Helpful Tips for Raising Free Range Chickens

Today’s guest post is from Kylie of Green and Growing, a blog dedicated to green news and green living. Kylie shares with us today some handy information about a topic I’ve had to do research on over the past couple of years myself: the raising and care of chickens, specifically chickens that are allowed to free range. In this article, Kylie shares with us some handy tips and information to consider when deciding to raise chickens of your own! Thanks Kylie!


Helpful Tips for Raising Free Range Chickens

Raising free-range chickens can be a rewarding experience that the whole family can get involved in. There are numerous benefits to raising free-range chickens. The birds have a better quality of life that is reflected in their overall health and egg production. When choosing to free range your chickens, it’s important to remember that it’s your responsibility to see to their safety and well-being. Listed below are some helpful tips on raising healthy birds in a more productive, natural way.

What are Free Range Chickens?
Free-range chickens are allowed to enjoy the benefits of a large chicken yard or field where they can forage free from confinement for the majority of the day. The opportunity for the chickens to roam about provides them with needed exercise, and their ability to forage cuts down on the cost of feeding. The varied diet is beneficial to the birds, and overall they are healthier than chickens that are enclosed 24 hours a day.

Most people who choose to raise free-range chickens still keep a coop to house their birds at night. This offers protection from the elements as well as predators, and a coop equipped with nesting boxes makes it easier to collect eggs.

You can keep free-range chickens all year round. During the colder months, chickens have a tendency to stay close to their coop, and they typically won’t forage if there is snow on the ground. During the winter it’s a good idea to increase the amount of feed that you offer your chickens, and they also appreciate the occasional treat of hot oatmeal during the colder months. You might also consider scattering straw near the coop with a bit of feed mixed in to give your chickens the opportunity to forage when it’s snowy. Installing a heat lamp in the coop is also an option, especially if you only have a few chickens that won’t be able to produce sufficient body heat to sustain them overnight.

baby chick & henStart with Chicks
If you are new to raising chickens it’s best to start out with chicks. Hatching your own eggs may seem like fun, but there is a lot involved in the process of hatching eggs. Instead, purchase chicks from a reputable hatchery. It may be tempting to buy chicks from a hobby breeder to save money, but you run the risk of purchasing chicks that are not healthy and nutritionally sound. If there isn’t a hatchery readily available, you can always order your chicks online from reputable hatcheries. Two such hatcheries are Murray McMurray and Hoovers Hatchery.

It’s also important to consider the best chicken breed for free ranging. All chickens can be raised for free-ranging, but some are more suited than others. You want to choose a breed with feather colors that will provide suitable camouflage to protect your birds from predators, and you also want birds that are considered to be good foragers. Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, and Welsummers are all excellent choices for free range birds. They’re all excellent layers with good feather colors, and all three breeds are sound foragers with good personalities, making them easier to handle.

chicken coopKeep Your Coop Simple
There is no need for a big fancy coop unless you have your heart set on one. Most sustainable farmers and free rangers put together simple sturdy coops, often from repurposed materials. A coop is intended to be a safe place for your chickens to roost, lay their eggs, and protect them from the weather and predators.

An ideal coop will be a well ventilated, sturdy structure and will include one or more nest boxes for hens to retreat to for laying. Providing nest boxes for your chickens makes egg collecting a lot easier. It also helps cut down on the attraction of raccoons, foxes and other predators that will be drawn to any eggs the chickens have deposited in the field if they’re not provided with nest boxes.

When dealing with a new flock, coop your birds for a couple of days in order to establish the coop as their home. When you feel that they are sufficiently settled, release them onto the field or yard that you intend for them to use, and then tempt them back to the coop in the evening with chicken feed.

Stay Clean
From the very beginning, you should establish a good routine that will help to keep your chickens and their coop clean and healthy. Begin by training your flock to vacate the coop early in the morning, going to their designated area to forage for the day. Try and choose an area for your free rangers that’s not prone to foot traffic to avoid tracking chicken droppings all over your house and property. You may want to consider fencing off areas that you want to be chicken-free, otherwise, your flock is likely to roam about wreaking havoc in your garden and taking over the food dishes of any pets you might have.

After your flock has left the coop for the day, take a few minutes to tidy up. Cleaning out nesting boxes and turning the straw or litter on the floor of the coop only takes a few minutes if you do these things daily. Not only will this cut down on dirty eggs, it will also keep your chickens healthy and less prone to feather loss and illness.

Stay Natural
Whenever possible, go natural or homemade when tending to your chickens or acquiring equipment for them. Try to avoid chemicals that can be potentially harmful to your birds when cleaning and disinfecting your coop. A simple cleaning solution of equal parts water and white vinegar will do the trick when cleaning the coop. It’s not harmful to your birds and it’s a lot cheaper than the commercial cleaners on the market.

As often as you can, repurpose items to create tools and equipment for your chickens. Chick waterers and feeders can be made from things you already have on hand. This saves you money and it’s environmentally responsible.

Chickens need calcium to help them produce eggs. Instead of buying calcium supplements, feed your chickens crushed eggshells to give them the calcium they need. You can also include kitchen scraps in your chicken’s diet to give them additional nutrients as well.

Don’t try to force your chickens to lay eggs by leaving lights on them all of the time. Chickens periodically need a break from laying, and forcing them to always produce can actually shorten their lifespan and result in low-quality eggs. Let them lay on their own schedule instead. This supports a healthy lifestyle for your chickens, and it reduces your electric bill.

Raising free-range chickens might take a little effort when getting started, but the end product makes it well worth it. Not only will you have a source of eggs and poultry that is clean and chemical free, but you will also be giving your chickens a better life that allows them to live in a natural, healthy way.

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bio picKylie is the editor at Green & Growing. She enjoys the outdoors, especially when she can go on a fun hike or adventure. She likes to focus on the perks of green living. She feels it is so important to take care of our earth and hopes to spread more awareness as she edits and writes.

 

Fly Fishing Reflections

My dad taught me to cast a fly rod at about the age of 6. This is at least my first memory of it… we were in New York, in the infamous Woodstock area, where my dad was in school for some IBM computer training. I remember standing out front in the yard of the rental apartments we stayed in, practicing “10 and 2, 10 and 2.” I probably couldn’t even tell time yet on a clock, and my dad may not have even been telling me “10 and 2” but I recall paying very special attention to where my rod tip started and ended.

Fly fishing has never been a passion for me the way it is for my dad, but something about it has always stuck with me and I feel very peaceful when I’m out on the stream. I have very clear and grounding memories of fly fishing in Wisconsin, and trips we took out west to Yellowstone and Montana, fishing in many of the really “famous” streams out there, hooking and (sometimes…) landing some VERY large trout on a tiny, tiny fly. Practicing casts that would not leave a wake, ripple or splat when landing on a calm, slow river, which would scare the fish. Mending a line on fast, rippling streams to avoid drag.

Of course, I’ve always enjoyed hooking a trout and succeeding in bringing it in where I could feel the reward of having done everything “right.” But I also simply enjoy the casting, the practicing… the perfecting of casts under overhanging trees to that really good looking spot where a trout MUST be. Casting side arm to avoid snagging a branch or tall weeds. Seeing how far I can gracefully launch my line without a tangle or snag. Or just standing there, looking at the light reflecting on the water. Hearing the sound of water rushing or trickling by. Watching birds and wildlife. Feeling the warm sun reflect on my arms and face.

When I read the following book/author review in our local Trout Unlimited Chapter‘s Newsletter the Rip Rap, I asked if I could share it on my website because I think it would be a book worth reading. And when I think that way about something for myself, I also like to share it here! I have not read it yet, but I think her essays sound very interesting. Let me know if YOU read it and what you think 🙂

Thanks for reprinting permission to Ms. Constantini, Ms. Manion, and the Kiap-TU-Wish Chapter of Trout Unlimited.


littleRiversBookBook Review I by Suzanne Constantini
Little Rivers: Tales of a Woman Angler, by Margot Page
Three Winds Media; 2 edition, 2015

Margot Page’s book Little Rivers is a compilation of 12 essays written over a 10 year period, that journals, in wonderful lyrical prose, some of Margot Page’s life experiences. As the granddaughter of Alfred W. Miller, AKA Sparse Grey Hackle, she was instilled with the importance of writing the real story as she saw it and felt it. In her own words, Little Rivers is about “a daughter coming of age after the death other mother … a woman becoming a mother herself and going on to confront the mountains most of us face as we grow up, and the passage of time, illness and mortality. These are the currents that interest me. And when I sit down to write, these events are inseparable from my time on the water.”

Of the twelve essays, two in particular intrigued me. In ‘Water, Light, Words’, she describes how fishing and writing are intertwined and how she endeavors to “leave the water with impressions, not data.” She captures her surroundings and writes beautifully as she describes “a patient parade of cows backlit by the sun… the light on the water… twinkling prisms… for an instant the world is timeless. The feel and sound of rushing water…the pulsing, a mind-filling symphony of a healthy clear stream in which wild things live.” Her words flow effortlessly from hand to paper, through the ever present note pad and pencil she always carries in her fly vest.

In ‘Women Astream’ she describes how fly fishing, historically a male dominated sport, is fast evolving into a more gender balanced environment. She encourages women to strike out on their own and learn through their experiences on the water. And as she has done, redefine for themselves what they need and want out of this wonderful sport of fly fishing.

credits: Kiap-TU-Wish, Suzanne Constantini, Margot Page

DIY Essential Oil Playdough

I think I may even play with this stuff! I haven’t made play dough for my kids in ages, but seeing this pic and thinking of the yummy smelling essential oils I have from Rocky Mountain Oils may inspire me to make this today, since it’s only 9 degrees out right now, on April 5…. good grief! If you try this, let me know how it turns out for you, and which oil(s) you used! Click here for the recipe.

Guest Post: Spring Gardening Ideas for Kids

Today’s guest post is from Craig of Everything Backyard, a DIY gardening and backyard project website, geared toward those who love spending time in the outdoors and backyard, including kids. Today we are sharing his article on how to get your kiddos interested in gardening, and the ways you can teach necessary everyday skills to your children through the process of planning, planting and growing a garden. There are ideas here for everyone! We hope you enjoy the article, and when you’re done reading here, hop on over to Everything Backyard for more great tips to jumpstart your spring gardening and outdoor plans! Thanks Craig!

Spring Gardening Projects for Your Kids

Winter is finally over, but your kids definitely still have cabin fever. You want to get them started on projects that will interest and even fascinate them. Gardening is a pastime that you enjoy, and you were thinking that your children might find the same interest and passion in it as you do. Gardening projects that they might enjoy working on could include the following:

2D274905752976-indoor-herb-gardenIndoor Herb Garden
One of the simplest gardens for youngsters to begin their gardening hobby with is an herb garden. It doesn’t take much space, and it teaches a child the basics of planting edible foods. There are many kits available to get your child started on this project, but it is just as easy to gather your own supplies.

Find a sunny spot where these plants would grow well. An ideal place is a kitchen window sill where the herbs would be easily accessible. Take your child to a gardening center or home improvement store and help him choose the best seeds. Include basic herbs such as parsley, basil, oregano, and mint. Also purchase potting soil, small pots, and simple gardening hand tools.

Teach your child to read the directions on the plant packet and plant his seeds accordingly. As they begin to grow, show him how to water and fertilize them. When the plants are fully mature, instruct him as to the many uses of each plant. Muddle a mint leaf in a glass and add iced tea and ice. Make a chicken dish with either the basil or oregano. Show him how much prettier a plated meal is with the addition of a sprig of parsley. Be careful though; his interest may turn from gardening to culinary arts!

Raised Bed Garden
Even if you have very little space in your yard, you could purchase or assemble a raised bed garden. Select woods that are not chemically treated and help your youngster hammer together four boards in a small square. It could be four feet square or a five-by-three structure – whatever fits the space you have. Add compost and soil.

1_different-raised-garden-beds

Demonstrate how to section off the small space for each plant you have chosen. Stick with simple varieties such as tomatoes, onions, green beans, peas, and different types of lettuce. Radishes are an excellent choice also, as they mature very quickly. Some, such as the tomatoes plants, can be started a few weeks earlier and then transplanted. Help your child water and fertilize the different vegetable plants as they grow. When they are ready, use some of these to make a special salad for the family. Your youngster will be so proud of his efforts and his contribution to the family meal.

vt-zH1n9ULpEg9U8OL67Nj6R6Q7GvR9CSXZjZg9V70K0MfwU18MOgdZE1PSekGudRc3YKYyIBKPURlIvFseOViOmpTMHcXt1xuiHUUwPke5klafXiGlGcyNMlyLiw5iZFXA1D-G3X8U4Y6VJjSMX-rNrPJL-C2bJzOLnWyW5h1Cq4ceFyfWaRL-g1RFlower Beds
If your child loves color, flowers may be what draws him to the hobby of gardening. Assist him in clearing out the flower beds in front of your home and then take him to a nearby gardening center to choose the type of flowers he would like to plant. These flowers could be either seeds or young plants.

You could take this opportunity to explain the difference between annuals and perennials. Draw out a plan for both the color and sizes of the flowers; read the seed packets or transplant descriptions to determine how tall each will grow. Help your child visualize how the taller ones in the back will look with shorter flower plants in the front. Take the supplies home and plant or transplant the seeds or plants into the ground.

Introduce your child to the concept of fertilizer, why it is important and how it helps plants grow healthier and stronger. Discuss how often the young flowers will need to be watered. As the flowers grow, talk about how long it will be before buds appear on the plants. when the foliage does begin to flower, celebrate by cutting a few select blooms and place them in a vase in your home for all to enjoy.

Container Gardenth
If yard space if very limited or even nonexistent if you reside in an apartment or townhome, consider starting a container garden with your child. It is very inexpensive to do; all you need is a few large containers or buckets with plant dishes underneath, drainage materials, potting soil, fertilizer, and seed or transplants. You can have your child plant either vegetables or flowers. To keep it even simpler, even citrus and avocado trees can be planted indoors.

Place drainage materials such as rocks or even old Legos at the bottom of each container. Plant seeds or transplants. Place the pots with the drainage dishes on a small balcony or sunny part of the home. Advise your child as to how to water and fertilize as needed.

As you can see, your children will love getting involved in one of these projects. They will learn how things grow and how to be responsible in caring for plants that need water and attention. They will learn how to make a yard look attractive and well-maintained and the basics of cooking with herbs and vegetables. These are all skills that will assist them for the rest of their lives.

– Craig Scott, Everything Backyard

 

A Lenten Rosary Booklet

This is a great idea for Lent. I’m excited about ordering a batch of these Rosary Booklets made by Nancy at Do Small Things With Love. I’m also excited to get the Lenten reflection coloring pages to go along with each day in Lent… I think it will help me slow down and take time each day to pray the Rosary with my family, and spend some quiet time with God….

The Rosary booklets are $8 each for a hardcopy/printed booklet. If you order 2, it’s only $15. And you get the coloring book pages too! Sweet!

2018-Lenten-Reflections-Adult-Coloring-PAges

image credits: do small things with love

Coconut Oil Fudge

Ok, um. This is delicious. And since we’re in the middle of an “elimination diet” where we’re not having dairy, gluten, or eggs, a treat like this tastes especially good! The nutritionist where we saw our functional medicine doctor shared this recipe with me, which came from Golden Barrel. Looks like there are all kinds of great recipes over there that I’m going to have to explore! If you like fudge, and want to make it healthy, give this a try! DELICIOUS. Yes.

photo credit: golden barrel

Immune Boosting Drink

I’ve been intrigued by tumeric lately as it seems to be a great herb for many immune system related issues. I recently tried a tumeric latte, which was delicious, and today saw this post by The Simple Times for a “Immune Boosting Ginger Tumeric Lemon Shot.” Head over to their site to see the very simple recipe, and be well!
(photo credit: The Simple Times)

My Etsy Store Updates

I’ve updated my Etsy Store with a few more items, most notably some crafts made by my 10 year old daughter. She and I attempted to do an outdoor craft sale in October but we got rained out. She had prepared her crafts and priced things, but never had the opportunity to sell anything. So I thought it might be nice to add her creations to my store. Take a look and post a comment on my Turning Leaf Studio Facebook page if you like what you see 🙂