Recently, Elaine and I have been discussing whether or not to raise chickens on our 38-acre parcel. We have been reading books and magazines on the topic and talking with other folks who have reared these animals. The desire to raise chickens is part of our goal to be as self-sufficient as we can in regards to what we eat.
This past year I killed 10 deer in Virginia and West Virginia and tagged a total of five turkeys in Virginia, West Virginia, and Tennessee, fulfilling much of our meat needs for 2011. Elaine buys organic, free range chickens from a local Botetourt farmer (who has already processed them, of course), and we are thinking maybe we could raise our own chickens for meat and eggs, thus basically not having to buy any meat from anyone, except for fish for an occasional dinner.
Of course, one of the things we already know about chickens is that they have a lot of wild predators: raccoons, skunks, opossums, coyotes, bobcats, bears, hawks, and owls - all of which we have in abundance in Botetourt County. And domestic animals such as dogs and cats will kill a chicken if they have a chance. So raising chickens would require, first of all, that we create a safe run and a predator proof hen house for them. Last year, a bear crumpled our seven-foot-tall garden fence and climbed into our vegetable patch, so I am not sure any structure we make or buy will be totally predator proof.
Still, the two of us are intrigued by the thought of raising chickens. In a couple of months, I will let you know what progress we are making on this issue. Meanwhile, if you have insight on this topic, please feel free to e-mail us or comment here.