I am preparing my family for our first adventure in agriculture, chickens! I am a stay at home mom with two children, ages 3 and 1, and chickens are the first step that we are taking in our quest for a sustainable lifestyle. I live on 3 acres in SE Michigan and I hope that eventually we can grow our operation to be mostly self sufficient as far as dairy, meat, and produce production. I would also like to be involved with my local farmer's markets and be able to provide sustainable products to my community.
Our first step will be to get chickens in the spring!
My reading has suggested that it is necessary to keep egg birds and meat birds apart and as such we will start with a flock of egg producers. Next year we will build a new coop on wheels and house our meat birds on a different part of the property.
I have chosen Silver Laced Wyandottes and I plan to order chicks from my local feed store in February.
I have a few questions and I would really appreciate experience, wisdom and advice!
We haven't built the coop yet but I have a brooding box equipped with a heat lamp to house our birds for the first 8-10 weeks. I have read that you need approximately 3 sq. ft. of floor space per bird. We'll be constructing a coop for our birds during the brooding box period and I would love any suggestions as to design and efficiency on a budget.
I want a relatively small flock for our first year, I plan to order 12 chicks (11 female and 1 male). My research has also suggested that it is only necessary to have one rooster for 20 birds or less. Is this accurate according to your experience? I do want a rooster because I want to keep supplementing our flock with new birds. My novice is about to shine through...When you hatch eggs do you sex the chickens and slaughter males when they are big enough (since you don't want too many roosters?) Is it okay to slaughter birds when they are done laying (even though the meat will be tough-I've been told to mark the meat to be used for soups and slow cooking) or will this upset the other hens and cause them to stop laying?
I plan to vaccinate our flock for Newcastle disease and infectious bronchitis. Do I need to order these from a veterinarian or can I order them from a feed supply? Are there any other vaccinations that you experienced chicken folk recommend?
I think that's about it. Again, I am very new at this. I have had horses, dogs and cats all of my life but this is my first shot at chickens! I really appreciate this community and the opportunity to learn from all of you. Thank you for taking the time to read and offer advice.
Sincerely, Caitlin ("BecauseImSweet")