Today we began the first day into what will be our first full year homesteading and preparing ourselves to meet our goal of buying our own property and homesteading off grid within the next two years. So to start we want to wish all our readers a Happy New Year and hope we can continue to write interesting posts to keep bringing you back to our page.
In today's post I decided why not start the year off writing about those lovely birds who bring us yummy eggs and later on meat for dinner and soups...you guessed it I am talking about chickens! Here on the homestead we have about 10 Road Island Red chickens that free range, coming and going as they please and 15 Jersey Giants that are currently residing in a large pen in our barn. We have been raising chickens for a few years now and dealt with many problems when we first started out. First things first as we learned quiet quickly, always make sure you use a hardware cloth at the bottom of your cages and chicken wire half way up in order to make it harder for rats and weasels to get into your cages as well it makes raccoons have a harder time biting through the wire. Personally we use hardware cloth for almost all poultry/bird coops and cages to protect our birds. Secondly if you free range your chickens know your predators, we thought our chickens would be fine running the barn, little did we know that we had a fox that would tunnel through and steal a chicken every other day. For the first few weeks I could not figure it out, none of the other animals were disappearing how could this be! So my husband and I decided to build an outdoor coop for them and as we where collecting all the chickens from the barn, I fell and there it was I could not believe it. In between the barn and silo was a dirt wall and wouldn't you know it a hole big enough for a small creature to crawl through. I immediately went to the house and grabbed a field camera and set it up and two days later while checking the pictures to my surprise was a small fox entering and exiting our barn...what a sly fox he was. Needless to say after finding out all his easy kill had moved he didn't stick around too much. Now back to our chickens! When picking a chicken be choosy, look at dual purpose breeds with good egg production. When we first began we did not know much about chickens so started with leghorns, although great egg producers they are not a meat bird. We tried them but it was a very tight meat and very little, although a perfect soup bird. Then we tried the RIR and found they also where a great egg producer but for meat they just were not as meaty as we wanted so we searched and searched and then I found Jersey Giant chicks, well I jumped on the opportunity and bought all the chicks they had and was pleased with my purchase. Not only did their name describe them perfectly but they also where able to produce us with a quantity of eggs. The roosters grow to be a beautiful chicken dinner and the hens if not being kept for breeding are also well worth the buy and still cheaper then buying from the grocer and if you can kill your own chicken and don't mind that kind of thing as we do here on the homestead it just got cheaper for you.
And finally when starting out with chickens you really do not have to pay crazy prices for feeders and watering dishes. Be creative! We have taken old frying pans and clean stove pipe to build our own feeders, also we have used PVC pipping cutting it in half and capping the ends to make watering dishes. Just remember always have lots of fresh water available for your chickens and hang feeders so not to allow them to drop their birdie droppings into their food and water. If you give them a happy home these lovely birds will supply you with an abundance of all natural eggs to feed your family and sometimes your friends too!