We love our chickens. They were the first farm animals that we decided to raise. They are very easy to raise and forgiving of beginners mistakes as long as they have a safe and secure place to call home and access to good food. Although we love our chickens we did raise them to have a supply of free range, organic eggs. Eggs can become very expensive if you buy everything at the store. You could feed a run of the mill feed from a feed store but I like to have more control. Here is how we raise frugal chickens.
There is no food in my house that goes to waste. If we can eat it then they can too. We keep a container with a lid on the counter affectionately known as the chicken bucket and everyone including visitors know to put all uneaten food into the chicken bucket.
Since my chicken free range they have access to bugs, greens and flowers all day. To supplement their feed I grow a few things for them and us. Purslane is wonderful, it grows itself and I love it as much as the chickens do. It is considered a weed in most places and is so nutritious. Perenial peanut, New Zealand spinach vine, millet, sunflowers, grape vines and duckweed are very good for them and simple to grow anywhere.
You do not have to buy calcium for your chickens in the form of oyster shell, unless you want to. We save our egg shells in the freezer and when I have enough and am putting something else into the oven, I bake them for 20 minutes or so and then pulverize them. Free calcium.
I also feed them mung bean sprouts. A little bag turns into a whole lot of sprouts and they love them. I already buy it for my family so it is not that much of an extra expense. No sprout jar is necessary I just use a mason jar with cheesecloth as a lid or I use a wash cloth which I crocheted on a plate with some water and everyday I make sure it is not dry. In a few days they sprout and I am done.
We built a bin right underneath our bunny hutch to catch their poop. Earthworms love this set up and when there are way too many, the chickens get to have some. Free protein.
There are so many ways to raise chickens frugally and I hope to post many more in the future.
I am by no means a chicken expert and have only been doing so for 3 years. If you want to add to this thread or share some more ideas I would love to hear them. These ideas are just that and they are what has worked for us.
How do you keep flies at bay? We live on some family’s land and want chickens. They already have horses and are afraid of adding to the battle against the flies.
If you are not against some daily work, I find that cleaning up after my chickens on a daily basis goes a long way in keeping the fly population down. My chickens have their nesting boxes and roost in an extra horse stall in our barn. The floor is covered with a rubber stall mat and then pine shavings are on top (just like for the horses.) The chickens roost was created by my very clever husband and makes cleaning up after them much easier. The roost looks a bit like a section of bleachers in a stadium with chicken wire under the roosts (“bleacher seats”) and an old piece of metal roofing (salvaged from building the goats house) underneath. So, the chickens roost at night, their poop falls through the wire to the metal roofing sheet below. In the morning, when the girls go out, I scrub the entire roost with soap and water and pull the metal “tray” out from the bottom, scrape the manure into a muck bucket and add it to the spreader with the horses and goats manure for spreading around the farm where needed. During high summer, I also use a natural product called “Stall Guard” which is supposed to dissolve the urine of horses and, thus, limit the fly attraction to the area. I’m not sure if it is intended for use with chickens but I have noticed no ill effects and it does seem to help keep the flys down. Of course, I also pick up and manure on the ground but they do the vast majority of their pooping on the roost at night. Most importantly, I think keeping your animals living area (whatever they are) as clean as possible is the best way to keep not only pests but disease and illness away. I hope this helps! You will never regret living with chickens. They bring us such tremendous joy every day!
Put a lining of mulch/green sand/etc. on the catch tray under the roosts – it makes it a bit easier to clean, and absorbs the liquids. A bit of wood ash also helps.