final entry in our chicken photo contest came from Sue Loring, who
shared the description of her poultry-rich homestead below. The
photos, from top to bottom, are: a Light Brahma rooster eating broom
corn, a Polish rooster eating Indian corn, and Partridge Silkies
enjoying cornbread made just for them.
My husband and I have about 5
acres in northwest Iowa in which we have 3 acre garden in which we raise
produce that we sell at our roadside pumpkin and squash stand each
fall. Also we right now have 68 chickens, 3 Royal Palm Turkeys, 8
bobwhite quail and 11 ducks. These numbers fluctuate thru out the year
as we incubate eggs, attend lots of exotic auctions and buy from friends
and neighbors. We also sell laying hens, exotic chickens and ducks for
butchering. We trade ducks for broiler chickens with a friend of ours
who raises organic chickens on her farm.
We love all our poultry and
currently have one big chicken house which has all our laying hens and a
pair of Sumatra chickens and our Brahma chickens which don’t get along
with our exotic and bantam breeds. We have a separate house for our
turkeys and another coop for our ducks and our original coop which my
son built me in woods class when he was in high school. We have a
smaller coop with the quail which are going to be expanding this
spring.We started out with 8 chicks from local feed store and got few
more the next year and now it’s become an obsession. Love the fresh
eggs, the meat, and the entertainment of raising a huge brood.
Our secrets for long, cold
Iowa winters…all our chickens are free range during the days and are
locked up at night to keep out coyotes and other critters. We stock all
coops and houses with lots of straw which we usually only change out
twice in the winter to keep better insulation on floors of coops. We
don’t use any lights or heat lamps ever for supplemental heat and have
never lost more than one or two birds each winter. Each of our houses
and coops we pack in a lot of birds which gives them extra heat.
far as feeding…we always use Purina flock raiser feed for everything
but our laying hens which get laying hen mix of feed. Also to supplement
in winter we keep a supply of pumpkins and squash from our fall crop
and keep inside so they don’t freeze. Our poultry loves a big juicy
pumpkin or squash once a week especially when the snow flies.
We raise and sell broomcorn in
the fall. I stick away a couple totes of it and the chickens will strip
it down in matter of minutes and can’t get enough of the stems of
seeds. It’s the same with Indian corn and dent corn. Our poultry keep
busy and entertained munching on the kernels of corn or broomcorn during
the cold winter days.
The vegetable scraps and fruit
scraps are also fed to our poultry every couple days. Strawberry scraps
cause the biggest fights in our hen house. They love wheat bread and
crusts and all of our chickens and turkeys are tame enough we hand-feed
the bread to them. I try not to give them bread more than once or twice a
month as there is little nutritional value but it is definitely a
favorite. I will make homemade corn bread every couple weeks just for
the chickens and they love it.
Water is another challenge. In
our laying hen house we do keep heated base to our big galvanized
waterer which is the easiest way to do it. For our other smaller houses
and coops we just have bought a surplus of plastic waterers at our local
feed store and bring them in every night to keep thawed in our mudroom
We switch out every day and it’s a pretty easy method. We have regular
waterers and also extra thick rubber totes that we keep open all year
for our ducks to swim and play in. Fresh water is the key to healthy
chickens in the winter.
chickens have the run of our acreage year round except early spring
when we plant our vegetable garden and pumpkin patches. Each fall we
leave our garden and don’t rototill it under. All remaining pumpkins,
squash, corn and other vegetables that didn’t get harvested or had
blemishes keep our chickens foraging for months feasting on the remnants
of garden waste.This keeps our chickens active even on cold days.
You pull up to our farm or
drive by and you will see chickens everywhere…on the deck, on the car,
on the picnic tables, dust bathing in my window boxes, perching on top
of coops, searching for grass seed in the ditches or scratching in our
garden. Our chickens are foragers. Their biggest danger is the looming
shadow of the variety of hawks that circle by once in awhile.
Well thanks for looking at my
photos and I look forward to seeing the other entries in your contest. I
do read your blogs and books. We also live simple lifestyle and try to
stay true the way we were raised. So keep up the good work and thanks
Bruce and Sue Loring
Hawk Valley Garden