Chickens!!

Two new members of The Raymond Ranch!

Last Sunday we gained two new members of the Raymond Ranch. Our great new neighbors are raising both meat chickens and egg-laying chickens. When we told her a while ago that we were wanting to get some egg-laying chickens she offered to sell us two of hers (two is all we could really fit in the cute little coup Mr. Martian brought home for me). At that time I was not so sure about bringing the chickens home with how busy life is becoming and I wanted to do some clean-up and repairs to the coup. She kindly offered to take care of them until we were ready. We also had some questions that needed answered before we were certain that the girls would be the right fit for us and the ranch.

“Honey, can you build me a new roof for the chicken coup” (Mrs. Martian). With the wind around here the one that came with coup was pretty beat up. With all the projects that we have for the ranch and “the project” it’s very challenging for Mr. Martian to have any extra time for added “to-do” list projects. When Mr. Martian recently built our woodshed he had some leftover metal roof material and he sweetly took the time to build a very cute tin roof for the chicken coup. They have a safe cute home…check #1! We were getting closer to bringing the girls home.

I am so thankful to have a husband that is a “thinker-a-header”! I’m the type to say, “It’ll be fine, we can deal with that when it comes”. That isn’t always the best way to be. “What are we going to do with them in the winter” (Mr. Martian)? “I didn’t even think of that” (Mrs. Martian). That is a great question! After doing some thinking we decided to dedicate a horse stall to them with a fenced-off attached area outside. My neighbor confirmed this would be a good idea, with one caveat! She informed me that we would be having chickens, including all their excrements, all over our barn! That did not sound like a good idea! But wait! She said we can clip their wing so they don’t’ fly all around! Perfect…check #2!

Last big question…”Is it worth it” (Mr. Martian)? Now you know Mr. Martian is going to be thinking about numbers. From what I read and from what my neighbor told me, it cost more to raise chickens than it is to just buy your eggs from the store. I usually buy organic eggs from the store, or at least natural eggs without hormones or antibiotics. So I knew that I wanted to raise our chickens this way. Organic feed online seemed pretty expensive. Then my neighbor informed me that she mills her own chicken feed! Perfect! She explained that it’s corn, soy & gmo-free, made with northwest-sourced wheat and peas as the base but it is not organic. A 50lb bag will cost us $20. Plus I don’t have to order it online or drive anywhere (except to my neighbor’s house). Sounds good to me!

From my research online and estimates from my neighbor a 50lb bag should last about 2 months. They have grass to nibble on the garden (FYI-I don’t actually have a garden planted in our garden-they will make a mess of your garden!) and we plan on giving them food scraps and microgreen scraps (added bonus-this helped sell Mr. Martian:)). Right now it cost me almost $7.00 for 18 organic eggs. We go through at least one of those a week, so that is $28.00 per month. With feed being $20.00 every two months we are saving some money; however, the girls will only be laying 1 egg a day each, which is only a dozen eggs per week. We may have to cut back on our scrambles or still purchase some from the store. There are other costs like purchase of the chickens and straw (our chicken coup was free so if you are in the market, keep your eye out for used coups). However, I still believe in the end we will be saving money. There is also the fact that it is definitely more work raising chickens that bringing them home all nice and clean from the grocery store.

So to answer Mr. Martians question, “is it worth it’? I believe the answer is “yes”. To know that your chickens are being raised in a clean, healthy environment and to know what food is going into producing those golden yolk treasures is another step towards self-sustainability and health. “You are what your chicken eats” was a headline in my Natural Chicken Keeping magazine. Mr. Martian and I believe it is important to know where you food comes from. We just had a conversation with a couple last night about how children these days don’t know where their food comes from. A news report stated when some children were asked that question they stated, “The grocery store.” We want to raise our children to where their answer is, “Our ranch”;). Check #3!! 

So last Sunday we took the plunge! Our chickens were brought to their new home where we hope they will live a very happy life on the ranch and produce lots of eggs! We already have had our first two eggs! And they were blue…crazy! My neighbor stated the breeds of hens we purchased were both supposed to lay brown eggs. They are heritage breed chickens-they’re not cross breed so they can reproduce. Annie is a Rhode Island Red and I believe Betsy is a Black Australorp. I said, “leave it to me to get a blue egg;)”. The first one was tiny but the next one was normal size. It’s been fun to go out there every day to see if Annie and Betsy have left any treasures for us-it’s like an Easter Egg hunt every day!

FYI- I am finding out that chickens are messy! They are the messiest creatures I have every cared for! How can they not care that they poo in their own bed is beyond me! But I keep cleaning and pray they keep producing! It’s a mutual relationship! And yes, “it’s still worth it:)”!

Useful Chicken Facts:

• Don’t feed them their own shells because they will start pecking their own eggs.

• Including garlic in their diet will help prevent disease. Garlic will help to boost chicken’s immunities. You can just crush it and mix into your chicken feed. You can also buy               garlic concentrate. Good tip from my neighbor…it’s better to mix it in with food because the oils will just sit on top of the water.

• Oregano oil and cinnamon are good in conjunction and have natural antibiotic properties. I like what one website said:

     “So don't over-think things. Grow some herbs for your chickens. (Oregano, thyme, lavender and mint are especially beneficial and fragrant.) Then toss the fresh leaves into     your coop and nesting box and let your chickens decide. They'll eat some of the herbs, lay their eggs on some and ignore some, letting those dry and scent the coop. It's a     win-win for you and for your chicken”( http://www.fresheggsdaily.com/2013/04/oregano-as-natural-antibiotic.html).

• Clipping one side of their wings will make their flight off balance to where they are unable to fly (please don’t attempt this without researching how-to’s). You do need to repeat     this every year or when they grow back. (FYI-it’s not too hard to do. I did my first wing clipping with my neighbor’s instruction!). • Chickens are not vegetarians! They will eat     worms, larvae, insects, spiders and occasional rodent. They need their protein!

“He who works the land will have abundant food” (Proverbs 28:19)

Scripture for thought: Psalm 81:10

Sources: Natural Chicken Keeping Magazine, 2017

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