What Are You, Chicken?

What Are You Chicken

“Rhode Island Reds make good laying hens”

Before I get started on why it’s so rugged (and just plain cool!) raising your own food, like chickens, ducks, rabbits and pheasants, I must come clean on something that has to do with chickens. Really clean… I mean, embarrassingly clean. Are you ready? (Oh, shit, I’m not so sure if I should do this.) Reader to The Rugged Dude >>> “Okay, RD… take a deep breath… be brave and just friggin’ say it, dude.” All right then, here goes.

I love KFC!

Hello? Are you still there? Anyone? Oh, I thought you clicked me off for a second there.

I know what you’re thinking… What? The Rugged Dude, who is known for raising food, hunting, fishing, homesteading and all this living off the land stuff, “loves” KFC? What the hell? How unrugged! I am fully aware that KFC is not the healthiest of meals. But, I admit, about once a year or so, maybe once every other year, put my pride away and go for it. But, to maintain my five star ruggedtivity rating, I always make sure that I wipe my face on my sleeve after… There’ll be none of this sissy-ass, unrugged “wet nap” bullshit during my 15 minutes of ultra-greasy self-indulgence, thank you.

Okay, I need to qualify this KFC thing, or as we old farts still call it, Kentucky Fried Chicken. I really just love the skin… I don’t eat the fries because I think they’re shitty. I mean, the chicken’s okay, but that greasy and yet, still somehow crispy, salty, disgustingly bad for me, skin is so goddamn good. I wish I could buy just a bucket of skin. I’d take it home, strip down naked, spread it out all over my kitchen floor and roll around in it like a dog. But, I’d make sure nobody was around to secretly video tape it.  I wouldn’t want that one gettin’ on the Google!

I think I should switch gears now, because it’s very likely that at this point, if you’re still here, you think I’m some kind of weirdo. Back to full scale off-the-grid-ness. The title of this piece is “What Are You, Chicken?” Meaning, are you afraid to give it a try? Raising chickens, I’m talking about. Tons of people do it and the rewards are huge. If you know anything about me at all, you know that I’m heavy-duty into self-sustainability and a big part of that is raising my food. Chickens are great eating and there are many breeds to choose from.

What Are You Chicken

“Two year old barred rock hen – Still laying some rugged eggs daily”

I do a lot of hunting, so I eat a lot of wild ducks and geese every year. Therefore, I don’t raise a ton of chickens for the table. When talking about chickens, a “meat bird” is also known as a broiler chicken. I normally do about 24 per year, and the last ones I raised were Cornish Giants, a popular bird for the table. I butcher mine around the 6 – 7 week mark. And, they’re great table fare. But, it’s the eggs… I love eggs! Again, there are many breeds to choose from, some being better suited to various regions and climates than others, but regardless of what type you get, laying hens make a great addition to any homestead or country home. For colder climates, Rhode Island Reds are sometimes used. But, again, there are many to consider. Make sure you pick the right bird for your part of the world that you live in… temperature is one of the key conditions to consider.

Regardless of what type of birds you raise, you’ll need a chicken coop. There are about a million videos and articles on the Google that can show you how to do this in great detail. I’ll be building a new coop this spring and I’ll put together some video and pictures for you. But, for now, do some research if you’re even thinking about doing something this season. One final note about coops… some municipalities can be pretty strict about having livestock in your yard, even a few chickens. Trust me, check into this. Or, be like me and live way the hell back in the bush away from everyone. My closest neighbor is 2.3 kilometers from my door. I can build a coop whenever the hell I want to.

Let’s get back to talking about eggs now for a minute. A healthy hen will normally start laying eggs at around the age of six months. It’ll start slow, then once it starts happening, look out! After a short while, providing your hens are getting their share of good food, water and shelter, one hen will lay, on average, nearly one egg per day. If you have a dozen hens, figure on about 9 or 10 eggs every day. Every day! I hope you like eggs… Or, have a huge family… Or, have friends who like eggs. Or, maybe you run a bakery…

What Are You Chicken

“Fresh eggs… delicious, safe, good for you and – free!”

Imagine this… it’s morning… you feel like a couple eggs over-easy, or maybe even a kick-ass cheese omelette. So, you wander out to the coop (with a huge cup of coffee in hand, of course) and grab a few eggs. For free. You didn’t have to jump in your vehicle and drive to the goddamn store and pay $3 – $4 for a dozen. There is no better way to eat eggs. Fresh and safe… we do hear from time to time in the news about store-bought eggs making people sick. I think this is quite rare, but it does happen and it gives me one more reason to raise my own chickens so I can “raise” my own eggs.

What Are You Chicken

“I’ll take that, thank you!”

Here is a common chicken and egg question from people who are new to all this raising food kind of stuff. “Do I need to have a rooster (male) chicken in order for the hens to lay eggs?” No, you do not need a rooster in order for your hens to lay eggs. A rooster will only be needed if you to wish raise your own chicks because the rooster must fertilize the eggs. Be warned though, roosters are those loud little buggers that will wake you up at 5am every day… and they often yell, scream and fuss all through the day! I’m a morning person, so it wouldn’t bother me, but you might not be too cool about it. And, if you have neighbors within even a mile of you, they’ll not be too impressed. It’s amazing just how far a rooster’s scream can travel.

Another consideration is will you let your chickens out of the coop area and allow them to forage around your yard? I do… But, in the area where I live, there aren’t very many predators like foxes or weasels to worry about. I don’t lose very many and the benefits to raising free-ranging birds is worth the risk. They don’t wander too far from their home coop anyway. Many people claim that chickens eat ticks and that can never be a bad thing.

I hate those little bastards…

Author Signature

Speak Your Mind