I have always wanted to have a chicken coop so I can raise chicken organically, get fresh laid organic eggs and chicken meat free from antibiotics and growth hormones. In case you do not know, the dressed chicken we buy in the store is called spring chicken. They are about 21/2 to 3 pounds in weight. The larger chicken is a hen and usually weighs 5 pounds. The spring chicken is a 21/2-3 week old chicken. A day old chick is delivered to the contract grower along with feeds laden with antibiotic to reduce mortality , and growth hormone to ensure that the chicken is ready for the market. In 21/2-3 weeks, the chicken is already full grown and is picked up by the chicken company to be dressed and sold in the market. The larger chicken or hen is about 5 to 6 weeks old. These chickens never had a chance to sleep. The light is on all day and all night long, and they feed all day long. The beaks of the chicken is filed so they do not pick on each other as they are placed in tight quarters. Talk about cruelty to animals! Also if we eat the chicken, the antibiotic is in there system because it is constantly in the feeds, when we get sick and need antibiotic , will the prescribed antibiotic work to boost our immune system. I wonder.
As soon as I had time to spare, I had someone build a chicken coop in my backyard. The coop is large enough to provide a dormitory for the chicken to roost at night, the area below is dirt where I planted grass , a place they can play and feed during the day, called free range. The air circulates and they get ample amount of sun. I make there feeds from millets, rice and other seeds and corn and enrich there diet with cut up fruits and vegetables that would otherwise go to my compose pile. The chicken are now 11 weeks old. They are not as big as the spring chicken sold in the market but I can assure you they are tastier and healtier to eat.
I use the chicken manure as fertilizer since I grow my vegetables organically (without use of chemical fertilizer). I let them dry before I collect them. I grind the chicken manure ,then mix them with compose to fertilize my vegetables. When I trim my vegetables, I chop up the leaves (except the rhubarb) and feed them to my chicken.
My uncle who raises chicken for a poultry company tells me that organically grown chicken eggs have pale yolks. The yellow in the egg is not a bright yellow. I found out later on that the manufacturers of chicken feed add marigold flowers which is an edible flower to the feed so the chicken will lay eggs with bright yellow egg yolks. I grow marigold anyway because it is a deterrent for rabbits. Just make sure not to spray the marigolds with pesticide if you are going to add it to the chicken feed. The chicken will start laying eggs when they are about 20 weeks old, this means I have to start adding the marigold flowers to there feeds a few weeks before they start laying eggs.
I am a city girl and loves the metropolitan cities. But let me tell you what joy I get when I wake up in the morning to feed the chicken and my ducks.
If you like to grow organic chicken let me know and I will share you some experiences I had encountered.
I will keep you posted regarding the progress of my chickens. And oh, by the way, about a month ago when there was a cold spell in California, some of the chicken developed colds. My gardener told me to squeeze fresh lemon in there drinking water to get rid of the cold and it did. Another victory!