eggsContributed by Dan Schlupp.

Revisiting the Original Objectives for a Chicken Husbandry Demonstration, Part 1 of 3.

For this blog post, I’ve dug up an original in-house document generated by current and former staff here at Kusamala. It gives us the context we need to make sure we’re still committed to the original issues addressed that engendered the creation of the document. The introduction, taken exactly from the aforementioned documents, reads like this:

The purposes of this plan are to create a sustainable system for chicken husbandry at NGP [Nature’s Gift Permaculture] in order to eliminate the current problems (such as the ability and desire of the chickens to escape the enclosure (leading to crop damage), the frequency of death due to predation and the under-utilization of the chickens as a soil improvement/pest management too, and to increase the yields of chicken outputs (eggs/meat/manure) to more fully meet our requirements. Ideally, this will be achieved with the minimum financial input and in such a way that it can act as a demonstration for low input/high output chicken management which is easily replicable. Currently, the chicken management system in place at NGP suffers from numerous flaws and entirely fails to adequately exploit the benefits of keeping chickens.” – Undisclosed shadow author, 1/18/2012

In reviewing this opening statement, we’re given a glimpse into the past realities of managing such an unwieldy stock such as chickens. The author goes on to list a set of primary, secondary and tertiary objectives that project future intention for the system. In this post I’ll focus on the three primary objectives originally created in January 2012 and save the other objectives for later posts.

Original objective: To create an enlarged, secure chicken enclosure providing access to all requirements in order to maintain a happy, healthy chicken population – thus eliminating the ability and desire of the chickens to escape and the potential for predator access to the enclosure.

Update: The perimeter fence that resulted from this objective was built, in most places, to about 7′. It generally does a good job of preventing the chickens from escaping, but they are still able to fly over in certain spots in the fence that have inevitably shifted or leaned as fences made from grass are apt to do, especially after going through a rainy season or two. Escaping usually happens later in the day while they are foraging, so we pour a bucket of kitchen scraps into an area, which usually keeps them to one place. This supplementing has worked well, but still, a few, from time to time, will still cave to their insatiable urge to continually explore for food.

Bamboo Fence enclosing the chicken yard.

Bamboo Fence enclosing the chicken yard.

Original objective: To increase laying population to entirely meet NGP’s egg requirements (approx 60-80/week including the cats).

Update: With a new brood introduced earlier in January slowly coming to maturity, our production rate just recently increased from 15-18 eggs/week to 40 eggs/week. Of the current flock, only about 10 hens are laying, so we’re anticipating hitting 80/week, the higher end of the original objective. However, we’ve found a new market for the eggs as a value-added addition to our popular weekly veg box program, so as we continue to try to markets, we’re inevitably shifting our scope in this case.

Original objective: To establish breeding population to provide meat (initial target 1 chicken/month).

Update: Much to the collective chagrin of the chickens, we’ve yet to set up this aspect of the plan. We’re waiting for some of the hens from an older group of chickens to stop producing, so when that happens we’ll start contemplating in what way we want to use the meat.

1 of 4 young roosters in our demonstration.

1 of 4 young roosters in our demonstration.

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 in which Dan Schlupp, our Water, Livestock, and Garden Manager at Kusamala, continues reporting on the chicken demonstration at the Centre.