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Thinking about raising chickens and I have a few questions for the DIY'ers.

How hard is it to raise egg producing chickens the natural way? By natural I mean free range chickens, chickens that eat worms, bugs, grain and not chicken feed that has chicken meat in it. Is it worth it to raise chickens for eggs?
 

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Not hard at all. You can buy organic feed. A little more expensive but not outrageous. The biggest problem with letting them free range is the Hawks! They love chicken!
You are not going to save a lot of $$ on eggs, but it is a lot of fun. A chicken in its prime lays about 5-6 eggs a week.
 

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I love having chickens for the eggs. 2-3 chickens will feed a average family and then some. Anymore and you will be giving the eggs away because you can't eat them all. You will find the free range eggs taste much better. There is feed that does not have meat in it. You will still have to feed them chicken feed in the winter time to suppliment the grazing. Chicken scratch is like candy to them. Don't want to feed allot to them. Raccoons are what get mine. If you have coons in the area, you will need to lock them up every night in a secure coop.
 

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My mrs tried the free range thing. Took about a month for the hawks and foxes to reduce the population by 80%. A chicken tractor would be better. Basically a chicken coop on wheels and open to the grass and ground below. Moved every few days so the chickens get fresh grass and area.
Might as well try a breed like Welsumers or Marans. Dark brown eggs almost look like Chocolate and the yolks are orangish, not pale yellow like store eggs,. The whites are firmer and less watery
 

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Ever hear of "spent fowl" and what Campbell's does with them?

There are meat breeds, but they are mostly bred for raising quickly in a few months. 50 % of layer breed chicks are roosters and good for nothing else. Hens of the breeds that are extremely productive layers tend to be boney and scrawny like milk cows. When old milk cows are sold for meat they are called "canners and boners" Spent fowl are over the hill laying hens destined to flavor noodle soup.
 

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I don't see any reason why layers and meat chickens can't be raised together. There are some breeds of chickens that are good for both.
 

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We have had chickens for 8-9 years they are easy to raise. You should take a look at the site Backyard Chickens it has a ton of good info. Some of our hens are 3or4 years old they still lay but only 2-4 eggs a week. We get 6 or so new chicks every other year to help with production. You will loose a couple of hens a year for one reason or the other coons hawks owls we keep ours locked up at night and let them free range during the day. We live in the woods so we don't have a big hawk problem. I tried the not making them pet thing so we could raise some for meat but it didn't work. The wife wont stand for eating her chickens that she raised from the size of a golf ball.
 

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Rhode island reds and Barred rocks are a good all purpose chicken Hens for the eggs and the roosters for the meat
 

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Just started raising my new ones. Have had them in the past. Great eggs! We have a coop with an automatic door for the morning and evening. That device was the biggest help. Purchased from smarthome.com

The two biggest issues are predators....of course (fox and hawks) and the porch! The free range chickens love pooping on the front porch.....UGH. We are now going to enclose a large area and see how that goes.
 

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good luck..mine became pets now they are destined to be layers till death do us part. I have 3 hens in the subs of pgh and they are entertaining to us all including the drive by folks. i got a fenced yard and they get out in the yard for about 3 hours a day. i have the best yard around and garden too with all that poo. i dont save much but its fun to have them around and the eggs are so much better
 

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Buying the organic feed to help their diet along to help them produce more eggs but they will knock down the ticks and other bugs in your yard, all the chickens we have ever raised having over 50 at once seemed to stay near the house away from the road but they will tear up a garden and flower beds in no time. just make sure that you have a safe coop for them we had lost 4 to a skunk one year and my dad last year lost 3 to a red tail and inside my pen I had a falcon break through the netting and killed one twice the size of the falcon and didn't even eat it just tried to kill the other. the falcon was released but fyi don't call the game commission to complain they just tell you to keep your chickens inside. as far as raising meat and layers don't see why not never had any problem and my brother buys and sells all chickens all the time puts them together just note that placing new chickens with others or younger ones with older ones they will fight sometimes and roosters will kill each other. just don't let the eggs lay because chickens can become cannibalistic and will eat eggs ive even seen them kill and eat parts of other chickens. as for eggs white leghorns lay large white eggs much bigger then the store extra large ones. I currently only have three and get 2 to 3 eggs a day which is more then enough for me I supply my family with the extra I get, if you go with a chicken tractor or a pen they love fresh cut grass to scratch around an cracked corn.
 

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I tried raising chickens but it didn't work for me. Not sure if I planted them to deep or too far apart
 

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You gotta stick em in real shallow, like an onion!
But seriously, if you want to free range them, just start by locking them in the coop for a week or 2, then start opening the door in the morning, and they will go back to the coop at night. You will still have one disappear every once in a while, or just kick the bucket for no apparent reason. I try to only feed ours in winter, they get spoiled by getting fed real easily. Like my current batch knows when somebody heads toward the garden, some kind of scraps are getting dumped, and there is a stampede immediately. Same goes for when I head for the garage, they know the feed is in there and come runnin. And you will have to fence in your garden. They will eat ANYTHING. mine will even clean off a freshly butchered deer carcass! They are bug-eating machines, too. And you cannot buy an egg from the store that comes anywhere close to being as good as home raised. One note about roosters, either keep a few around or none. It seems like if you only have one, he always gets ornery, and eventually you'll have to knock him off.
 
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