Several years ago I started raising backyard chickens so that my family could enjoy fresh eggs. The benefits of having a readily available source of good nutritious food has certainly proved itself worthwhile! No matter what happens at the grocery store I know I can count on the ladies and their eggs to feed us! In the past while raising baby chicks we were only able to raise four at a time due to space restrictions. Now that we have moved to a larger property it’s time to expand the flock! Homesteading with chickens is a great way to get our feet wet with this new lifestyle.
Homesteading with Chickens, Expanding our Flock
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Why Do We Think Homesteading with Chickens Is so Great?
Chickens have been a barnyard staple for good reason! Our ancestors raised them for eggs and meat and it’s a practice that continues on most family homesteads today. Eggs and meat might be the most obvious reasons to raise chickens on your homestead (or in your backyard if you happen to live in a place that allows it – Check here for a great local law resource) but they are far from the only reasons that we have chosen to raise our own chickens.
- Healthier Eggs – While our family has always enjoyed eggs (They are excellent food for those following a Keto diet) science has shown that backyard chickens tend to lay eggs with lower cholesterol and more vitamins. This is likely due to a more varied and natural diet then factory farm hens receive.
- Pest Control – No one likes bugs. Except for chickens …. who love them. Love to eat them! A roving flock of chickens might not completely solve your bug issues but it will certainly help out! We opted to add Guinea Fowl to our flock expansion to further increase this benefit.
- Garden Fertilizer – Cleaning out the chicken coop can be a great asset for your compost heap (and you should definitely have a compost pile started somewhere!). I would much rather create my own compost for the garden then have to buy it from the store every spring! If you can’t have chickens where you live then you might consider Rabbits or Quail as they can fulfill the same purpose!
- Supporting A More Humane Lifestyle – I like eggs and I eat meat. However, I feel like any animal raised to provide us with food of any sort should be treated with respect and love. My chickens are spoiled rotten and certainly enjoy their lives a great deal more than the hens from factory farms. I like knowing that my food is coming from a more ethical source.
- Low Cost/High Reward – In terms of livestock there are few options out there with a start-up cost as low as chickens. You can build a suitable coop for a few hundred dollars and our locally sourced chicks cost s only $6 apiece. Chicks grow quickly and you will be able to enjoy eggs or harvest extra roosters at a much faster pace than other livestock. If you allow your chickens to free-range they will eat significantly less feed but even if you have to keep them contained in a run, a large bag of layer pellets is only around $14 here and lasts my four full-grown hens about a month. This will obviously change when the new chicks are grown BUT we will be able to free-range our chickens on this property so it might not change that much! Regardless of the cost of their food is a very small price to pay for the benefits we reap from them. They are cheap to keep pets that give back.
Why Are We Expanding Our Flock?
When we lived in a small suburban neighborhood four hens were all that we could reasonably keep due to space restrictions. Thanks to an abundance of stray dogs our hens could not free-range and noise restrictions kept us from having roosters. Four hens were enough to keep us stocked in eggs for most of the year, though it got a little lean in the winter when laying slowed down.
Since we have moved these restrictions are no longer in place and we are able to fully enjoy homesteading with chickens! While I am really happy that our chickens will be able to free-range now it does come with some additional dangers. It’s likely that we will lose a few hens to hawk and eagles in the area. Sad but that’s the price we have to pay in order to give them more freedom and a healthier, more natural diet. Anticipating these losses we decided it would be wise to have some additional hens.
We would also like our homestead to be as self-sufficient as possible – which means that we needed some roosters. Roosters were banned in our old location thanks to noise ordinances but they will hopefully help protect our flock as well as make the flock self-sustaining. We will be able to hatch our own chicks rather than having to source new ones as our older hens age out of laying.
Farm fresh eggs, hatching eggs and backyard chicks are in pretty high demand in our area, so any extra eggs can be sold for eating, other people to hatch or hatched out ourselves and the chicks kept or sold as needed.
How Do You Introduce New Chicks To Older Chickens?
To be honest, we are the learning side of this step ourselves! We have never had to introduce new chickens into our flocks before! Chicken flocks have a very distinct pecking order to them and each chicken in the flock holds its own spot in the hierarchy. With that being said it’s ill-advised to just throw your new chickens in with the old ones! This is dangerous not only from a disease standpoint but chicken’s can be quite nasty when they fight and no one wants to be doctoring up wounded chickens if an introduction goes badly.
The commonly accepted ways to go about introducing new chickens are as follows :
- Quarantine new animals for at least 30 days to make sure that everyone is healthy. You don’t want to introduce disease into your established flock. Since our new birds were bought as chicks and have to spend time in the brooder this is a given for us! When homesteading with chickens, protecting your flock is of great importance!
- Try to introduce more then one chicken at a time – even better if the new chickens already know each other or come from the same place. This will give the new chicken a friend if your old flock ostracizes them for a few days and means that any bullying that might occur will be split up and not solely handled by one single newcomer.
- Only introduce chickens of the same approximate size. You will need to make sure that your chicks are old enough to stand up for themselves with your older larger chickens. Introduce new chicks only once they are fully feathered and decently grown.
- Introduce the new chickens slowly. The best way to do this is to allow your old chickens and your new chickens to see each other but be unable to physically get to each other. You can accomplish this by fencing off a section of the coop or run and allowing them to spend some time getting to know each other through the fence. If this is hard for you to do a wire dog kennel might work for smaller numbers. If that doesn’t work some people have had success adding the new birds to the coop at night after the old birds have already roosted. Just make sure you go out and check on things come daybreak to intervene if things get out of hand.
Since it’s likely that we will want to add new breeds or other poultry to our flock at some point in the future (that’s half the fun of homesteading with chickens) we have decided to build our new coop with that in mind. By pre-building the coop so that we can close a door and section it off it will be much easier to introduce new chickens or poultry in the future! It will also allow us to separate breeding pairs if we find ourselves wanting a specific hatching mix.
Our chicks are currently only a few weeks old so they won’t be introduced to our old flock for a little while yet. In the meantime, we will be building the new coop so stay tuned for some details about that fun DIY project and to find out how our introduction’s went!