My guest today is Sarah Griffin-Boubacar, Retail Store Manager at Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply the largest organic gardening supply company in the U.S. Since both Sarah and I will talk about our experiences raising backyard chickens and Sarah will give her expert advice and talk about the resources they have to offer to make raising chickens a success. Sarah is a graduate of Humboldt State University in Northern California and worked on an organic coffee and fruit farm in Hawaii. She loves to be involved in the local agriculture scene in California and enjoys helping farmers and gardeners with their questions and problems. Sarah was trained in Integrated Pest Management by the University of California. She teaches popular workshops at Peaceful Valley on Canning & Preserving, Cheesemaking, and Irrigation. At home Sarah has an extensive organic garden, and raises backyard chickens and little boys. Backyard Chicken Supplies. www.debralynndadd.com/debras-list/peaceful-valley-farm-supply
TOXIC FREE TALK RADIO
Raising Backyard Chickens for Fun & Food
Host: Debra Lynn Dadd
Guest: Sarah Griffin-Boubacar
Date of Broadcast: September 11, 2013
DEBRA: Hi, I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And this is Toxic Free Talk Radio where we talk about how to thrive in a toxic world.
We do this because there are toxic chemicals all around us in all kinds of consumer products, even in our bodies from past exposure, but there are things we can do about it. We can reduce our exposures in many, many ways.
We can remove toxic chemicals in our bodies. And talking about these positive things that we can do is what we do here on this show to empower all of you to live a toxic-free life.
Before we get started with our topic today, which is going to be raising chickens for fun and food in your own backyard, I want to tell you about a movie I went to last night. I went to see The Butler which is a wonderful, wonderful movie. I really encourage all of you to see it for its entertainment value if nothing else.
But the reason that I want to talk about it today is because it’s about the civil rights movement, what happened and what people did. You get to see behind the scenes in one family’s life during the period of the civil rights movement and what happened, what people did in order to gain civil rights for black people.
And if you’re younger than I am, you may not have lived through this period in the 1960s when this was going on.
And if so, you absolutely should see this one, so you know what happened.
There was a time in my lifetime when black people could not drink from the same water fountain as white people.
They could not be served in restaurants in the same tables that white people ate at. They had their own sections in the restaurant. And they couldn’t vote. They didn’t have basic human rights.
And yet, now they do.
It’s so common that some of you who are younger than I am don’t even remember or know that there was a time not so long ago when black people didn’t have these rights.
And I bring this up today because it’s kind of the same thing with toxics. We have a right to not be poisoned every day. And we are being poisoned every day. We’re being poisoned by toxic chemicals all around us unless we do something specific, unless we educate ourselves, unless we make certain choices to minimize our toxic exposure and to support our bodies in positive ways that [build] our health.
We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And these are inalienable rights—not granted to us by the government, but granted to use by life. We have the right to have health and be alive and be productive and be able to do anything that we want to do with our lives.
And if we don’t have that, we have the opportunity to fight for that… just like people have fought for other rights.
There was a time when women didn’t have the vote. And it wasn’t so long ago. It was only maybe a hundred years ago when women were fighting for the vote. And now what we need to be fighting for is our life to live a toxic-free life.
So, I was very inspired by this film last night because I got to see everything from the beginning of the whole civil rights movement from the characters who were working in the cotton fields to everything that happened all the way through a black man being elected president which is a big victory for them and a big, big change. And that happened within the span of a lifetime—within my lifetime, since I was born.
And we can do that too! Other changes can be made. We can stand up and say “no toxic chemicals” so that we’re not living in this world where, unless we do something to remove toxic chemicals, then we’re going to be exposed.
And so we still should be doing everything that we should. But I want you to know this is a great example to see what kind of change can happen in the world.
Inspiring, inspiring film, The Butler. I really recommend it.
Okay! So now, we’ re going to talk about something else. We’re going to talk about raising backyard chickens which is a wonderful thing to do.
My guest today is Sarah Griffin-Boubacar. She’s the retail store manager for Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. And they’re at GrowOrganic.com.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Hi! Can you hear me?
DEBRA: I can! Can you hear me?
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Oh, yeah. I can hear you great.
DEBRA: Good! I can hear you great too.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Oh, good.
DEBRA: So Sarah, let’s start by—tell me how you got interested. You personally got interested in organic gardening, and specifically, chickens. And also, a little about the history of Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply as a business.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Okay, yeah. Well, personally, after college, I went and worked on an organic farm in Hawaii. It was a great opportunity. Really, really nice. It was an organic fruit farm and a coffee farm. It was beautiful of course.
DEBRA: Hmmm… yeah!
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: And we had chickens there. And so I was exposed to them. That was the first time
I’ve ever really raised chickens. I loved their personalities. They’re so easy. I loved the fresh eggs. We were all vegetarians at that time, so the eggs were the feature there.
So yeah, I got interested in them at that point. And then, from there, I have my own flock—and have had for quite a few years now. I’m totally hooked!
DEBRA: I complete understand. I had chickens too. And I would still have them, but one day, the police came and said they were going to take them away if I didn’t do something with them myself.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Oh, no! That’s terrible.
DEBRA: I know, it is. But if you can imagine, this in the year 2013 in the United States of America, there is a city in Florida that has an ordinance that says you can’t have chickens. I don’t know what century they’re living in.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Yeah, I just don’t see why, what the argument could be against chickens. Roosters, I can kind of understand.
DEBRA: I don’t either. But anyway, fortunately, I got these chickens from a friend of mine who lives outside the city limits in the county where in the county of Pinellas, you can have chickens in county land. You just can’t have them in this particular city which happens to be in Pinellas county.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Well, I think your listeners would be interested to know that there are lots of cities in the country including where I live in California, San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramnento, my little town of Grass Valley. You can have chickens within the city limits. All you need is a little backyard.
DEBRA: That’s right. All you need is a little backyard. And if you have any questions—I remember looking up online “cities that allow chickens in the backyard” and I got a whole list of major cities.
So, if after you listen to all these, you want to raise chickens, and you’re not doing it yet, just call your city and ask if it’s okay, if they have any ordinance about it.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Yeah, yeah. And make friends with your neighbors too. If you promise not to have roosters that will wake them up in the morning and give them free eggs, then they probably won’t have any problem with your chickens either.
DEBRA: I think that that’s true.
But I want to say that I loved having chickens. I absolutely love them. They do have wonderful personalities. And I’ve read that over and over. And they’re just so calming to be with.
I have a chicken house. I still have my chicken house. It’s just a little one that’s like an a-frame. I think there’s a name for it, I forgot what it is. But it’s an a-frame. And it has a little chicken run in it and a little upstairs, a top where they go and…
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Yeah, that sounds like mine, mm-hmmm…
DEBRA: And so it doesn’t take up very much room in the backyard. And you can move it around easily. I just put it there on top of the grass, and I would just lie on the grass next to the chicken house. And I’d feed pieces of grass and things to them through the chicken wire. I didn’t want to let them out because I didn’t want to have to run after them and catch them.
Every morning, I would go and I’d bring them their food, and I’d bring them their water. And I’d hand feed them weeds out of the garden which they just loved.
I remember, I had to keep them for about a month before they started laying eggs because of the age they were when I got them. But when that first egg came, oh, my god, it was such a thrill. It was having that direct experience between actually feeding the chicken and then having the egg come out and eating the egg that I had raised.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Yeah! Yeah, it’s similar to growing a tomato plant from a seed, and watering and caring for it, and finally, getting your first tomato. Yes, it’s the same kind of satisfaction you get.
DEBRA: It is! But for me, it was somehow more wondrous because it was coming out of an animal instead of a plant […]
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Oh, yeah.
DEBRA: And then, I got this egg. And it was like, “Oh, my God! It actually…” A very direct, very, very direct experience. And they taste so much better than any eggs you’ve ever eaten.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Oh, yes, they do, especially if they’re on pasture, absolutely.
DEBRA: Yes, yes. You know what? We need to go to break. We’ll be back very soon. This is Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And today, we’re talking about raising backyard chickens with Sarah Griffin-Boubacar from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Sarah Griffin-Boubacar from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. They’re at GrowOrganic.com. And they’re the largest organic gardening supply company in the United States. They have a lot more than just gardening supplies.
Sarah, tell us something about the history of this company. I remember knowing about you and recommending Peaceful Valley many, many years ago—I think when it first started.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Yeah, we’ve been around since 1976. We started out in a little shed on Peaceful Valley Road just kind of as a cooperative amongst farmers, thinking, “Hey, we can pool our resources and buy a pallet of fertilizer rather than just one bag each and save money that way.”
And so that’s how we started. And then, we had a catalog for a really long time. People are really familiar with our catalog. I have a lot of people come in that want the catalog to use as a reference tool, so that they can learn about organic gardening just through our catalog because it has so much information about fertilizers and tools and pest control and all sorts of things.
From there, of course, we have our website, GrowOrganic.com. Again, it has lots of information. We have a gardening forum and a blog. So, any kind of gardening questions that you have are answered by that. We also do a weekly video where we have the topic of the week which is usually something seasonal you should be doing in your gardening. They’re about 3- or 4-minute videos that are really useful, and fun, entertaining too!
DEBRA: Well, just so people have an idea of what’s on your site, tell us about the broad variety of things that you carry. I mean, you have seeds and tools and things, but a lot more than that.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Yeah! I think part of what sets us apart is we really try to be only organic. And so that’s really nice when you have a problem in your garden or if you want to start a new garden and you know you want to do it organic, but you don’t necessarily know what that means. You can go to our site, and you can see all sorts of organic solutions for things, all sorts of organic products, when it comes to fertilizers and pest control and tools.
And then, our latest, more recent addition to our line is a homesteading line of products. If you have a beautiful garden and you have way too much food, what are you going to do with it? You can can it. You can make it into cheese. You can process it in such a way using all of the tools in our homesteading line. It’s really exciting.
DEBRA: Yeah, I was really excited to see that too. I mean, you can grow your food, but then what are you going to do with it when you have this big abundance.
And so you have things like canning supplies and dehydrators and cookbooks and juicers and baking supplies and food storage containers and beer brewing kits and wine-making kits.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Yeah, it’s amazing. Once you get into it… anything you have in abundance, yeah.
DEBRA: Your site really is all about food. It’s really all about growing it, preserving it, cooking it, turning it to wonderful things to eat just from ground to table. It’s a really excellent, excellent resource. I’m very happy to have you here.
And you have a whole section on backyard chicken supplies. I’m just going to that link. I put the link on ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com. So they can go right to that page as well as to your page.
There’s just so many things you have, all the little supplies like the watering can and books about how to keep chicken and chicken feed and things to hold the feed. Do you sell chicken coops too?
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Not at the moment, but we have in the past, and we’re looking for a new supplier.
So yeah, we will have coops in the future too, pretty much everything you need to raise chickens.
DEBRA: I actually built my coop.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: So did I, yeah.
DEBRA: I think the coops that we built was like $500. It was recommended by the woman who gave me the chickens. And I looked at them, and I said, “$500? Hmmm… I think we can build this.” And we did. We just looked at the picture and built it. It was very easy.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Yeah.
DEBRA: So, before we talk about how to raise chickens, let’s talk about why somebody would want to raise chickens.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Well, they’re very easy. They’re one of the easiest and least expensive pets. So if you want them as a pet—which I think would be the second most reason why people would want to raise chicken. I think the first reason of course would be eggs…
DEBRA: Eggs, yes.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: …and after that, would be just pets because they are really entertaining and rather beautiful pets. I know maybe people don’t think of chickens as beautiful, but you just haven’t seen the right chickens because a lot of them are really lovely. They have such diversity in their breeds and varieties.
They’re really easy. They take care of themselves mostly. And they’re very inexpensive compared to any other pet.
And again, the eggs, eggs that are fresh and they taste great. And they have a higher nutritional value if you grow them yourself especially because you know exactly what goes into that egg because you are providing the chicken with all the feed. When you have a commercially-produced egg, you don’t know.
DEBRA: You don’t know. And I want to just interrupt you for a second to tell the listeners some of the things that might be given to those eggs.
First of all, the feed is probably GMO-raised. So if it’s soy or corn or cottonseed, it’s probably GMO. Also, additives that are put in like amino acids, vitamins and enzymes could be GMO microorganisms.
They also feed chickens that are laying eggs arsenic, antibiotics. And chickens that are not free range usually, there’s problems with salmonella in the eggs. It’s not organic feed usually, so there’s pesticide residues.
And also, even if they’re organic eggs, you don’t really know what’s going in them. So we should certainly want to have more control.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: And also, personally, I like to know that the food that I’m eating, especially when it comes from an animal is grown with respect to the animal and that it’s grown from a happy chicken. I do eat my chickens. I know that when they’re living with me, I know that they are treated with respect and they are healthy and living their lives as chickens should live—and not in a cage or something like that.
Personally, that’s really important to me. And also, there’s also really useful things that chickens can do besides even lay eggs.
DEBRA: Wait! Before you go on, we need to go to another break. So we’ll talk about that when we come back.
I want to mention that if you want to know more about what’s going on with chickens and growing chickens and agriculture and what’s in them, the Cornucopia Institute has a lot of information about this. So just google “Cornucopia Institute eggs” and you can find out a lot about eggs and why you should do your own in the backyard.
You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. We’ll be right back and talk more about backyard chickens.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. My guest today is Sarah Griffin-Boubacar from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. They’re at GrowOrganic.com.
And I interrupted you, Sarah, so go ahead with what you were going to say before the break.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Oh, that’s okay. Yeah, you were asking me why you should raise chickens, what the reasons would be.
So, other than eggs […] that are great, they also provide chemical-free bug and weed control.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: If you let them out into your pasture, they will eat every single bug and every single weed in no time. And then, what they leave behind is the world’s best fertilizer. Chicken manure is awesome and nutrient-rich and great for the soil. So chickens will improve your yard and garden at the same time. I think that’s a really good reason to raise chickens just in and of itself.
DEBRA: I want my chickens back.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Yeah, I know, right?
So, yeah, I think that chickens are really great to have in your backyard and really useful. I also feed them all of my kitchen scraps. Very little gets into my compost. All of my kitchen scraps goes straight to the chickens. They gobble it up and they love it. And it’s also kind of fun to see what would’ve been wasted goes straight into your food supply. That goes straight into the chicken, it goes straight into the eggs.
DEBRA: Yeah! Don’t you think that’s cool, to just see the lettuce leaf going into the chicken and coming out as an egg?
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Yeah, exactly! It would’ve been wasted or it would’ve gone into a compost pile.
DEBRA: Well, it would’ve gone into the compost. I mean, I’m never concerned about food waste because it always goes into my compost. But it’s just this magical thing that happens. If you’ve never had that experience, it’s just—like I wasn’t raised on a farm. We had guinea pigs. We didn’t have chickens or anything like that when I was growing up.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Well, guinea pigs will do the same thing. They’ll eat all your scraps, but you won’t get…
DEBRA: Right! They won’t give you eggs.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Right, right.
DEBRA: They will give you more little guinea pigs.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: I think there are so many reasons to raise them. And they’re really easy. Right now, I have a flock of about 12 chickens in my backyard. I do live in a rural area, but I just have a small coop that I built myself. It was really easy. And they enhance my life I think.
DEBRA: So, go through the steps of how somebody would start off getting chickens. What do they need to do?
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Okay, yeah! So, the first thing you need to do is, of course, you need a place for them to be. I mentioned your backyard is great. If your backyard is fenced, that’s about all it needs to be. It doesn’t need to be entirely enclosed unless you have really heavy predators in your area. If you live in the city, you probably don’t (although dogs can be a predator, so you need to make sure that they’re safe from that).
Then you need a coop. They need a place to be that’s clean and dry well-ventilated, but also warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I have kind of like what you were saying, an a-frame with a run on the button. So that’s nice. That works really well. There are lots of designs.
We have a couple of books on The Art of the Chicken Coop. You can make them really cute and build your own or buy them pre-made. They can really be a nice addition to your backyard, looks-wise even.
DEBRA: Yes, yes. There are some very, very attractive chicken coops. I wish I could have them in my backyard.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: One day… you need to write to your city council.
DEBRA: I’m going to change this ordinance, so that we can all have chickens here.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Right!
So, once you’ve got the place for them to be, then you need to get the chickens. And you can get chickens as chicks or as chickens or as kind of in between, the teenagers which are called pullets. And of course, the cheapest way to go is to get chicks. You can get them usually $2 to $3 at the seed store or you can order them online and have them mail it to you. That’s what I did this year.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: It’s kind of funny, but…
DEBRA: I didn’t know that they can email chicks…
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Not email, but mail…
DEBRA: I mean, mail chicks.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Yeah, I got them from Murray McMurray Hatchery. So when they’re born, they have this energy stored from the yolk. And so they can go a couple of days without food or water. So that’s the perfect opportunity. As soon as they hatch, they ship them on out.
If you have some very specific varieties in mind and your local feed store doesn’t have those, you can go to Murray McMurray. They have a minimum order, so you might want to share chicks with the neighborhood. That’s what I did this year. We had to get 30 or something like that. But then I shared them with a bunch of different people, so it was fine.
And I got some really fancy chickens. There are all sorts of different breeds that you can get.
DEBRA: Do you get new chickens every year?
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: I do! We moved recently, and so I had to revamp my flock. I have a couple that are older. And most of them are around the same age that I got this year. So I got them in April. They’re almost starting to lay.
I get eggs every day because of the older chickens. So it’s kind of nice to have a few different ages, so that I always have eggs. While some are maturing, some are laying. And when those get too old, then my ones that are still maturing will still be laying.
DEBRA: So if you get chicks—I didn’t get chicks. I got teenagers, the pullets
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: The pullets, uh-huh…
DEBRA: If you get chicks, how long does it take before they start to lay?
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: It can take between say four to six months. It takes quite a while. It depends on the breed. I got mine in April, and I’m really expecting them to start laying any day now.
DEBRA: Yeah, because we need to realize that a chick is like a baby. A baby wouldn’t have a baby.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Exactly!
DEBRA: So, my baby wouldn’t have a baby. It has to grow up.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: And so you have to have some patience.
DEBRA: And it gets to a certain age, and it would have a baby.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Right, right. And they grow so fast.
Of course then, also, when you’re trying to decide what kind of chickens to get, you need to decide what you want.
Do you want layers so you can have eggs or do you want broilers so you can have meat? And the broilers will mature in six to eight weeks depending on the breed.
So, if you’re raising chickens for meat, then that’s a lot less of a time commitment for that. And those breeds, you have specific breeds for meat and specific breeds for eggs. And then, you have a few kind of dual purpose, in between also. And so you have to decide when you’re going to get which kind of chicken.
The layers will mature much slower. They grow more slowly. But they’re the ones that are going to give you the most eggs. And then the broilers are going to mature really quickly. You’re going to see how those chicks grow way faster than your layers. And those, you can butcher six to eight weeks.
DEBRA: We need to take another break. We’ll be right back with Sarah Griffin-Boubacar from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. They’re at GrowOrganic.com. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. And you’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio.
DEBRA: You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd. My guest today is Sarah Griffin-Boubacar, retail store manager at Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. And they’re at GrowOrganic.com.
Sarah, one of the things that I like so much about chickens and backyard eggs is that you really get to have a whole variety of different types of eggs that come from different types of chickens. And when you buy them at the store, you get white eggs and you get brown eggs. But you can have different kinds of chickens that’ll give you blue eggs and pink eggs and speckled eggs. It just really is wonderful to find there’s a blue egg.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Absolutely!
DEBRA: I used to get my eggs—when I lived in California, I used to get my eggs from a neighbor who had chickens. And I never knew what color the eggs were going to be. It was just wonderful!
And I think this gives us more diversity too because we use so too species. It’s like all the tomatoes are the same variety of tomatoes. All the carrots are the same variety of carrots. And when we grow things in our own backyard, we can grow so many different varieties of anything—not just eggs, but all the food that we eat can be unique varieties.
When I was in California, I even got seeds from people who have made—like they have saved their tomatoes and had local seeds very specific to our own micro-ecosystem. And that’s the tomatoes that I grew.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Yeah, definitely. So, when you’re choosing what kind of chickens you want for your flock, you have these questions—are they layers or are they broilers? And the typical layer (which is the standard chicken that produces the white eggs that you get in the grocery store), you don’t necessarily want to get that kind.
DEBRA: And what’s the name of that kind? Do you know?
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: That one is a Plymouth Rock, I’m pretty sure. Here, let me see. Sorry, no, the Cornish Rock is the standard broiler that you eat. You would typically eat the cockerels, those of a Cornish Rock.
And the White Leghorns are the most common egg layers. They produce a white egg, and they’re not very genetically diverse, as you were saying. So they don’t make the most exciting pets for one thing. They’re not as smart.
If you really want to get some of the intelligent and fun chickens, I would recommend going with more of the heritage breeds. So that blue egg you were talking about, that would be an Ameraucana chicken—really cute chicken, really spunky and good layers, a little docile temperament, hearty to different climates.
The more commercial breeds, if you get a heat wave, they could just knock right off because they’re not really adapted for that.
A really nice chocolaty brown egg that I love is from a Cuckoo Maran. I have a couple of those. And they lay these beautiful dark brown speckled eggs that are just lovely. And the chickens themselves are more fun and more spunky. Like I said, they have more personality, and also, just more vitality. So that’s really good.
I love the Wyandottes. They’re a nice, dual-purpose breed. And they’re beautiful. They have the most amazing coloring on their feathers. And there are lots of varieties within the Wyandottes themselves.
So, I recommend your listeners to just look through what the breeders have to offer. Try a couple of each different kinds of chickens just to see which one you like the best.
DEBRA: That’s very good advice. When I had chickens, that year, we went to the Florida State Fair. And they have all these agricultural exhibits. I actually saw a calf being born at the state fair.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Oh, cool!
DEBRA: But they had this huge room with all these different kinds of chickens. And of course, people were coming from the 4H with their chickens and getting awarded for the best eggs and all these things.
It was interesting to go and see—I have some of the chickens online. But then to actually go to the state fair and see them in person, so to speak, you get an idea what their personalities are like and how beautiful they are. And you just go, “Oh, I want one of those. I want one of those.”
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Absolutely, yeah. My son, he’s five and he’s doing 4H this year and raising the chickens for 4H. And it’s really fun. The chickens are entirely his responsibility with a little guidance from mom and dad.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: So, as far as what to do, once you’ve got your coop, and once you’ve got your chicks, then you want to set up a chick breeder. You can’t necessarily put them in a coop yet. It can’t be drafty. It has to be really warm in there, but not too hot for the babies.
They’re the most sensitive. And that baby period is very short (as it is with even humans). So you don’t have to worry about it too much. But they like it to be 90° to 95° for the first week of life. So it’s nice and warm. You can achieve that just with a heat lamp that’s placed right.
And they need to have access to food and water and clean bedding. That’s really pretty easy to achieve. You want to give them chick crumbles. You can buy it as just a prepared feed. You don’t have to make their own feed or anything like that.
And have a chick waterer. They’re nice and small so they can reach it. The big chicken waterer, they can’t necessarily reach it at this point when they’re tiny.
And you also just want to watch them. You want to make sure that they’re healthy and make sure that there’s nothing going on. I always check their cloacas, that they don’t get clogged because that can kill a chick really fast.
And play with them, so that they get used to people and they’ll like you better when they’re adults that way and be more fun.
It doesn’t take very long before you can move them into the coop, about 60 days. So it’s not that long. And then, you move them into the coop. A rule of thumb is you want about 3 to 4 sq. ft. per chicken inside your coop and 10 sq. ft. per chicken in an outside run.
In order to get those really delicious eggs, they need to eat something green. So pasturing them is a really good idea although it’s not necessary. You can just feed them seed. You can start feeding them layer palettes when they’re about as old as my chickens, like four to six months old. I start feeding them layer palettes. It has a higher calcium and a lower protein. For that egg production, you want to start feeding them that.
And one of my chickens’ favorite times of day is the time when I feed them scratch which is cracked corn. We have a nice, non-GMO cracked corn that I give them. They love that. That’s like a really good bonding time with the chickens. When I bring them the kitchen scraps and the cracked corn, it’s like candy for them. They just love it!
That’s when they follow me around the yard and things like that, looking for that.
Yeah, you just want to make sure they always have water available. We have some really nice waterers that will stay clean. I like to hang them, so that they don’t sit in the dirt and get dirty. We have an automatic waterer which is really nice. The chicken waterer is one of the things my five year old can’t do. It’s kind of heavy for him. So the automatic waterer is nice.
You want to make sure that they have good bedding. The floor and the coop needs to stay clean. You don’t want their poop to get all over their feet and everything—so a nice bedding.
I personally use organic rice hulls. And that makes a really nice bedding both for chicks and for chickens. And what’s really great about that is when I clean out the coop, then I’ve got this beautiful soil amendment that’s full of chicken manure and rice hulls. And so I put it into my compost for a few days-or well, for about 30 days—to fully compost. And then it’s just brilliant to add to my heavy clay soil. It’s perfect!
DEBRA: Yes, yes.
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: So that’s really nice. Yeah! They’re really easy and really sweet and really fun.
DEBRA: Having my chickens—I had them for about a year—it was one of the best garden experiences I’ve ever had. I’ve grown vegetables. I’m not currently growing anything, but I have in the past, and I will again. But just having those chickens, they really were like pets. It was wonderful.
We have about a minute left. Is there any final concluding words you’d like to say?
SARAH GRIFFIN-BOUBACAR: Oh, just check out our website and just to see what you can grow yourself. That whole sustainability aspect, growing organically and growing chickens organically is a really good thing you can do not only for your own family, but for the whole community at large too, encouraging more people to have chickens.
I mean, they just don’t really cost that much. And the way that you’ll get the fresh eggs is really worth it.
DEBRA: It really is, I totally agree with that. And you can also share them with your neighbors as you’ve said before and just make it a community thing.
Well, thank you so much for being with us today, Sarah. Everybody should go to GrowOrganic.com and take a look at your website. if you’re looking for the backyard chicken supplies, you can go to ToxicFreeTalkRadio.com. I have the link there. Or it’s under the Homestead tab on GrowOrganic.com.
You’re listening to Toxic Free Talk Radio. I’m Debra Lynn Dadd.