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#41 [url]

Sep 15 11 9:11 PM

QUOTE>  Never, ever, feed chickens any part of their eggs, including shells!  Chickens do need a certain amount of protein, but like humans, not as much as most people think, and yes, most of their protein needs are met by eating insects if they can free range.  Our chickens favorite foods were the centipedes and other garden insects.  Of course, chickens that cannot free range need pellets and grain, and if you think about it, that is the same for humans. <QUOTE>

Why aren't chickens supposed to be fed their eggs?  Any particular reason?  I've read in a lot of places that eggshells are good to feed back to chickens and have done it for years without any visible harmful effects.

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#43 [url]

Sep 16 11 8:59 AM

Part of the Easter Island saga is that they went into chickens in a big way when they had used up too many trees and couldn't fish offshore anymore due to lack of canoes.  I confess I don't know how this is known but I have read it more than once and I am willing to believe it is true.  I assume that the percentage of chicken bones in the middens went way up as the percentage of ocean based food scraps went down.  Anyhow after reading on this site and others how people rack their brains trying to figure out how to provide their chickies with a balanced diet without commercial chicken chow I get really curious how the Easter Islanders did it.  Part of the answer of course is that they didn't, at least not indefinitely.  However they must have given it a good shot if there was enough archaeological evidence to illustrate a trend.  Most of us couldn't keep chickens alive for a year, much less several human generations, so even the Easter Island failure could teach us a lot.

The Easter Island chicken houses were imposing stone structures that were more "chicken safes" than conventional houses.   Apparently  theft was a big concern.  What would the chickens have eaten?  They must have been free range although that would have exposed them to more risk of theft.  Yet they must have gotten enough to eat so that they laid eggs and produced surplus meat.

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#44 [url]

Sep 16 11 10:34 AM

If most of us lived like the Easter Islanders , I am sure
we could devote an hour a day gathering food and garbage for
our chickens to eat. We live on an island where there is a great abundance of
food growing wild. All kinds of fruits and some vegetables, lots of bugs to
gather/farm BUT how many eggs will we get if we feed our chicks this way?
Probably not as many as we are getting now.

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#45 [url]

Sep 16 11 10:54 AM

A lot of all this revisits the whole Numbers topic: You can grow a lot of chickens on a small space, but you'll need to import feed, which is sunlight from a big space concentrated in the form of high protein pellets. You can grow chicken free-range, but they'll need to be tougher more independent breeds first, which will make them a heck of a lot less efficient in terms of production. It's just a tough tough nut to crack, living on the energy that falls on a given piece of ground rather than borrowing from the future.

Right now, I feed the chickens like crazy with all the imported feed I can afford. This is done not so much to increase egg/bird production, though it does, but rather to increase banana/poha berry/ everything else production, which it really does as well. The chickens probably do more cultivation daily than an employee would, and they plant a lot of stuff on their own now, wherever they go.

I think we've got 30 or so now, having got rid of a bunch. About 30 an acre seems like a reasonable number, but that's a number well worth talking about.

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#46 [url]

Sep 16 11 11:42 AM

That is an interesting figure. I have let mine run on a 30x70 ft area
and 8 big Buffies are too many for that area. They totally strip 
and kill off everything but the wonderful fruit trees they fertilize.

I have been letting them out into the backyard but have had to 
fence the aquaponic system . They love to eat all the tender greens
and hop on the styrofoam floats and surf  the system . Funny to watch a fat old hen balance on
a floating piece of styrofoam and try to eat.

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#47 [url]

Sep 16 11 5:06 PM

Buffy, what a great picture you just painted with words! LOL. Hopefully next time you'll have your camera handy; would love to see a picture of that fat old hen surfing.

A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions - Confucius

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#48 [url]

Sep 16 11 10:00 PM

It may be that in a tropical or semi-tropical forest setting the chicken is the only domesticated (or semi-domesticated if you prefer) animal that can earn its way, especially on limited acreage. (not sure about ducks - little experience with them.)  Without imported feed the number of chickens must be seriously reduced, as Jay and others here have pointed out.  The question of how many chickens are appropriate on a given piece of property is a perfect example of why the whole question of "sustainablility" is a much more complex concept than most (including some of you here) care to admit.

I submit that providing commercial feed to your chickens is equivalent to having an engine on a "sailboat."  LOL
Sorry, couldn't resist that ;)

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#49 [url]

Sep 16 11 10:33 PM

I freely admit that I have too many big chickens for the area . But I'd like to point out that we are in a transition stage, hopefully on the road to sustainability. We are learning some hard lessons while we can still afford mistakes. 

Right now I am still trying to fight the mongoose , rats and feral cats that want to 
eat my domestic chickens. If I cut the chicken  population too much I may get wiped out for a season.
In the future I hope  I know how to fight the predators and maintain a constant chicken population.

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#50 [url]

Sep 16 11 10:39 PM

Scott at Evening Rain Farm posted that one could easily keep 30 chickens fully free range, taking care of themselves on a 2 acre lowland tropical parcel: (blurb on chickens & sheep at the very end of the post.)

I don't remember whether I've posted this before; apologies if so.  I wrote up a blog entry a few months back on our implementation of rotating chicken paddocks, which I think helps a lot with allowing non-destructive chicken integration of a larger number of chickens into a smaller piece of land than if you allow full free-range.  Of course you have to build fences and do more maintenance:

For the anecdotal record, we've fed our chicken's eggshells back to them for years without egg-eating problems developing.  They even eat occasional broken eggs from the grocery coop food scraps we bring them; they devour badly cracked eggs, yolk and all.  Still no egg-eating problems of their own or even when they find mostly intact eggs in the food scraps.  I think that trait has been fairly well bred out of chickens, so apply a minimum of caution has been adequate for us to stave off the problem.

I fed a roadkill squirrel to our chickens once.  It was too badly smooshed for us to want to eat him, so I chopped him up with a hatchet and tossed the fairly large pieces to the chickens.  They were pretty nervous about it.  Eventually one chicken grabbed a piece and tried to pull the meat off from the piece, which made the whole piece jump towards her, which of course terrified her into running away.  But after staring at the dormant piece for a few minutes she came back and tried again, and eventually they all piled in and ate it up.  So I'm sure the same process would apply to a mongoose or other carcass.

We used to keep a "maggot farm" bucket; a 5 gallon bucket with holes drilled into the sides and bottom and a lid on top.  We'd put in chicken carcass scraps (didn't want to feed them directly to the hens), nasty wet cat food rejected by Tulsey's elderly and finicky cat, roadkill, etc.  Flies would fly into the bucket through the holes and lay their eggs.  The maggots would develop in and feed on the meat.  Once mature, they would burrow to the bottom of the bucket and out the holes, falling to the ground in an attempt to pupate.  The chickens quickly learned to keep an eye out for falling maggots, and to scratch the dirt under the bucket to find them all.  It worked well; we stopped when Tulsey's cat died and our steady stream of bad meat dried up.  (I wanted to put Cleo in the bucket as a final maggot feed, but we buried her instead.)  This was all inspired by Harvey Usury, whose website is worth browsing, and whose book on small scale poultry keeping will probably be well worth reading:


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#51 [url]

Sep 16 11 10:45 PM

Hi Mike,

My feeding commercial feed to my chickens is the equivalent of buying a lifetimes worth of sailcloth to replace the sails on my sailboat. . .as when I can't afford to do it anymore, the vitality of the plant growth supported by the commercial feed shat everywhere should support the flock that I hope to raise, high performance. . .



As for egg eating. Yup, you'll get it, regardless of practice, as with chickens as with humans there's a percentage that's just fucked up. You'll rarely see the behavior in a flock of 10, but you will commonly in a flock of 50, and you'll need to cull those straight away as the behavior will spread.

Word of caution.

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#52 [url]

Sep 17 11 1:12 AM

I had way too many chickens at the other house once and it took a long time for the yard to recover.  Once we got the level of free range chickens correct for the size of yard, they pretty much maintained themselves.  We gave them feed in the quantity to be considered a "treat" just to get them down to the laying nest by the window so we wouldn't have to go collect the eggs since with just a bit of feed, they'd come deliver them instead.  Our per chicken egg quantity was pretty low since we weren't buying much feed for the hens but the per egg cost was negligible since we weren't buying much feed for the hens.  They were Rhode Island reds and were one of the most productive breeds we've tried.  We are now experimenting with Brown Danish leghorns at the new house.  Flighty little critters, they are much more wild than RIRs but hopefully as a smaller chicken they will be easier on the landscape.  

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#53 [url]

Sep 18 11 4:38 AM

Norris - what an Excellent idea for using buckets like that to cultivate maggots!  The bucket keeps cats and crows out of the meat and there is no need to handle the carcass again.  Thank you very much for sharing that information and the link to the Ussery's web site - thank you for your entire post, I do not take your time to do so for granted.  Aahhh, and I see you are part of the reason I enjoyed living in Portland so much - the only place I have lived without a car at all and didn't need one.  Methinks Peter Calthorpe would have been much more successful implementing his sustainable city designs if he based himself out of Portland rather than San Francisco.  Between the Ussery's site and your blog and I will have many happy hours of learning.

I disagree that feeding commercial feed is equivalent to buying a lifetimes worth of sailcloth, and am surprised and dismayed (to put it mildly) to find so many people in this group using commercial feed.  When time permits I will make a post about this.

There are no failures - just experiences and your reactions to them.

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#54 [url]

Sep 18 11 9:21 AM

Has anyone tried to "grow " Black Soldier Fly's? The data I have read said they with not grow in zone 4 which is the zone I think most of us are. To warn? I see you can get a start for $20 on Ebay. I don't think I have seen them around so may they don't live here and maybe we are we lucky.


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#55 [url]

Sep 18 11 10:31 AM

curious to hear the reasons for ur dismay concerning commercial feed in the context in which it is used on island and in what farm situations.

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#56 [url]

Sep 18 11 8:58 PM

Hi Bill,

Black Solder Flies are indeed here, and I'm familiar with the biopod.  They work, mostly, as advertised, stink like hell, and require a lot of labor to provide grams of protein. That doesn't mean they're not practical, but unfortunately few understand the scale of what it takes to put a sustainable lifestyle together, and the amount of work, and while might berate the importation of outside inputs(excluding capital, conspicuously, curiously--as it's the most damaging import of all, but it allows you the luxury of farting around with buckets)-- haven't actually given it a good go-- but that's fine, and as the island is getting poorer by the moment, and finally we'll be able to talk about this stuff in detail here in a few months. People here on this forum are smart, and when the rubber hits the road we'll figure it out.

Protein? There is a solution here, but it requires scale, and it's off the air.

Propane is 6 bucks a gallon.

I don't mean to bust anybodies balls, and I'm an asshole, but a practical one--think about it a bit.

We're about to leave dress rehearsal stage.

Otherwise, Bill,  I've got the steel to put together your lock box and all that, finally have the welder home finally. Am completely pooped out but hope to bang it out in the next few days. Am pretty gassed preparing for the whole TEDx thing this weekend, as well, it's been a little weird. Wish me luck and I hope it goes well.

We'll see.

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#57 [url]

Sep 19 11 11:28 AM

Jay I have been thinking about one. Have you ever heard of any one putting  fly's in but die and feed the Black Solder Flies we could even but one way door for fruit flies. Any little bit helps,and a lot of little bits make a lot. Know anyone with a start?

We will be home most of the week, but go in to town some time on Wednesday. Call first.

Good luck on TEDx I will be looking to the TV showing, they may even have a radio show. Do you know if they will have it on the radio??


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#58 [url]

Sep 19 11 11:47 AM

Last year I made a really disgusting fly trap that  kept down the flies around the chicken
pen. You take a big plastic soda bottle  , add dog manure, add a little water,
and hang it  on a string in the area of the flies.  

The flies go in and make more flies and most never find their way out .
Every so often you cut the bottle open and feed them to the chickens
and put up a new bottle.

Disgusting but it works.

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#59 [url]

Sep 19 11 7:29 PM

There's another way to look at it too.

Maybe people that have space to raise chickens should do that, as they can do so with far less difficulty and complication, and people with smaller properties could focus on high intensity crops, especially the kinds chickens tend to destroy. . .

I've become pretty concerned there's this huge rush out there with people digging up every last Mother Earth magazine and trying every last thing in them. There's blog upon blog too of people doing that, often quoting each other and back and forth, almost like a game of telephone. There's a reason that a lot of techniques get lost--it's not often that they don't work. Most of them do, which is why someone wrote an article about them. It's only after the fact that one figures out that while the technique works, it' doesn't pay, and well, there's the rub.

Rarely does complication of technique lead to efficiency. Not impossible, but rare.

Hey Norris, doesn't it seem that in the "bug bucket" you're actually losing a lot of valuable nutrition? Sure, you're growing maggots but I'm sure a 1lb of roadkill(at X calories) can only produce 1lb or so of maggots(at X - whatever the bugs consume for metabolism.) There's no energy input anywhere, so there can only be a loss. For a lot of animals that metabolic loss(of eating meat to create meat) is a huge loss. No doubt it varies. But it seems to me that if you compost the scraps you have the potential for feeding something that can actually create a value add--a plant, right?. People do the biopod to concentrate protein, from plant waste, mostly, but I still question the whole issue and wonder if real investigations can be done. It's easy to forget that plants alone create calories from sunlight-- animals only concentrate them, and pretty inefficiently-- and that's got to be key of the design.

I'm sure you know this, but wonder if it's been considered. I'd sure as hell concern myself with potential disease vectors, as well. The tropics can be hard to figure. You've got to be careful here with parasitic worms that can have all sorts of hosts, and those are often BIG and likely to not get consumed by maggots, but fall out of dead stuff nicely where they get consumed by chickens. Earthworms, in fact, are a big vector here for big hookworms. They will kill birds but often they seem to just stop laying for no reasons. We seem to have broken the cycle here successfully although it's taken a couple of years. That's taken 1) Multi generation birds raised here, as they acquire some immunity. Ours don't even get fowl pox now. 2) Diatomaceous earth in the feed, pretty heavy, for at least a season, to insure the earthworm population gets cleared. As well, if you bring birds home from other sites, unless you know for sure that the source has a protocol for control, treat them--prazilquantil or some such-- or your whole flock will get them. Do not make this mistake! You get to start all over clearing the whole site.

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#60 [url]

Sep 27 11 12:05 PM

aloha! new to the site, and very happy to meet chicken folk :)

a couple months ago we sort of just ended up with a 16 chickens and 2 roosters - fascinating creatures - better than tv! it's been 3 weeks with a sitting hen, and i guess we're about due for a bunch of fluffballs. we've been figuring stuff out as we go along, but i don't want to take chances with babies. so i've got a few questions - any answers are infinitely appreciated.

how dangerous are mongooses and owls, and how can we best protect the chicks? anything else we should protect them from?

at what age do the chicks start showing gender (embarassingly stupid question, but...what do you look for?). up to what age are the boys no problem? our space is b-a-r-e-l-y big enough to keep the 2 current roosters apart.

what do people do with the extra roosters if they can't keep them? i saw an earlier post with somebody offering reincarnation services for the boys - was that for real? i couldn't possibly butcher one myself but would be happy to pass the protein on.

mahalo for sharing!

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