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Managing a self-sustaining flock

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by michaelinnc84, Mar 24, 2012.

  1. michaelinnc84

    michaelinnc84 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Managing my own self-sustaining flock has been a goal of mine that I have been working toward for over a year now. I have yet to reach a completely self-sustaining flock, and I find that would be very hard to do, but I would like to discuss and network with others who's goals are to have a self-sustaining flock.

    Is it even possible, you might ask. Back in the pioneer days people raised heritage chickens, turkeys, and even ducks that were 100% self-sustainable. So yes, it is very possible to do so but in today's society it is a lot more difficult. For one, the land you would need for a completely self-sustainable flock would have to be several acres, full of nourishing food for your poultry and protection from predators. Secondly, it was a community effort back then to manage a self-sustaining flock and most of us today are working on our own or as a family.

    I created this thread so we can all discuss our goal and share ideas and suggestions on how to make our flocks more self-sustaining. What breeds we use and think are best, different techniques, and the sharing of information. A modern day community if you will.

    Many of us might have different reasons for wanting a self-sustaining flock. It could be to help combat the ever increasing cost of feed, to supply ourselves and families with healthy eggs and meat, to ensure our survival and the survival of our flock during an emergency, the ability to raise and grow a flock without being dependent on today's technologies.

    We can learn from each others experiences and mistakes, growing our knowledge to better our flock and make it self-sustainable.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2012
  2. michaelinnc84

    michaelinnc84 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    This space here is reserved to keep a FAQ and knowledgebase of information on raising a self-sustaining flock as this thread grows with information.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2012
  3. michaelinnc84

    michaelinnc84 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am currently raising cochins, orpingtons, and marans with the purpose of developing a self-sustaining flock. I chose those breeds for their egg laying, meat quality and size, and broodiness. I am now in the process of researching more on what the best breeds would be for foraging and adding some of those breeds into my flock.

    My flock free ranges on a fenced in lot of about an acre of lush grass and weeds full of bugs.

    Anyone else working toward self-sustainability?
     
  4. mikecnorthwest

    mikecnorthwest Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm not sure what you mean by self sustaining. Are you talking about no human intervention other than collecting eggs or harvesting meat? Are you talking about having the birds eat off the land only and reproduce without intervention? I live in the burbs so definitely not something I would do but I am curious to know what you mean.
     
  5. michaelinnc84

    michaelinnc84 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    and reproducing without intervention.. no.. selective breeding we would still have to do as flock managers but the birds would brood and raise their own young without incubators and modern technology. basically less human intervention.
     
  6. michaelinnc84

    michaelinnc84 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    striving for qualities in your birds that would make them more self-sustainable. broodiness and foraging would be at the top of the list as well as disease resistant.
     
  7. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    When you look back at history as far as food production, it is important to remember a lot of people went hungry during different times of the year, and some years were much better than others. As man did more interventions, food became more consistently available, all year long, and every year.

    However, I too have played with this idea. A couple of discoveries I have made.

    * bugs are available here only about 3 months out of the year. During the height of summer, my hens will eat less commercial feed. Mine are good foragers, love scratching, and would probably survive without as much feed, but the laying would suffer. In the old days, eggs were very difficult to come by at different times of the year.

    * Keep the age of your flock young, I have heard otherwise, but right now I have 2 three year olds, that are not laying at all. Young hens tend to lay through out the winter.... better. And are laying well now. Maybe there eggs are a bit smaller, but they have them nearly every day.

    * Mine free range in all the acres that they want - there is no fence to keep them close by, but they tend to stay fairly close to their coop. We live on a ranch, and have no close neighbors.

    * I have a rooster, and I think it does help. I have raised chicks with a broody hen for the last three years, and will hopefully never have to go back to buying chicks or hatching eggs any other way. However, I have bought chicks to slip under a broody hen at hatching time, to add some different breeds to my flock.

    * Lots of chickens cost lots of money. I have found that for my family, 6-10 hens is almost perfect. But that would depend on the number in your family.

    I have kept chickens for the last 5 years continuously, and at different times before that. I hope you consider this a contribution to this idea.

    MrsK
     
  8. michaelinnc84

    michaelinnc84 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    thanks mrs k for all the great info. have you noticed any breeds better at foraging then others? i have heard welsummers are great.
     
  9. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Overrun With Chickens

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    Well, I have had red stars, buff orpintons, white rocks, black astrolops, and welsummers, and easter eggers. All have been good foragers, all are dual purpose breeds except the red stars.

    I think that if your flock forages, then the hens in the flock will forage, I have never had one stay in the coop/run. I have read that some breeds are better foragers, but have not myself seen it, but then I have not had a great many kinds of breeds.
     
  10. M3Farms

    M3Farms Out Of The Brooder

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    I am always facinated by the different definitions that people use for the same words. When I heard 'self-sufficient' I understood it to mean raising enough grain to get the chickens through the winter - assuming that forage/bugs were not to available.

    I need 120-130 lbs of grain per full sized chicken per year. I agree with MrsK, foraging is best and I wish that I could let my birds out to forage. Our neighbors have tried to let their chickens out, but we have hawks, racoons, foxes and coyotes, and his birds last about 2 months. The only way we would still have a flock of birds in one year is to enclose them. Michael, my heart agrees with you, I would love my birds to be outside living off of the land, but I love them and don't want them killed or injured by the local predators. A broody hen is a 'sitting duck' to predators.

    I certainly don't have the experience that many BYCers have, but I have been raising chickens for a few years. I have mostly heritage, dual purpose chickens. I have noticed that my Domineckers and Speckled Sussex seem to want to go outside everytime I open the door. My Australorps, Dark Brahmas, Orpingtons and Wyandottes seem content to say inside. I bring all of the weeds that I pull to them, their chicken house has a dirt floor for scratching, windows for sunshine, and lots and lots of ventilation - not quite the wide open prarie, but hopefully enough to keep them happy.

    Michael - good luck finding a compromise that will work in your environment.
     

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