Apart from my opening statement, I do hope that this post makes you laugh a little, or a lot.
So what do you do when you are truly fed up supporting Corporate Agri-Business. People who could care less about the welfare of any of the animals they farm: And are only interested in generating huge profits, regardless of the cruelty they inflict upon any of the farm animals they keep. Then I would like to mention the low grade products filled with antibiotics and/or stress hormones that they then send to market for all of us to consume?
For me, I had to either give up eating eggs altogether, which are one of my favorite foods, or tend to my own cluck, in a stress free, happy and truly free range environment. I chose the latter. It has paid off and now I have wonderful orange-yolk eggs, that I consider gifts, that taste absolutely wonderful. They are higher in nutrition and much lower in cholesterol than most store bought eggs.
Now, for all of you wannabe Urban Chicken Ranchers, please think long and hard before you take on "this" responsibility. Chickens are intelligent, happy and funny little critters that need a lot of your attention and protection. I do not condone keeping chickens locked up during daylight hours. If you cannot provide them with a protected yard to frolic in all day, and then a very secure "bunker" at nigh, then please do not keep them at all. They need someone to let them out every morning after sunrise and most definitely need to be on serious lock-down at sunset - EVERY DAY! - of their potential ten years of their life.
CHOOSING YOUR CHICKENS
We chose Rhode Island Red chickens for several reasons, the first being that they are less visible to predators and are large birds. The second being that they are a fairly well-bred old fashioned bird, without the skittish eccentricities and aggressive or super shy behavior of some of the cross-breeds. All-in-all, I would highly recommend this breed of bird. They are very friendly to humans, when socialized.Unfortunately, there is still a pecking order and they can be real butt-heads to each other. Sometimes this can be fatal, so do be forewarned. Our girls are sometimes "narky" with each other, but normally pretty together.
DISCIPLINING YOUR CHICKENS (sort of like kids and puppies:)
I have had to intervene as mother hen and put them in their place. Sounds weird, but if you have a relationship with a chicken you can do this simply by putting your hand over their back, saying no and gently pushing them to the ground for a second or two. Not hard as their skeletal system is fairly fragile. They get the message and make a little squawk of protest, but it usually does the trick.
Here are some links to Chicken Houses (coops)
http://www.freechickencoopplans.com/ this link will link you to many other sites
Your Urban Chickens will need a very secure, safe, warm and dry place to sleep at night as the city is full of night time predators - Raccoons love chicken! One more time, Raccoons love chicken! And if you do decide to raise chickens from hatch-lings and you are an animal lover at heart, they will bond with your entire family and become beloved pets that will follow you around the garden and joyfully enter your home at any open door and shake all of the dirt off their bodies after a sunny afternoon dirt-bath. Not only that, if you have an outdoor patio and enjoy having breakfast or lunch on the patio, they will gleefully jump on your lap and eat your breakfast.
Our chickens are fed all manner of table scraps and are especially fond of fresh corn, on the cob of course rice, sunflower seeds, purple cabbage, lettuce, peas, millet and grapes are their favorites. They also love small parakeet food, but they really are hounds at heart and if you have altruistic ideas about them being vegetarians - forget it. They are "bug" hunters; they especially love spiders!
Chickens need a well balanced diet, high in calcium for egg laying girls. We feed them back their egg shells, washed and dried thoroughly before grinding to prevent salmonella.
There are some excellent organic commercial products that you can buy. We enjoy the trip to the Half Moon Bay feed store where they have organic vegetarian laying crumble. But mostly, I make my own feed from organic human grade grains from Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco.
CHICKENS AND WATER
All breeds of chickens need twice as much water as they do food. So do be sure to place several water bowls around for them to drink. Apparently they forget to drink unless water is within sight.
So come and meet my girls; Hewey, Louie and Dewey, the Three Wise Hens:- Their antics are very amusing and as you can see, they get along just fine with their dogs, Loki (black) and Sydney (red), who have raised and protected them.