Adam and Charity have always wanted to grow their own food and raise chickens, but they ran afoul of the homeowner and property owners association rules that label chickens as livestock. Soon thereafter, they found a place rural enough for chickens and quickly left suburbia for a 0.75-acre farm. They now have enough land for a small herb garden, a much larger vegetable garden, a shed on the back of the land and chickens.
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The shed was quickly converted into a chicken coop. They made nesting boxes out of plastic bins that they acquired for free because the bins had cracks in them. The nesting boxes are stacked on waist-high shelves, giving them easy access to check for eggs and for cleaning.
The farm is right next to a two-lane highway, so the entire yard is fenced to keep the chickens from trying to cross the road. The yard is basically open, but it can be portioned of with temporary fencing to keep the children and chickens out of sensitive areas that need to be left undisturbed. Adam and Charity started with three Cochins and two Ameraucanas and now have four Red Comets, five Barred Plymouth Rocks, two Welsummers, and three ducks. Several chickens were killed or injured when a dog got into the hen house.
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The chickens are fed a customized, homemade, organic, non-GMO feed blend. The feed is mixed in a 5-gallon bucket and is roughly one-third soft red or white wheat, 5 pounds of oatmeal, 4 pounds of dal and 2 pounds of split peas, flax seed and barley. Seaweed is also added when possible.
One month they ran out of the custom feed, so they used commercial feed and, three days later, the chicken manure started to stink and several of the chickens got ill. After going back to the homemade feed, the smell was gone and the chickens got better.
They collect the chicken manure from the hen house and use it in their permaculture garden. (Ed. Note: Before using chicken manure, be sure it is well-aged or it can burn and kill plants, especially young ones.)
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Adam and Charity are happy with their lifestyle. They are becoming more independent and self-sufficient by the day and are looking forward to bigger and better things!
This article was originally published in The NEW PIONEER™ Fall 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.