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May
15

And Then We Were Chicken Farmers

My father cannot pass up a good deal.  If he has a need for something, can foresee a need for something in the future, or thinks that maybe one day it might come in handy, he will buy it if the price is right.  That is how our vision of having a dozen hens in our backyard that would supply our two families with a constant supply of fresh eggs turned into our new reality of having NINTY ONE chickens in our backyard and not only supplying our family with fresh eggs but also selling them to our community.  There was a good deal on chickens that my dad just could not pass up!

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Yes, we now have 91 chickens free ranging on about an acre in the back half of our property.  We’ve gone from starting a chicken hobby to full on chicken farmers within the space of a few days.  It has been a steep learning curve.  We started with very little knowledge of chickens and now my dad and I have read through numerous books learning the ins and out of raising chickens.  Let me tell you, it is not just a simple matter of waking up to fresh eggs every morning.  Chickens have needs, can develop bad habits, can get infested with pests, and need just the right mixture of food to lay those beautiful eggs.

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It was a lot of hard work at first, getting their coop and run set up and learning all the many things we needed to know about chickens. Now, three weeks in, we have a fairly good handle on the situation.  My father and I split up the chores (Mike and my mother just roll their eyes at us because they were never fully on board with the chicken plans).  I fill up the watering pails every morning, collect the eggs a few times a day, wash and store the eggs at the end of the day, and sell the eggs.  My father lets them out of the coop in the morning, fills their feeding pails, cleans their roost, and shuts them back into their coop at night (we have coyotes around!)

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So how do I feel about raising all these hens?  I must say, it feels pretty fantastic.  This is the first time I have ever felt a real connection to my food (other than fruits and veggies I have grown).  It FEELS good to go out to grab fresh eggs, it feels good to eat those eggs, and it feels like I am doing a good deed in my community by selling those eggs.  Eggs from happy chickens are the bomb!!!!!

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I never want to eat a store bought egg again.  Now that I am learning about what it takes to raise chickens and all of the rules about selling eggs I am beginning to understand that any eggs bought at a super market pale in comparison to farm eggs (literally).  We have figured out that with selling our extra eggs we will just make slightly above what it costs us to raise the chickens.  Basically we are eating free eggs and getting a bit of pocket change.  If someone were to do this as a business you would need thousands of chickens to make it profitable and you would need to cut corners wherever you could.  In my mind I had pictured the chickens laying those “free range” eggs I was paying $5 in the grocery store for as happy chickens frolicking on a farm.  Now I know that “free range” only means they have access to the outdoors.  It does not specify how much outdoors or if they have access to grass.  And if you are raising thousands of chickens to make your business profitable, just how much space could you offer your chickens anyways?

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My children have become little chicken farmers.  They race at the chance to take the compost out to feed the chickens, they come with me to collect the eggs, and we have nicknamed Kayden the Chicken Whisperer as he has an amazing ability to get the chickens to stop for him and let him pick them up.  Yes, my youngest son loves to cuddle chickens!  We have hatched our own chicken eggs, had lessons in death (not all of them made it), have watched the baby chicks grow bigger and bigger, learned the skills of a chicken farmer, and have taken a giant step in becoming more self sufficient.

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13 comments

  1. Renee — RambleCrunch says:

    Wow, Amy! This sounds like so much fun!!!! I always wondered how complicated chickens would be. I’m dying to do it someday, though my chickens would have to be in an üner-secure pen due to my free-range terrier. I ate a freshly egg once when I was a kid, and I still remember how fantastic it tasted.

    Congrats to you on having the best of both worlds…home and travel! :-)

  2. Eryn says:

    Love how your chicken story unfolded! Thanks for sharing! You are making a great difference in your community by selling your healthy eggs!

  3. Maia says:

    Love it! We got chickens last fall, but only 3! I was never a fan of birds, but they’ve been so entertaining-I can’t imagine life without them. We’ve been getting some of those ridiculously sized eggs too!

  4. Meryl @ Expat Travels says:

    Haha, your father sounds just like mine. I’ve had the same concerns about free range eggs. In New Zealand (where I am from) I discovered that many “free range” chickens have beta carotene added to their feed to produce the bright orangey yolks that people associate with free-range eggs. The manufacturers justify it by saying customers prefer those eggs. Um, because they think they’re getting a well-treated hen’s egg, not because you’re adding dye to their diet!

    1. worldschooled says:

      Ug, that is so not cool.

  5. tereza crump aka mytreasuredcreations says:

    WE decided to raise chickens too. We are down in south Alabama, USA. WE lost our first 5 chicks to an opossum… the thing was so mean. It broke into our chicken tractor, killed all our baby chicks (our pets really!) and just left their carcasses on the outside. He didn’t eat them, just slaughtered them. So sad. The kids cried and it was horrible. Two days ago, we got 6 new baby chicks and they are growing under the light in our garage for now.

    How do you keep your chickens safe from predators?

    1. worldschooled says:

      We have raccoons and coyotes here. So far we have had no problems. They have a contained coop and we close it up at night and then let them out again in the morning. Hopefully we won’t lose any of our birds!

  6. Nadine says:

    Dear Amy and family,
    We haven’t heard from you for a while so I just wanted to say that I hope you are all well and enjoying the summer.
    Take care and enjoy the chicken and all the best and warm greetings from Switzerland

    Nadine

    1. worldschooled says:

      Thank you Nadine!!

  7. Melissa says:

    Wow, so cool! I know a few people in Brooklyn growing chickens in their backyards, and we have a community farm down the street, but nowhere near the number of chickens you have! What do you plan on doing with the birds when they are no longer of laying age?

    1. worldschooled says:

      To put it bluntly, they go into a soup pot!

  8. Julie says:

    Hi Amy,

    I met you recently at the Oasis and during the helicopter tour you arranged, and just stumbled upon your blog yesterday. I can’t stop reading your inspiring posts….love! You are living the life I can only dream of at this point in my life, good for you.

    Thanks
    Julie

    1. worldschooled says:

      Thanks Julie, I’m interested in how you found my site! We will talk next time we see each other :)

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