Chickens and Ducks
If you’re looking for “real” chicken for your freezer, Cummins recommends broilers. “It’s the best-tasting chicken you’ve ever had in your life,” she says, “They’re fabulous tasting, but they are not pets. They grow like crazy. You always keep food in front of them.” An ample amount of chicken manure is the obvious result. If you want it for the garden, you’ll be in heaven. If not, you have to be creative on how to handle it.
Pecukonis’s favorite is the ‘Silver Penciled’ Hamburg breed. “They’re a very appealing heritage breed, and are super layers,” he says. They’ll produce eggs years after many modern layers are done, which is an important consideration for those who want chickens for eggs. What will you do with them after their egg-laying days are done? It’s perfectly fine to keep them until they die of natural causes, but it’s best to decide before your coop turns into a nursing home for hens.
A standard feed mix with oyster shell (for the layers) is adequate for your flock. And never throw kitchen waste away again. Chickens eat everything from carrot tops to meat scraps. They also forage well, which keeps down your feed bill.
Ducks are just plain fun. Cummins says one of her favorite duck breeds is the Peking. “They were easy keepers because you can train them,” she says. She’d open the door of the coop, call them, and they’d come marching out in a single file.
Besides being a Christmas dinner, ducks are the best way to keep pests out of your garden since they nibble slugs with relish.
All fowl need protection from predators. Cummins keeps hers in a stall with outside access. The run is completely caged top to bottom. “A raccoon or possum have all night to find their way in,” she says. Think like a predator when you build.
Keeping small livestock is a way to liven up your animal world, and very well can keep you in eggs, meat, fiber, or at least lend a beak managing pests in the garden.
Pecukonis says, “It’s a nice way to get back to country roots.”
Read more about small livestock in the 2014 Farmers’ Almanac!
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