hustle of building coops and chicken resources from upcycled materials so collecting plans and drawings from others is on my to-do list. I particularly was interested in their grub cone since
grub manufacturing would be a great thing for me to learn. I might elevate that in my research over coop design, although I have
a lot of opinions on coop design!

David Trammel's picture

If you are going to get into building coops, then check this week's main page blog post. It has a bunch of great photos which should give you ideas.

There are many people who got into chickens at the start of the Pandemic who now, might be rethinking there investment. A ad in the local FB marketplace that you buy and sell them, might get you some deals.

Ken's picture

Eagles, owls, hawks, raccoons, mink, weasels, and loose dogs all love chicken. And the ravens love eggs! It started to feel like a war of attrition with my flock of hens and I got tired of blasting raccoons out of trees in the middle of the night. I learned a lot of tricks to keep predators at bay but until I can build a truly safe chicken house and run, I'm buying eggs from the neighbors.

In my experience, owl decoys are a complete waste of time and money. Strings of flicker tape over the outdoor run worked pretty well for me but were too disturbing to my wife (from her desk she can see the chicken run). So I tried using colored string suspended like a circus tent from a central pole in the chicken yard. That seemed to work on the redtails and eagles but didn't impress the raccoons in the slightest! Raccoons are hard to impress without a shotgun... When JMG talks about successor species to Homo sapiens, I always picture raccoons with tools!

Sweet Tatorman's picture

Having some anecdotal as well as observational evidence that one can "make an example of one" with crows to good effect I thought I would give it a try with raccoons. It doesn't appear to work. The remainder of the pack just ignored the example while continuing to feast upon the corn.

Dead Raccoon Picture - NSFW/Graphic Image

Ken's picture

I've refrained from posting graphic photos on GW, not knowing the acceptable protocols. Perhaps some kind of warning before seeing something like this dead raccoon is in order?

I'm not saying Life doesn't have plenty of blood and guts in it and that having a healthy tolerance for eviscerating a chicken barehanded isn't a positive attribute; just that some people might be more easily disturbed than others. I grok the ethical position of vegetarians and vegans and to some extent I even agree, it's just not a self-limitation that works for me. Nor for anyone in difficult times. Nevertheless, I would like to be respectful of differing points of view; perhaps we need to decide how/if to flag graphic posts? What sayeth the Green Wizards?

David Trammel's picture

That's a good question and honestly not one I'd even considered. I do expect at some point we'll discuss and perhaps even do a tutorial on slaughtering small animals for food here. I guess we'll need to discuss and come up with some guidelines before that. I'll post the question in a separate post in the Site News Forum tomorrow.

For now I've moved the picture to a separate page and added a link people can click on to view it.

I just read the discussion of how to draw and singe poultry in my 1976 Joy of Cooking.

It's so clinical, detached and bloodless, with tasteful, non-informative line drawings.
The discussion and drawings set a newbie up for failure because the reality is so much messier and clammier.

Feel around in the body cavity looking for the spongey material that are the lungs? Remove the liver and gall bladder and cut the gall bladder off so as to not contaminate the liver? All those little, wet masses look alike!

Good, clear, sharp pictures that are labeled could be very, very useful.
At least you know what you're facing.

Sweet Tatorman's picture

What those newbies can look forward to ;-)

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Ken's picture

This kind of mess is why you use a cone and a good sharp knife to the arteries in the neck, rather than a hatchet. Although I have sometimes wondered if the 'running around like a chicken with it's head cut off' doesn't pump blood out of the muscle tissue, which conceivably might improve the quality of the meat. But maybe the stress hormones keep pumping too?

In my opinion, anyone that eats meat should kill, clean and cook it themselves, or at least have the skills to do so if necessary.

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Hi there friends. Last spring had a batch of eggs that hatched and out of 10 chicks 5 or 6 turned out to be roosters, wouldn't you know it? I've let them grow to full size and now of course they are starting to spar with one another for dominance. I tried a couple of times to get a neighbor with hens to take one or more and though he seemed interested he failed to show up twice over a period of weeks to come and see or pickup. So I'm done asking.

I am only interested in keeping one of the roosters and I am wanting to get rid of the others. However, as you know not many people want roosters. In the past I would not have hesitated to dispatch these extra guys quickly and painlessly. However, as I have learned a lot from JMG about spirituality I question whether to do so is the best thing to do without question. I believe that as much as possible we should only kill animals for food or as a mercy thing when they are suffering intolerably, or if they are endangering the lives of others or livestock. What are your thoughts? My initial thoughts were to respectfully offer apologies and respect to the prospective roosters and then do my business. I know some of you will think "you've got to be kidding me" right? I understand that sentiment but have become more sensitive to life over time, even if they are "just" roosters. Have any of you gone through this thought process? I value your thoughts and advice.

David B

Ken's picture

I share your position that killing is to be done only when necessary and then as humanely as possible. Regarding the too many roosters problem: I've been there and even when I tried to keep a back-up rooster in case something happened to the dominant rooster, the second one became a rapist and harassed the hens unmercifully. There really is only room for one rooster in a flock. You must get rid of the others in one way or another.

However, this brings up the question of what will be their fate in someone else's, perhaps less skillful or thoughtful, hands? It might seem a little harsh, but in my opinion the best thing is for you to give them a clean, quick death. The older they get and the further the Spring advances, the meaner they will get. As far as caponizing, I have never done it and won't, because I can't stand the idea of doing abdominal surgery on a living bird without anesthesia simply for my own convenience and benefit. Any being with a nervous system can and does feel pain.

A killing cone and a sharp knife is the best answer in my opinion. Since you only have a few, you might just hand pluck instead of renting and then cleaning a mechanical plucker. Make sure your water bath is hot enough and use those 'sticky' blue rubber coated gloves (the ones at my hardware store are Atlas brand; makes a big difference. I've tried just skinning birds but it turns out that a lot of the gelatin in the soup comes from the skin and the soup from skinned birds did not have the quality of plucked birds. I have heard plenty of people rave about putting the feet in the stock pot but I don't know how they get them clean. When I've looked at chicken feet, there is is so much muck up under the scales that I don't know how you'd get it out without a pressure washer...The older they are the better the flavor but also the higher the feed bill. One thought might be to pen the excess roosters individually and try to fatten them up, then the butchering is more worth the time and mess, but you run into a quality of life issue; which to me is actually more important than the details of the death.

You no doubt know that buying chicks that are 'sexed' - meaning all females, results in the wholesale destruction of all the males in ways that would make the devil weep. 'Straight run' chicks are less ethically compromising but then you run into your exact situation. Rather than see it as a problem though, why not look at having to kill those unneeded roosters as part of the ethical price you pay for the eggs from the hens? Death is inevitable for us all. The manner and trauma of that death is variable though. As is the quality of life prior to death. If your roosters can't live a full life, you can at least give them a merciful death.

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Too many roosters will abuse the hens as well as fight among themselves.

If you don't let your chickens roam free and wild, you don't need a continuous supply of roosters to replace the ones dying to defend the hens from predators.

Essentially, you have two choices with excess roosters:
Soup now or soup later.

Or, if you want them to enjoy fat, happy lives and end up as Sunday roast, you can perform kitchen table surgery and caponize them. I have no idea how you do this, except that European farmers traditionally castrated their excess roosters and they grew nice and fat, didn't harass the hens, didn't fight, and made fabulous roast chicken.

This text may be of interest to anyone willing to perform surgery on roosters:

My husband grew up in China and throughout his childhood, itinerant capon-makers would ply their trade through the city neighborhoods. Folks would bring their trussed roosters (because they had poultry even in the city), the guy would flip 'em over, prod about a bit and maybe remove a few feathers, then slice-snip-stitch and it was all done.

yeah I would like to learn that bit of surgery someday. I've read about that. I've read that it makes for excellent tender meat and very tasty. However, since I'm not there yet these guys will get to skip that part.

Note: Only 2/22 and last night came upon the first snake of the year as i went out after work to check on them. Was dark and I had a headlamp on. Stepped right on him as I was opening the gate to the pen. Fortunately it was just a juvenile but I was surprised to see one this soon. I can hardly wait:-(

Ken's picture

Yikes! I spent years in AZ and NM. Now, if I'm surprised, even garter snakes (the only kind here) make me jump up into the air and stay there!

Hi Ken. Thanks for your words. I guess I knew this but just needed to hear it out loud so to speak. I do not know yet how to dress chickens so I won't be using the roosters in the soup pot. So it will just be quick death and burial in the compost pile, deep. I have not had any problems with burying the hens that have died suddenly over the years. No dogs or such have tried to dig them up so that is a good thing. Thanks for your advice.