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How DOES My Mind Work?
[Misc] Apple Heart
Seriously, I'm in it and I have no idea.

At some point today (possibly after finding local free-range eggs in Whole Foods), it occurred to me that it would be a great idea to raise chickens.

Yes. You heard that right.

Apparently, they don't require that much room (2-3 feet in a coop, 4-5 feet in a run per chicken), you only need four (12 feet inside, 20 feet outside space) to produce enough for yourself, and they have interesting personalities. Plus, some of the chicken coops are really, really cute! Like little playhouses.

The plus side is that I won't be able to even begin implementing my plan till this fall, so odds are I'll have a new scheme by then.

But seriously. How cool would it be to be able to have your own humane, organic eggs?

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It is SO much fun! Go for it!

That said, while you CAN do 4 chickens in a tiny space, you've got to put a lot more time into cleaning them. If i had a tight space, I'd do either 2 production-bred hens (probably Buff Orpingtons, as they're more personable and easier to handle than most of the leghorn-variant breeds and americaunas) and give them as much room as possible. (With more space like I have now, I can get a reasonable number of eggs from more chickens- most of the heritage breesd aren't anywhere nearly as productive and their feed conversion ratio isn't as good- not that big of a deal if you just want the occasional egg, but if you are planning to make them your SOLE source of eggs, it's worht thinking about.)
Gina Spadafori has some great posts on Petconnection.com about her chickens that live in her small backyard in Sacramento.

And of course, Feathersite.com is TOO MUCH FUn for browsing weird chicken varieties.

OH! And don't forget the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy site - http://www.albc-usa.org/

And I can't remember if you're veggie or not, but if you're not (nad you're not squeamish), raising your own meat chickens is also really low-input, green, and rewarding. And free-range, organically raised, I-know-what-it-ate-and-that-it-died-humanely chicken is WAY better tasting.

Thanks for the info. I was worried that the space sounded a little small. I love animals and I think it would be really cool to have some around. My grandfather on my Mom's side (who died when I was five or six) kept chickens for eggs and made pets out of them. Overall, I really like the idea of doing it, both for the animal welfare reasons (I'd feel happier knowing the eggs came from happy chickens) and for health reasons (because the more I hear about where food comes from, the less I want to eat anything ever again).

I don't eat meat and I think even if I did, I'd have a hard time eating something I bonded with (and I would bond with it :)), but I totally agree that if I were going to eat it, knowing its history would be much better.

I'm still pretty on the fence about it and I need to do a lot more homework, but your post made it seem a lot more doable. Thanks for the links!

It's interestingly easy NOT to bond with the meat breeds- they've got about as much personality as your average compost worms, unlike the layer breeds. :P (It's a moot point if you don't eat meat though- I've got carnivore pets though, and when I have more space, I intend to raise my own meat for them because I frankly can't afford humanely-sourced poultry for them in bulk. (I'm also probably predisposed NOT to bond with my food, since I'm basically the 5th generation of weekend rancher in my family who will eventually make a 'full time' job (note I did not say living) at it eventually.)

I've seriously reduced how much meat I eat as I've gotten pickier about how it's raised- almost all my beef comes from our family farm and my chicken comes from the farmer's market. I do fail occasionally and get fast food and rotisserie chickens, but I'm really trying to eliminate those. (I make myself feel better by thinking about vegetable monoculture, which is almost as environmentally problematic as CAFOs in some ways.)

There's also some good non-internet resources- and those are good too because there will be times that you need to either carry the chicken to the computer or take the book to the chicken "Hmm, is this a mite or lice?" sooner or later. :P http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Encyclopedia-Chickens-Esther-Verhoef-Verhallen/dp/9036615925/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1273325118&sr=8-1-spell - is a really fun book but it was written in Europe and some of the breed varieties (and 'normal practices' are a little different- I haven't ever seen a stone chicken coop in the US, even at historicla houses or anything.)

Another site that is fun for chicken-sightseeing is actually MarthaStewart.com - she has several hundred chickens raised in the prettiest, most spacious coops EVER (and of course, beautifully designed. :P) and mostly heritage breeds!

I'm hoping to pick up some Crevecours this summer or fall and work on selecting for better egg production. They were originally a dual purpose breed (like the Buff Orps) originating in Normandy, but selecting for pretty has kind of hurt their egg production. I *love* crested chickens (Polish, Crevecours, Sultans, Silkies) and would like to have some that were actually useful! So I'll probably cross in something more productive but I'm still researching. Conservation breeding is a huge interest of mine. :)

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