Category Archives: Chickens

One feed, to feed them all

If you have been following us lately we have been adding numerous animals to our farm. Here is what we have to date. Most we want on pasture eating grass. But we do give them salt blocks and the treats to give additional nutrients not found in grass alone. This treats is a feed mix we make ourselves, but the same basic mix is put together and everyone can eat it. This is our first year doing this, so it is an experiment. After three months everyone seems to be doing well on it. We plan on experimenting with different mixes and combinations and as we learn more and refine the mix we will update everyone.

Why one mix? It lowers costs if animals cannot get out to pasture, or as a supplement to grass. If we didn’t give them the treats, they would me much harder to manage. We make sure, we show them the feed can, and shake it. We can get the llamas to come in from across the pasture, with just the can shaking. This is in no way the bulk of their diets. A coffee can 1/2 full to full for each species once a day if they get out on pasture, and twice a day if they are unable to forage.

It also reduces the risk of someone getting sick because they got the wrong feed mix. Since our youngest feeds animals regularly (5), and we have guests, and family help if they want to there are no accidents of giving an animal the wrong feed. Everyone can eat the base mix, and no additions can hurt anyone. Some species cannot tolerate certain feeds/supplements as easily as others.

What is in our feed mix?

Rather than give you all the nutritional details, I will like to a site which has them all for each component.  Feedipedia is a AWESOME site.

Base which is given to turkeys, ducks, chickens for meat, geese, and chickens for eggs.  It can also be given to the other animals as is, but they like a little extra in the mix. We purposely left soy out of the mix for now.  Yes it is a big source of protein if growing animals for meat, we know. The base also is easily spread using a hand broadcast seeder. This allows the birds space to eat, increases foraging skills, and there is no fighting over the feed bucket/pile.

1 part black oil sunflower seeds.  BOSS    16.6g protein   28.7 MJ/kg energy

2 parts cracked corn      9.4g protein    18.7  MJ/kg energy

2 parts oats   11.0g protein   19.5   MJ/kg energy

Averaging 11.5 g protein and 21.02 MJ/kg energy

Laying birds (ducks, chickens, turkeys, geese) get fee offering (as much as they want) crushed oyster shells.  They are also on open pasture/area daily so bugs, worms, grass, weeds whatever they find.

For the pigs, goats, sheep, and llamas they get

2 parts base mix 11.5 g protein  21.02 MJ/kg energy

1 part alfalfa pellets  18.2 g protein  18.2 MJ/kg energy

They also get salt blocks, llamas are on pasture daily, pigs get regular grass until pig area completed, and goats and sheep get free hay and pasture almost daily.

Rabbits are on pasture daily, and get supplement rabbit pellets. We are experimenting with different combinations for the rabbits.

  • Some things we learned, goats and sheep love rabbit pellets.
  • The pigs prefer grass to feed mix.
  • Rabbits who are raised on pasture from birth, eat far less pellets but take a bit longer to reach butcher weight.
  • Everyone eats mulberry leaves/young branches, all birds love the berries.

Some things we are hoping to experiment in the next year or years.

  • mulberry as an alternative feed
  • using mulberry to feed silkworms, harvest silk, worms are protein source
  • Black soldier fly larvae
  • Comfrey as a mineral replacement
  • locally sourced nuts as feeds
  • Different plant based proteins in the pastures such as cowpea, vetch,
  • rose of sharon
  • willow
  • More experimenting with the Fedipedia information
  • spent brewery grains

Oops we did it again…

Well, it looks like we have another new addition in as many days. This time it is turkeys and Freedom Ranger meat birds. Last night while going to the farm supply store (Rural King) to get fencing, so we could put the pigs on pasture, they had new birds. And well, since we were already there, added Bourbon Turkey (breeding and or meat), seven more Khaki Campbells (for eggs), and eighteen Freedom Rangers (for meat).  Then another three hundred pounds of feed to make our One Feed to Feed them All (this is for treats in the morning and at night).  Finally almost 1,000 feet of fencing and posts. It was a busy night.

To see a complete list of our animals we have on site, check out our “Our Animals” page.

Meet the newest members of the farm

We have grown so much in the last 60 days since moving to Greencastle, IN. Many people ask us what all we have on our farm. So why not introduce the more permanent residents?  This page will grow as more long term residents come to stay.  We will be having tours in the near future, or you can schedule one by appointment only. Use the Contact Us page of if you are friends you know how to reach us via-email, phone or text.

Click here for a list of our animals. 

Back after a break!

Well, hello all, we are back after a break. LOTS of new updates and info to share.

1st we recently purchased a 32 acre farm in Greencastle, IN and have been working on it EVERY day since December. Very busy. Between the two properties it has been very time consuming. We also moved during this time.

The Greencastle property will be our main farm and we remodeled almost every room before moving in. Additionally we have been working on farm infrastructure, some things were here already, some needed improvement, some we needed to build.

We will have a tour in April/May sometime. We would like to get additional structures built and in place. We will also be having more workshops here. There will be hands on activities as well.

Our Wingate property will be our example of suburban/urban farming and Tiny house living. It is a 2 bd, 1 ba in 550 sq ft.  Once we finish the inside we will have house tours and tours and talks about how to maximize small space living. We will have no animal onsite due to issues with the previous Town Council and not being onsite to manage them. We will talk on how to incorporate and are leaving much of the infrastructure to show how to set it up. It may be available for rent on short term basis (2 week or less) to evaluate Tiny House living.

We went from 15 chickens and 3 ducks to now 32 chickens, and 15 ducks (more to come). This is our layers. We will also be raising meat chickens (50-200) and turkeys this year and will be selling them. They will be fed NON-GMO grains and on pasture.

We added two lambs currently, and plan to add 10-20 more before June. Lambs will be available in late fall/winter and will be sold live, and can be transported for butcher to your specification. We will also have wool available for sale/trade. All grass fed. No hormones or antibiotics unless life threatening. We are attempting to keep parasites managed as natural as possible (herbs/oils).

2 goats have been added, and 10-15 more planned. These are mowers for pasture maintenance. We MAY (I was TOLD I would be milking) have milk, and fiber from them as well. LEGAL DISCLAIMER Milk will be sold for crafts (soaps/lotions etc.), bottle feeding animals, pet milk. What you actually do with the milk is your business, not ours.

Pigs may be making an appearance this year, or next. Pigs will be available for sale whole or 1/2 sold live and taken to butcher for your custom processing. Non-GMO fed, and pasture raised. Same as other animals no hormones or antibiotics unless life threatening and we would always tell you that before purchasing.

Beef will make an appearance, but we are not sure when at this point. The pastures need some work and fencing added. Same as above, no hormones, antibiotics unless life threatening, and transparency.  Sold in 1/4. 1/2 and whole cow. We take to butcher, and you pay them for how you want processed.

We have increased our rabbit operation from 4 to 14 and will be offering rabbit as well. We will process for you or you can do it yourself.

Geese will also be here, but we are specific to the breed we want and they will be available too for sale.

We have begun tapping trees this year, and will be offering a variety of syrups next year. Maple, Black Walnut, Sassafras, and maybe more.

We have almost 500 fruit, nut, and other beneficial trees coming in April, so massive planting underway.

Our herbs and herb gardens will also increase this year. Other than comfrey no herbs are available currently since we are splitting and growing our gardens.

We will have almost an acre of vegetable production and will be selling the overage.  More information once we begin to harvest.

We may be offering a you pick blackberry option this year, we would like to see how the berries turn out first. These are all wild berries, but almost 6 acres of bushes.  It will be picked and eaten or turned into wine.

We have also begun making a variety of fruit and herb wines, experimenting with recipes and different blends. Currently not for sale, but is something that is on the horizon to look forward to. While we cannot sell we can speak to making your own, or how to get started.

The farm is an open operation and people can see how we raise our animals through tours or by stopping by (by appointment or tour only). Not that we have to hide anything, but we have schedules, and projects as well, so to drop everythign each time someone comes by, we would get nothing done.

We look forward to our new adventure, and much more to offer in the future. I am still available for permaculture consulting, training, and speaking. with all the new additions we have much more to speak about. We (I) will try and be more diligent about posting information.

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New Lambs
New arrival soon (goat)
New arrival soon (goat)
New arrival soon (goat)
New arrival soon (goat)
feeding the lambs (these are pets)
feeding the lambs (these are pets)
1st members of our mowing crew (John Deere, and Blue Holland aka Bluebell).
1st members of our mowing crew (John Deere, and Blue Holland aka Bluebell).

More on Indy ReZone

Reposting for Sherri

The Indianapolis CIty Council has sent Indy Rezone to committee – specifically the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee. Their next meeting is Monday July 27 at 5:30 in room 260 of the City Council building.  This is where there will be discussion and debate. Here is where the rubber meets the road and where a large presence is needed. This will be a critical meeting. 
 
Monday night (July 13) the “Retail Workers Bill of Rights” had a large group at the City Council meeting.  They expected their Special Resolution for the Bill of Rights to pass, instead it was sent to committee – the same committee and day that will hear comments about Indy rezone.  They were not happy and will have an even larger group at the committee meeting. This is a critical turning point for them, and for Indy rezone. If there are not people there showing opposition to Indy Rezone, the absence of people will speak volumes. 
 
Right now what is needed is twofold: Come to the meeting if at all possible (even if you have to get there late) and contact the councilors on the committee via e-mail and telephone prior to the meeting, so that they know there is opposition/concern from more than just a handful of people. Here is the city webpage with the names of the committee members. Open each councilors page for their contact info: http://www.indy.gov/eGov/Council/Committees/Pages/metro.aspx  
 
We already know that Zach Adamson is not happy with this whole thing.  We are working on talking to all of the committee members and hope you will too.
 
One of the many issues: All there is, is  a draft for the livestock license – too many uncertainties that could be changed after this debacle is passed. 
 
There is so much wrong in Indy rezone, I could write a book (and that is without having read most of this 700+ page document!). There is a lot of confusing, unclear information in it. And in the words of someone working for Indy Rezone,who helped write it “It is Flawed”. (She said this several times at the Metropolitan Development Commision meeting.)
 
scroll down to bottom of page for the livestock license link
 
If you would like a searchable Word document you can access that here: https://copy.com/pAwC1I46qpOItu1F 
You may be surprised at what you find when searching for specific things. 
 
If you are like me, you have a real hard time figuring out how many more restrictions make us more sustainable. I realize there is no way to make everyone happy.  But why in the world would we pass something that we already know is so flawed?
 
Feel free to contact myself or my husband:
 

In the defense of the back yard flock…

In our little RURAL town of Wingate, Indiana, population 267, surrounded by farms and farm land on all sides for 10 miles in any direction, of all things chickens are not allowed. We can have goats, pigs, horses, cows, llamas, alpaca, sheep, alligators, opossums, camels, and any number of other animals without limit, but not “poultry, weasels, chinchillas, ermine, mink, raccoons, muskrats or foxes”. Seems a bit odd grouping, but upon getting notice we were not allowed to have them, we went to the next town council to investigate why, and offered to help change the ordinances, as we had been part of the Marion Co ordinance revisions. The ordinances have been in place as long as anyone can remember. It took over 60 days, involvement of outside legal bodies just to get a copy of the section, of the ordinances, and still do not have a full copy with approvals and effective dates of the ordinances (originally requested in March).

So, due to our “discussions” with our local town council and the town ordinance stating we cannot have chickens, we have found it necessary to address the issues of keeping back yard chickens. Some of the points have been brought up, and we have already addressed them. As of now, the only argument that hasn’t been addressed is “We just don’t like to look at them”, to which we aren’t quite sure how to address. We are NOT a CAFO (confined animal feed operation) and have around 16 birds on 0.3 acres which is fenced in to keep birds in and larger predators out.  The birds have a coop which they stay in at night and are closed up until released in the morning. The birds free range most of the day. The birds are here to  help our organic orchard and vegetable garden stay pest free, reduce our kitchen waste, produce eggs, and are family pets.  If you are facing similar push back from friends, neighbors, relative, or government bodies, hopefully some of this information may help.

Noise

Typically the first complaint about chickens is the noise, and usually the rooster. You do not need to have a rooster to have a back yard flock. We do not have a rooster and haven’t had one for many years. I actually like the sound of a rooster, as it seems to belong on a farm, and a farm without a rooster is somewhat missing. Chickens (hens) will lay eggs without a rooster, but do gain a level of protection if a rooster is present. Roosters crow between 70 and 90 decibel. This is the range of a dog barking, baby crying, a diesel truck, driving in a car at 65mph, alarm clock, or the level what most people listen to music. The level is also dependant on humidity, proximity, and materials between the rooster and the listener. Example a privacy fence would significantly reduce the sound level compared to open area across pavement. As a comparison, human conversation is 60-70 decibel.

Laying hens do “talk” or cluck, and typically are loudest just after they lay an egg. The typical hen is only 65 decibel which is right in the middle of human conversation.  Most back yard flock owners have the nesting boxes, where the hens lay eggs, inside the coop. This is an additional level of sound barrier. Again, the sound will decrease with barriers, humidity, type of terrain (grass vs. concrete) and distance. The laying announcement lasts less than one minute and is only once per day, per chicken.

In our area, dogs  trucks, diesel semi trucks, farm machinery, J brakes on trucks, sirens from emergency vehicles, lawn mowers, grain elevators and dryers, alarms and notifications from grain elevators, motorcycles, school band instruments, and tractors are ALL noisier than our hens just to name a few for comparison.

decibel-frequency-chart
Click to enlarge
common_noise_levels_b29_sm
Click to enlarge

 

Disease

When opponents of back yard flock state the reasons, often it is disease. The two most often cited are bird flu or avian flu, and salmonella. Bird flu has recently been brought back up in the news as a series of cases that have been found. Typically around 90% of all avian flu cases have been documented in CAFO operations and not the back yard flocks. The CAFO operations typically have lower immunities to the disease, are stressed, have poor diets, and are extremely densely stocked. Back yard flocks, especially free range operations have the benefit of wide and varied diets. The birds get fresh air, are allowed to develop natural immunities, are less densely stocked and have the benefit of less stress. Stress in both humans and animals have been linked to an increase in illnesses and diseases. The cases that have come up in back yard flocks, is a result of someone recently traveled from a CAFO or farm and bringing the illness with them on shoes or clothing.

Salmonella is more a food handling issue vs. a bird issue. Humans cannot contract salmonella from chickens by contact, it is a food borne illness.  The birds may have and carry salmonella but it is only by improper food handling or hand washing that humans contract the illness. The birds are not affected by it. So if someone is getting salmonella from being around chickens, eating the eggs, it is typically the humans fault. More and more cases of drug resistant strains are being found in CAFO operations due to the overuse of antibiotics when they are not necessary. In the 6 years we have been keeping hens, no-one in our family, or anyone receiving eggs from us, has gotten ill from salmonella. This is including children who as early as two years old are handling birds, eggs, and are in the area where the chickens live regularly.

To put things in perspective here are just a few of the diseases that are spread by human to human contact; influenza, common cold, HIV, AIDS, Meningitis, chickenpox (NOT CAUSED BY CHICKENS), mumps, measles, strep, tuberculosis, rubella, whooping cough, SARS, Cholera, Hepatitis, Polio, Rotavirus, Salmonella, Parasites, Chlamydia, Genital  warts, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, trichomoniasis, cytomegalovirus, mononucleosis, athletes foot, impetigo, warts, conjunctivitis, and MRSA. So to call a chicken a dirty animal spreading diseases well, it is the humans who are spreading diseases.

Pests

Recently we were told that chickens carry lice. This is not the case. Chickens can contract mites which are parasitic bugs that can live on the birds. Birds will typically rid the mites by giving themselves dust baths. We go an additional step and give them wood ash containers for their baths, and add diatomaceous earth. The wood ash is caustic and in the even the birds pick up mites, the caustic nature of the ash helps eliminate and keep the mites from returning. We add additional diatomaceous earth as an added plus. Typically birds that have an infestation of mites will lose feathers and can eventually cause death in the birds. The mites themselves do not cause the death but stress the birds to the point they become more susceptible to other diseases such as pneumonia. Humans typically carry TWO different types of mites typically living on eyelashes. Domesticated dogs also carry mites. Humans are the species that typically have lice, both body and head lice are common.

Chickens bring flies. Well chickens to not, bring the flies, the flies are a natural part of the waste cycle breaking down manure. Any animal that defecates in open area without burying it will attract flies. Dogs, horses, cats, rodents, even humans that have open fecal piles will attract flies. Good housekeeping or coop keeping will reduce the amount of flies present. Having deep litter in the coops, having the birds free range, and composting the deep litter regularly will not only keep the smell down but reduce the fly issues. There are also fly traps that can lower or eliminate any fly issues.

Chickens will attract predators, pests, and rodents. This again goes to good animal husbandry. We have a family dog who doesn’t bother the chickens and deters many predators from the property. Locking the chickens up at night in a predator proof coop also helps. In urban areas there are not as many predators as there are in the country just because of the amount of activity and people around. Most predators hunt at dusk or at night, and having a secure coop eliminates many of the issues.  As far as rodents chickens will kill and eat mice, snakes, and generally anything they can catch and take down. In addition they will eat ticks, fleas, grubs, grasshoppers, mosquitoes, sting bugs, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, and ants. Proper animal husbandry will further reduce any pest issues such as keeping feed secured in sealed containers, not having excess feed on the ground, and regular cleaning and maintenance of the coop.

Smell, Dirty

This goes back to animal husbandry. If you are keeping a clean coop then there should be no smell from birds. A 40 lb dog generates more manure (about ¾ pound) than ten chickens (two-thirds pounds of manure). Both are smelly, but the key is to keep the chicken manure from accumulating by composting. Composted chicken manure is valuable as a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Dog manure cannot be composted, and must be collected and sent to the landfill. So, 10 chickens produce manure that can be composted, returned to the soil for better plant health, while one 40 lb dog, the manure collected, and sent to a landfill. Which is the better situation?

Chickens are excellent garbage disposals. They will eat 95% of wastes generated from the family kitchen. Typically you are not to put meat, dairy, or fats into compost piles because they are slow to break down, smell as they decompose, and attract scavengers from bugs to animals. Chickens on the other hand will devour these materials like candy and in return give you eggs, meat, and fertilizer. We can reduce almost a whole bag of trash each month by allowing the chickens to have kitchen scraps and waste. This is a benefit to the landfill, and our trash doesn’t typically smell. To date, we have found 2 things our chickens won’t eat, olives and pickles, and this is over a 6 year period and a family of 6.

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Property values will decrease

Three is no assessor or realtor evidence to support this statement. In fact 7 out of 10 most desirable cities to live in allow back yard chickens. More and more communities are allowing chickens and as such is an attractant to new home buyers vs. a deterrent. Restrictive communities will lower property values more so than accepting ones. More and more people either want more control over the food they eat, are unhappy with the food in stores, want to reduce the grocery bill, or just want to be more self sufficient. The trend is on the rise and the communities who limit the freedoms of the people are turning more and more potential buyers away.

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Hopefully this answered some questions and alleviated some issues. Perhaps it will help you on your crusade to get back yard chickens into your area. The data in this article has been gathered from various sources from online, written publications, and personal experience.