chickens in a grad student lifestyle?

Discussion in 'New Member Introductions' started by sjanowie, Jan 12, 2009.

  1. sjanowie

    sjanowie New Egg

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    Jan 11, 2009
    Bloomington, IN
    Hello!

    I found this forum yesterday in my continuing search to learn more about urban chicken-raising. I'm a grad student at Indiana University in Bloomington, planning to buy a house this spring, and really want to raise chickens. I've never had any outdoor animals before (thought I currently have a wonderful indoor-only cat), and am totally new at this. I've been reading about everything from the municipal code which says how many chickens I can have, to plans for chicken coops, and figuring out which breed to raise and where to get chicks. This brings up a number of questions...

    1. Do chickens require an unreasonable amount of work? I can tend them mornings before school and evenings after, but I don't have a lot of free time during the week.

    2. What breed? I want them primarily for their eggs, but would also like to be able to use their meat at the end of the year. (Is a one year turnaround too fast?)

    3. Any local advice from anyone in/around Bloomington, as to legal issues, where to buy chicks, local suppliers, etc?

    4. Chickens and gardens? I've been reading about the symbiotic relationship the two can have, and want to make the most of that when planning my garden, as well.

    Any other general advice or references/suggested reading would be great! I look forward to being involved in this online community.
     
  2. chickenannie

    chickenannie Chillin' With My Peeps

    3,156
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    Nov 19, 2007
    Pennsylvania
    See my answers below

    1. Do chickens require an unreasonable amount of work? I can tend them mornings before school and evenings after, but I don't have a lot of free time during the week.

    If you only have a few chickens, it will take 10 minutes in the morning and 10 in the evening.

    2. What breed? I want them primarily for their eggs, but would also like to be able to use their meat at the end of the year. (Is a one year turnaround too fast?)

    Since Indiana gets cold, I'd get a bigger, hardy breed such as Orpingtons, which don't need heat in the winter and have a mild manner. Get egg-laying hens or dual purpose hens, since meat chickens require much more intensive care/feeding and only live about 3 months or less and are butchered at about 8 to 12 weeks. You could butcher the hens at one year, but since they only start laying at 6 months, I'd probably either get pullets to begin with, or you could sell them at the end of the year (pullets are in high demand). You could also butcher them then, but you'll have to find a butcher or learn to do it yourself which takes some learnin'

    3. Any local advice from anyone in/around Bloomington, as to legal issues, where to buy chicks, local suppliers, etc?

    don't know, but look up www.localharvest.com and search for pastured chickens. you can also order pullets from some hatcheries, but I'd buy them from another small farm you can find on the website i mentioned.

    4. Chickens and gardens? I've been reading about the symbiotic relationship the two can have, and want to make the most of that when planning my garden, as well.

    It's a good, and bad relationship. I mean that chicken poop can be used for the garden, and if you have a fallow bed, you can put the chickens on it to eat the bugs and scratch it up. But when it's high vegetable time in the summer, you want to keep your chickens out of teh garden or they'll dig up your seeds, eat all the veggies, and generally mess up your garden. But building a coop and run next to, or in the garden is good. Or google "chicken tractor" which is a small, bottomless pen you can put at various spots in the garden.

    Any other general advice or references/suggested reading would be great! I look forward to being involved in this online community.

    Check with your university -- some of them are now starting "sustainable farming departments" which may include some shared space or like-minded people. Also check out the ag dept or environmental dept. Also look up community gardens in the area they might want to raise chickens with you too. (one example is Dickinson College in Pa.)

    Go for it!
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2009
  3. Dandelion007

    Dandelion007 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 7, 2008
    Durant, OK
    [​IMG]

    You'll find lots of support here. Just jump in and start asking questions. You can find a breed of chicken for any situation. There is much experience that the members love to share on BYC. Do you have any more questions?
     
  4. silkiechicken

    silkiechicken Staff PhD Premium Member

    Welcome! I too am in graduate school. What are you in school for? I have birds but they are all at home 300 miles away as I am out studying. Family is caring for them 2x a day in the mean time, as mine range over acerage and are let out in the morning.

    1. They aren't that much work. Get a gallon or two waterer, and that can be changed 1x a day no problem. If you have freezing weather, a heated dog dish will do just fine, as you'll likely be able to run electricity to your urban coop via extension cord. Checking on them 1x a day is fine. Feeders that can hold one week of food are easy to come by if you have a small flock. Just make sure you have a heavy duty enclosed coop and so you don't have to worry about locking them up and letting them out based on the sun.

    2. For eggs, if you plan for maximal production and best cost, go with an egg breed. Leghorns are "cheap" but flighty, while sexlinks will guarantee you girls if you buy them sexed and are calmer. I like the red and black sexlinks. They do eat more per egg though, but they do lay brown eggs, while leghorns lay white. Maximal production will be from about 6 months old to about 24 months old. After that you can choose to sell them or use them for soup. As pets, they can be kept for 16+ years, but production generally drops off pretty quick after a few years.

    As for meat though... meat birds and egg birds are two different animals... not really, but almost seem that way. If you want meat, like the meat you buy from the store, you generally would want to make a meat bird set up. No roosts, no nest boxes, just one big brooder basically. You get cornish x's, which is a cornish x rock type bird, that has been selectively bred for 60+ years now to gain weight and meat fast. They will be ready to eat at about 8 weeks old. I suggest you check out the meat bird section of this forum to read up on the beast known as the meat bird.

    You can eat a spent hen, but they are usually best for special preps like coc au vin, or soup base. Not really "meat" in the type you would grill from the store type. Any bird over about 20 weeks old will be very chewy and good for slow cooking or stew.

    3. Not sure about that one. [​IMG]

    4. Chickens and gardens do not mix. Like how you don't want to stir your steak and milk together at the same time. If you like, you can look into tractors and raised garden beds. Make a tractor to fit over a garden bed, and after a few months, just move the tractor, till in, and plant. Chicken poo in high concentration will kill your plants due to the burning due to nitrates and so on, so composting for high concentrations is essential. An easy way to do this is if you have a compost bin and just put all chicken sweepings into it and let it age for half a year or so. If your weather is warm, might not take that long to break down. Good bedding for compost and poo is straw, however, many like how pine shavings work better as a litter, however, you don't want to put too much of that into your garden. You'll have to play with it to make it work, but don't let your birds into the garden. They will eat all your seeds and any sprouts from seeds they miss. And, just to be sure, they will dig up and scratch up anything you want to grow. They will also kill any grass in their run if kept on it too long or if there is not enough space.

    Good luck!
     
  5. Cats Critters

    Cats Critters Completely Indecisive

    [​IMG]
    1. Do chickens require an unreasonable amount of work? I can tend them mornings before school and evenings after, but I don't have a lot of free time during the week.
    They don't need that mush time just fed, water, collect eggs, and locked up at the end of the day.

    2. What breed? I want them primarily for their eggs, but would also like to be able to use their meat at the end of the year. (Is a one year turnaround too fast?)
    Try this Quiz: http://www.mypetchicken.com/breedQuestions.aspx

    3
    . Any local advice from anyone in/around Bloomington, as to legal issues, where to buy chicks, local suppliers, etc?
    Don't know.

    4. Chickens and gardens? I've been reading about the symbiotic relationship the two can have, and want to make the most of that when planning my garden, as well.
    Most people either fence in the chickens or the garden or have sacrafce plants at the eage of the garden just something for them to eat and leave the rest of the garden alone.
     

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