Chicks Arriving

Hope Liberating Chicks

We keep a lot of chickens for their organic pest control function. They keep our farm healthy and pleasant without needing to use insecticides or pesticides. These are approximately 300 that arrived in late May.

Like guineas, chickens are death to ticks, black flies, mosquitoes, deer flies, etc. They also eat snakes, mice and just about anyone else they can get down their gullet along with a healthy serving of grasses, clovers and other forages. The advantage of chickens over guineas is they are quieter and lay a lot more eggs and the eggs are bigger.

Chickens also break apart manure patties and spread clots of dirt, smoothing the soil. In nature birds follow the grazing herds of herbivores. On our farm they do the same thing. We don’t pen the hens in but rather they follow the pig herds around the grazing patterns.

As a huge bonus these hens will produce 10,000 to 30,000 eggs a year which we cook to double the available protein and then feed the eggs to the younger pigs which gives them a boost as they wean.

In the winter, when the pastures die off and the insects disappear, the chickens eat pigs – no commercial layer feed. This is a great cycle of life and food that we can produce here on the farm from our own resources.

Outdoors: 79°F/54°F Partially Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/64°F

Daily Spark: When life gives you lemmings, make lemming aid.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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16 Responses to Chicks Arriving

  1. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    In winter, Chickens eat pigs? Don’t the pigs object?

    We are enjoying the lack of glaciers here a bit too much. It was 99 F. on my porch yesterday. There’s a “fire weather alert” for most of Ca. just now.

    Glad to see you folks are having a productive spring!

  2. Could you clarify the chicken eat pigs comment please.
    Our piglets were caught the other day with chicks in their mouths.

  3. Pam R. says:


    Exactly how do your feed out the pork to the birds in the winter? And how do you cook so many eggs for the pigs? (Thinking of the tiny cottage and space and time….)

    • There is usually a pot on the stove to boil. In the winter this is easy with the wood stove – and the winters are long. In the hottest months it is never very hot here and the nights are cool so cooking a pot of eggs can take the chill off the house. I’m also less likely to cook all the eggs in the hot months. That same pot’s heat helps along a batch of yogurt.

      As to feeding pigs to chickens, realize that chickens are not vegetarians, contrary to the marketing on some boxes of eggs. Chickens are omnivores with carnivorous leanings. In the warm months they eat insects, mice, snakes, grubs, earthworms, etc to satisfy their hunger for animal protein and fats. In the winter we give them pork such as ground liver, back fat, heart, etc. Sometimes I cook it which improves digestibility. The pig is good nose-to-tail, as any chicken will tell you.

      What does not sell in a particular week goes to our table, to the dogs, to the chickens and ultimately to the compost pile if nobody else eats it. Think of it this way: 80% of what a pig, or chicken, eats comes out in their manure and urine. About half of an animal comes off at slaughter but that’s all good for the compost pile to recapture the nutrients for the farm. Commercial cuts only represent about 67% of a hanging carcass which is only about 72% of the live weight. In the end most of the nutrients return to the land in one way or another.

      Add more sunshine, CO2, Nitrogen from the sky (captured by clovers & other legumes), minerals from the rocks, rain water from the sky and you have a sustainable permaculture cycle.

  4. Peter says:

    This is permaculture in perfection! You have nothing to do anymore. -The animals do it for you. Even eating the pigs. No humans needed anymore. :)

  5. skeptic7 says:

    Do you eat the older chickens? Have you thought of trying solar cookers during the summer to cook for the animals?

    • Yes to both. Haven’t had the chance to try the solar cooker but it has long fascinated me. Have you used one? Even in the winter I bet it could work. The sun can be very intense through the clear winter air. The reflection off the snow is often hot in certain locations. When we put the foil on the butcher shop it created a giant solar cooker – quite the experience.

      • skeptic7 says:

        I like reading about solar cooking, but haven’t tried it. I thought it might work for you if you were cooking for the pigs since they aren’t as fussy about food coming fast. The piglets wouldn’t care if it took 2 hours or 10 minutes to cook their eggs.

  6. Lynn Glazer says:

    hey Walter! cute chicks! i love seeing Hope taking care of the animals… she reminds me a lot of my daughter… i have a question that has nothing to do with you post… i was wondering if you have any pictures that can help determine if my pigs have been castrated… we got seven pigs 4 of which are males and they are about 3 months old… it seems they have been castrated but i’m not sure…i felt around and found no testicules to speek of… is that a sign that they have been castrated? thanks

    • Here is a picture of what a barrow would look like although in that case there is no scar because it may be a cryptorchid. If it were a castrated pig there might be a clearly visible castration scar in addition to being flat on the back. Here are some pictures of piglets both gilts (females) and boars (non-castrated males):

      Essential Differences Redux
      Upper Field Piglets
      Flip’s Weaners

      We don’t castrate so I don’t have much in the way of photos of barrows.

      Gilts have a little clitoral hood poking out below the tail and anus. Boars piglets have a bit of a bulge, although often not very big until they start to mature. When they get bigger it will look like this. See Essential Differences for more details and photos of each.

      • Lynn Glazer says:

        thank you very much Walter… i’ve looked it up but could not find anything relevent on google… and i remember seeing all the pictures you put on here… i can’t see a visible scar or a visible bulge starting to form wher testes should be located… so i guess time will tell if they were or not… castrating is not something i believe in either but we got these piglets a little older and i think it was too late to have them intact… in the near future i plan on purchasing pastured pork breeding pair but i wanna do all the research i need and i wanna feel ready before i do the big plunge :) your blog is quite helpfull and i refer to it often (especially when my husband does not believe something i say lol) if ever you have the name of a reputable canadian pastured pork farmer where i could get breeding stock let me know !

        • Once you’ve tested a genetic line then you can determine if it is necessary but with random pigs one might want to castrate to be safe. It is wise to raise summer feeder pigs a year or two before taking on the adventure of keeping breeders. Get the infrastructure and basic pig rearing skills down. No rush.

  7. Kathy says:

    Walter, thanks for your post about starting chicks. We would like to follow your example. To fill in the details, however, what do you feed the baby chicks? And at what age do you wean them off of whatever that food/feed is and let them go to only pasture/bugs/manure? Thanks.

    • In the past when we buy hundreds of chicks at a time as hatchlings we’ve bought commercial starter crumbles for the chicks for a few weeks as they transition from hatching to pasture. However chicks born here on the farm never get that and they do fine so the commercial feed is not absolutely necessary. I think it does give faster growth. What I am experimenting with is providing the baby chicks with ground meat. There are grinders strong enough that one can just dump in bones with scraps of meat. I might find one used for this purpose. I hope that will allow us to avoid the commercial chick starter feed completely in the future.

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