Chickens are a natural addition to a homestead, especially one with limited space. They can be housed in compact homes, and can reward you with healthy fresh eggs, humanely raised meat, and fertilizer for your garden. The dark orange egg yolks are truly delicious and if allowed a little time to free range, chickens can also help with bug control. Chickens have been a favorite and first step into keeping farm animals for me as well as for many others out there. While they still require consistent care, they are generally easy to raise.
• Lay better tasting and healthier eggs
• Provide humanely raised meat
• Make manure for the garden
• Eat food and garden scraps - therefore aiding in composting
• Provide bug control when allowed to free range
• Can be noisy (especially when you have a rooster – although hens will make noise mostly after laying an egg)
• May possibly expose you to potential health concerns (avian flu)
• Will scratch up seedlings and eat produce from the garden when allowed to free range
• Can smell if living conditions are cramped or not cleaned
• Must be protected from predators
• Can attract rodents or other pests
Requirements Chickens are an ideal animal for a small homestead, but they do require a basic shelter, protection from predators, food (store bought crumbles and scraps), and fresh water. Chickens are social and prefer to live in groups of 3 or more. For happy animals, the shelter should allow at least 4 square feet per bird if they have access to an outdoor run, and more if they spend all their time in the coop. You can order chicks online for delivery to your post office, or pick up chicks at farm and garden stores in the spring. If you buy chicks, keep in mind that they need to be kept warm and well protected.
Resources on Raising Chickens:
Homemade Living: Keeping Chickens with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock
Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens...Naturally
You can also find a wealth of knowledge in the posts below from the Homestead Resource Guide (click through if you're reading this on email).
You can see photos of different breeds here.
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Over the next few months, I will be exploring the opportunities available to the homesteader and offering thoughts on how to set goals and gain a focus on what you want on your homestead. Many of these thoughts are already available in my ebook: The Modern Homestead, but I invite you to follow along here and on my Facebook page for a deeper look into ideas and thoughts on creating your dream homestead.You can also find a wealth of information at the tabs at the top of the blog about gardening, raising animals, and learning new homesteading skills. If you're looking for experience and examples, check out the Homestead Highlight series for first hand accounts from homesteaders.