Here a chick, there a chick

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Chickens, Compost, Home and Garden, Homesteading, Organic Gardening, Ron Ferrell, Urban Gardening | Posted on 20-08-2009

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by Ron Ferrell

As a farm kid, I was always fascinated with birds. Wild birds as well as domesticated birds stirred my curiosities with their beauty and amazing range of feather colors. I had geese, ducks, a variety of chickens, pea foul and pigeons, but my favorites were the peacocks, followed by chickens. Geese, pigeons and ducks were so nasty, but chickens had a terrific pay off — eggs. Peacocks ate lots of bugs and they were just beautiful.

 

As a middle-aged urban homesteader I’ve eschewed raising chickens but my neighbor Matt’s garden convinced me to reconsider my self-imposed “no chicken” rule. I call birds in a pen “predator bait,” so as a work-around Matt loaned me one of his electric chicken fences, and after much additional prodding from Matt, I decided to get a small flock of chickens for eggs, composting organic matter and soil building. My new flock of 26 Welsummer chickens, a heritage breed, have been on my property for a week now and they are maturing so quickly.

When I first released them into the electrified poultry pen, they obviously had not been out of a brooder house environment as they were not used to grass and all that open space. They just stood in a tight flock for a couple of hours before they started to venture out away from the fence corner. The chicken feed and water helped lure them away. 

I have been dumping various veggie matter over the fence, some of which the chickens eat, but the bugs drawn to the veggie pile seem to attract their attention the most. Yesterday I dumped the spent grains I collect from COOP Ale Works in Oklahoma City into the pen, and slowly the chicks began picking through the grains. This morning however, they were very actively eating the spent grains. Chickens are the ultimate composting machine!

The spent grains are high in protein with small amounts of nucleic acid as well as many trace minerals. In addition to the spent grains, I will be feeding my flock lots of vegetable matter from my kitchen and local restaurant sources. Apart from the effort of getting the spent grains and the vegetable materials to my property, they are free food sources for my chickens.

If you have any interest in keeping a chicken or two, check out chicken tractors. YouTube has several examples of chicken tractors, along with construction techniques, use and feasibility of use for city dwellers.

One of the most wonderful aspects of my chickens is they are so darned cute, playful and endlessly curious. I’ve placed lawn chairs and a cocktail table beside the chicken pen and in the cool of the evening I just sit, meditate and watch my beautiful Welsummers as they grow from chicks into beautiful chickens.