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Brighter Planet's 350 Challenge

Interview Questions for Sustainable Chicken Enthusiasts

Would you like to contribute to the project of localizing the food web for backyard chickens? Are you interested in helping create a more sustainable chicken? If so, please help us by answering some of the following questions. We are eager to hear about your experience, and would like to incorporate what you know and have learned into this site.

First, a little background info: where do you live, how many chickens do you keep, how large is your property or the area where the chickens can roam, what’s the neighborhood character (rural, suburb, etc), how long have you been keeping chickens (any length of time is great!), are you a gardener too, any other relevant background info?

How are you currently feeding your chickens?

Where do you buy feed? Do you buy organic?

Have you thought about where the feed comes from? Are you concerned about where your feed comes from?

Do you feed kitchen scraps and what are your strategies and habits? Do you throw the scraps into the pen on the ground or do you place them in a special container? Do you cut the scraps into smaller pieces or leave them be? Do you have a special bowl in the kitchen or how do you handle that? Any foods your chickens seem to particularly enjoy or avoid? Do you specially cook anything for them?

How do you try to feed more locally?

Do you glean for your chickens? (Gleaning is the process of making use of food that it is not economical to harvest in a traditional manner.)

Are you willing or do you currently grow food for your chickens?

Are you willing to glean or go somewhere else to get local food for  your chicken?

Do your chickens range?  In your yard, around the property, within the garden?  Do you have strategies for moving them around the property, containing them in one place, or keeping them out of some areas, such as gardens?

Do you already grow anything for your chickens

Anything else you’d like to share about helping create a more sustainable food web for backyard chickens? 

Please leave answers in the comments section, and many thanks in advance for the help!

12 comments to Interview Questions for Sustainable Chicken Enthusiasts

  • Jan

    Hi. I’m new to chickens, I’m brooding my first chicks now in a stock tank in my living room. Daily, I sprinkle some good garden dirt onto their shavings and add a clump of grass I weeded from the yard. I believe there are lots of good minerals, microbes and such plus natural chicken behavior flourishes with the dirt and grass. They’re getting chicken starter as their primary feed, plus a small dish of home cultured yogurt or raw milk daily, a sprinkling of kelp, a few drops of raw apple cider vinegar in their water, any ant that strolls across my kitchen counter goes right to the chicks plus they get some of the smaller worms from my vermicomposting. They haven’t shown much interest in tender greens so far but they’re not even a week old.

    As they mature, I’ll treat them much as I do my duck flock. Free range my rural yard and edges of my woods during the day, then into their secure house at night. Bagged feed is still the staple food with as much as I can grow for them (working to build good mixed pasture in a couple mini orchards) plus they’ll have access to my compost pile. In winter, I supplement occasionally with worms from the vermicompost bins, plus daily give them a variety of sprouts (mung bean, wheat, etc) and shoots (sunflower, buckwheat, etc) I grow on the windowsills. I’ll plant extra goodies in summer to share with the chicks and ducks (chicks like a lot more variety) such as small patches of corn to dry, oats, flax, etc. No where near enough to be their primary feed, rather these are a super healthful supplements that I hope to grow more of each year. They’ll also be let into portions of the veggie garden between plantings or pre/post growing season.

  • Hello Jan-
    Doesn’t sound like you’re a newbie! Thanks for sharing this information, much appreciated. I’ve noticed that when I pull a whole weed or clump of grass that has all the roots and some attached (instead of just trimming greens) that the chickens go for the soil first. It seems like they’re going after worms, little rocks and perhaps the soil too.
    Where are you located? What do you use for a coop? Do you use a chicken tractor when you let them into the garden, or do they go there strictly during off seasons?
    Thanks!
    Christopher

  • Meant to say “all the roots and some DIRT attached …” Oy, moving fast …

  • Hello.
    I found your website and love it…. we are selling backyard baby chicks and pullets in Mill valley. I found that we were spending so much of our time explaining to customers how to raise chickens, that we started offering ibtroductory classes to backyard chickens,.

    i was wondering if you could link our website to your website? and vice versa.

    Thanks
    Leslie
    leslie184@gmail.com

  • Mark Biaggi

    Great website – too much of America has lost so much knowledge in a few generations.

    I live in a rural isolated area north of you, plenty of acreage for chickens. Have been working with chickens since 1990 started with the “Big guys” Foster Farms, Tyson, Cargil. Small reason i am passionate about pasture raised poultry.

    Have had as many as 250 layers and 500 broilers on pasture. Economics on pasture egg production are tough but preditors make it almost impossible except for home production. We are down to home production currently and I use hoop house chicken tractors as the bobcat population has exploded, they cleaned out layer flock this past year.

    Chickens get to choose what they eat. Feeder each of crumbles, whole wheat, barley, oats, oyster shell, kelp, grit. Constantly move to new pasture even if dry.
    All kitchen scraps (feed meat – chickens are not vegetarians. But don’t feed them chicken even if they will eat it, excess vegetables from local grocery store (reduces their garbage bill), and access to cow pies (fly larva). Grit (hen’s teeth) is such a key to feed utilization, especially when using whole grains, vegetables, etc.

    Never pack water, use a float system with gravity feed. Have clean water.

    For extra protien if you have earwigs leave old board in grass at least a week or more before the next move. Turn over boards when chickens are in area they will clean up.

    Pay attention to what the chickens eat, it changes as the season, their age, the egg production etc changes and feed accordingly.

    If you are confined then use deep bedding, just because chicken manure is high in nitrogen they place should not stink of ammonia. Utilize roots in confined areas, but on pasture they will adjust to sleeping on the ground.

    Biggest thing is foundation, start them correctly in the brooder and they will be a good flock. Just like a house if they have a poor foundation it will crumble. A good brooder requires not antibiotics, does not smell and mortality should be 1-2% max.

    Lots of luck and hope all works out.

  • Linda

    Hi,

    I live in wine country of Temecula, California. It gets hot and dry, water is expensive. I have an orchard that takes up about 1/2 acre and because the water is expensive I decided to put down straw as a mulch and let the fruit fall. I want to get a food forest going, but my concern is bugs in the mulch. I thought about chickens to eat the bugs, but, they will trample any food that is growing. Do you have any ideas?

  • Fran Ransley

    I live in Lake County, CA, and currently have about 20 mixed breed chickens (Araucana, Game and various Mediterranean breeds) that I raise for eggs and meat, and Asian Games that I raise for meat. I’ve had a home chicken flock for about 40 years. My property is 1 acre in a semi-rural subdivision. Parcels around my place were once undeveloped and I had about 16 surrounding acres that I leased for grazing. Now almost every parcel has a house on it, so we are a suburban neighborhood now.
    Currently I have the chickens, a vegetable garden, fruit trees, three small ponies, a cat and two dogs. In the past when I had more land available and hungry children to feed, I raised sheep, goats, turkeys and pigs.
    I keep the chickens penned up most of the time, due to hawks, bobcats and other predators. I keep them in family groups, in three-sided shelters with covered, wire fenced runs.
    During late winter and early spring, I will let the chickens into the garden to clean up overwintering earwigs, slugs, etc., but they tear up the landscaping when they’re loose on a regular basis, and if any of them get through or over the fence into the neighbors’ yards, it’s a pain to have to go get them.
    Over the years I’ve fed many different supplements to the scratch grains that are their basic diet. They get table and kitchen scraps, of course, and various greens and any weeds and refuse from the garden. I keep a “chicken bucket” in the kitchen and take it out and toss the stuff to the chickens every day. I also have various buckets and tubs in the garden where I put weeds, greens, etc. for them. Hardly ever a day goes by that they don’t get something green from the garden.
    For many years I’ve been gleaning pumpkins and butternut squash from a local farm, and this is a main source of winter supplemental feed for the chickens. I chop the squash up in pieces and the chickens do the rest. The beta carotene helps keep the egg yolks deep orange during the winter months. They love any zucchini or summer squashes that grow too big for stir frying or steaming. I also pick vetch for them along the roadsides in the spring.
    The huge increase in the cost of feed in the last year has motivated me to cut way back on my flock and start looking for feed alternatives. I had thought that the reason for the price increase was the demand for corn, but when I inquired about buying grains separately, I was surprised to find out that corn was about the same price as milo. Since the chickens tend to waste a lot of corn, especially in hot weather, I now buy milo, recleaned oats and whole wheat, and combine them about 1 part milo to two parts wheat and two parts oats. Interestingly, one group of young chickens will leave a lot of the milo, and another group eats up all their milo and leaves the oats.
    When I have a lot of extra eggs, I hard boil them and crush them up for the chickens. It does not cause them to become chronic egg eaters.
    Maybe once a month or so, I will give them a supplement of Calf Manna along with their grain. It averages out to about 2 ounces per chicken, and they really go for it.
    I also crush up and feed dried hot chili peppers. They love this, too.
    I used to occasionally find cheap alfalfa, and would toss flakes of that into their yards. It gives them something to scratch, as well as some protein and other food value. Alfalfa has become very expensive and hard to get, so I won’t be doing that anymore.
    I dig up large clumps of timothy grass and throw these into the pens. The chickens definitely go for the roots and whatever they find in the soil that clings to them.
    Where I live, year around green pasture is not feasible. The grass dries up in June, and I don’t have the capacity to irrigate. Next year, however, I hope to design some sort of portable shelter so that I can better take advantage of the green feed in the spring. Not all of my land is flat, so a chicken tractor would be of limited use.
    I raise my own replacement chicks and butcher the extra young roosters. I have broody hens who are excellent mothers.
    I have used the fancy feed and water containers from the farm supply store, but I have found they are a lot of trouble to clean and fill. Heavy crocks make good feeders. Old frying pans are good waterers for babies, shallow enough to prevent drowning.
    For the adult chickens I have an assortment of old metal and enamel pots that can be easily filled without having to go into the pens.
    When I’m gone for three to five days, I can leave enough feed for them in various crocks and pans, that will last until I get back, and can ask a neighbor to top off the water tubs.
    I’m interested in any ideas for sustainable homegrown chicken feed. Are there any grains that will survive the cold winters and hot dry summers, and relatively heavy clay soil?

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