What a fun thread I’ve been missing…but I took the time to read every single post in it and agree with everything everyone has said. But of course my propensity toward “chattiness” requires me to chime in!
I currently have only about 7 chickens, but my flock drastically ebbs and flows over the year. I think I had 38 this past spring. By the end of summer I was down around 25, then in the last 2 months have lost around 20. All that is 98% predators and 2% cars. I free range my chickens year round, but they do have a nice little coop with solid walls and roof that they go in at night. But that is the only winter protection they ever get, and even at 0 they do great. Its me that hates the cold because I don’t have any electricity near their coop so I have to keep putting out unfrozen water. However, I’ve “trained” them (simply by putting food just outside my back door) to come up to the house everyday in the winter so its easy to feed and water them there rather than having to hike out to their coop which is pretty far from the house.
My chickens are just “mutts”- I’ve had lots of breeds over time and they’ve crossed all different ways. Fortunately they are pretty large for the most part. My eggs are always brown, but surprisingly a lot of people around here prefer that- I think its because it sort-of confirms that they are farm raised, country eggs (even though white egg layers could be raised the same way). People I give eggs to are always telling me the brown eggs are much “richer”. There is no question that farm raised eggs are 1000 times better than store bought caged eggs, but if a white layer and brown layer are both free ranged on my land, I can’t detect much difference in taste between brown and white- but many people strongly disagree so I may be wrong.
No one has mentioned much about eating their chickens. I do harvest a few for meat each year but not many. I’m sure many of you will recoil in horror, but I often eat birds that have been killed by a predator! ha. Wait…let me explain. Often a hawk will swoop in and kill a chicken very quickly. If I’m in the house I will hear all the other chickens squawking and going nuts. I grab my rife and often get a shot at the hawk (rarely hit it though!) as he is just starting to eat his prize. They almost always start at the head and neck. When all this happens and I know the chicken has just been killed and is still warm and hasn’t had its body torn into, then yes, I’ll pick it up, clean, pluck, gut, and freeze or eat it!!! But that’s not the same (to me) as just eating road-kill! haha.
@subdood_ky_z6b I encourage you strongly to raise a few chickens and see how it goes. As many here have said, they are incredibly easy to raise, require very little intervention, are somewhat self-propagating (I do hatch about 25 in an incubator once or twice a year, but even that is very, very enjoyable to me and you have children they will enjoy hatching chicks more than you know-and its a great way for them to learn about life.) As others have said, they really have an impact on bugs- especially grass hoppers. They produce amazing amounts of fertilize and its soooo good for the garden. In fact, its a little “too good” meaning you have to either compost it or apply it very stingy or its easy to burn a plant up. But again, that’s almost a good thing to me as it speaks to the concentration of nutrients that it contains. They will occasionally peck a hole in some ripe tomatoes, and eat tender, newly sprouted garden plants, But they have full access to my garden and they don’t do enough damage to be a big problem. The one problem they do give me is that any tree fruit, ESPECIALLY PEACHES, that is within about 3 feet of the ground, they will ruin. They won’t flying into the tree, but they will stand on the ground and jump up, taking a bite out of the fruit when they are at the apex of their jump! It’s actually very entertaining to watch…until you realize they are doing this to every low-hanging fruit you have. My solution has been to put up very simple little construction-netting fences around the few trees with low hanging fruit. Its not nearly as hard as it sounds if I explained my “fencing”- just know that they are pretty easily blocked out.
My predator loss is almost entirely from Hawks. I loose as many as 2 a week on average, which is why I have to occasionally boost the population with my incubator as well as allow the chickens to hatch a few batches each spring. The larger my chickens, the longer they resist hawk attacks. My biggest chickens always live longest. for this reason, I’m going to try a very large breed chicken this spring and see how it goes.
So, ANY chicken owner (that includes you, @Chikn , was has made it through this long post, I’d love to hear your opion/experience with a breed called “Jersey Giants”. From all I’ve seen and read, they seem to be the largest, FAIRLY common breed of chicken. There are a few other really expensive, rare chickens that are a little bigger, but I want something more affordable/common and Jersey Giants appear to be that. Have any of you owned or known anyone who raised them? Are they a decent breed? I understand they aren’t the best layers, but are somewhat average or just slightly below avg. - is that true ?
Anyway, you’ve already got lots of great advice here but if I can ever be of any assistance, and since we’re in pretty much the same geographical area (though it does get colder where you are) I’ll help any way that I can. Good luck! Hope you give it a try. They are a lot of fun and almost no work- depending on how you approach it.