We raise egg layers, that we keep year round for 2-3 years for egg production. Egg layers are primarily for personal consumption and for my daughter to show in 4H. They are all raised completely free range, and out on our pasture. Our chickens are all hormone-free, and none of them are ever fed medicated feed. Our birds are also antibiotic-free. We only feed medicine if a bird is ill. We have not had any illnesses on the farm since 2013, so we are again completely antibiotic free. Our birds free range in our gardens, pasture and orchard, and we never spray any chemicals anywhere on our land, so they are not exposed to pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides.
Currently we raise Rhode Island Reds primarily for egg production. My daughter breeds Mottled Houdan and Phoenix birds for 4H. Our meat breeds can be ranger breeds or Cornish Rock Cross.
I hatch many of my own egg layers, using the roosters as stew meat, and the hens for egg laying. Since I generally have several different roosters around, I sometimes get my own mix of hens. The genetic mixing sometimes gives unknown results, but they are healthy, happy birds. We raise 95% Rhode Island Reds and some specialty breeds for Shannon's 4H projects. These can include Black Australorp, Speckled Sussex, Mottled Houdans and others. They are isolated, and I can hatch true breeds of these. We hatch chicks primarily in the Spring, and do sometimes sell unsexed chicks
Growth and Feeding
When baby chicks are in the brooder, they have access to fresh water and grain. They are fed a special crumble grain that is small enough for them to feed on and digest, and gives them a higher level of protein, so that it can support growth.
When they are big enough to go outside, they are then able to access grass and bugs on the ground, and can forage for these things as they like. To ensure the right nutrition and protein, all birds have access to a growth crumble until they are at least 6 months old. Our meat birds typically are processed before then, and eat the high protein crumble their entire lives.
Egg layers eventually graduate to a slightly lower protein pellet food, that has increased calcium and other minerals to support egg production. The specific feed is shown here:
We feed 28% Game Bird feed to our turkeys and quails, and baby chicks
We feed a 20% layer pellet to adult birds.
A Few Chicken Statistics
We try to maintain a flock of 75 egg laying hens, plus a variety of show birds my daughter raises for 4H.
The largest quantity of eggs collected in ONE day in 2013 was 185. (Flock size of 200)
The smallest quantity of eggs collected in one day in 2012 was 4.
We had one chicken hatch and raise her own brood of chicks! Her name was Friend Bird, and she hatched 3 little chicks which she raised on her own. Papa's name was Fang, a silly polish rooster we used to have.
We currently have 3 Speckled Sussex hens that shared a nest and are now all co-parenting their one chick