Deciding to raise chickens for eggs is a big one, but how do you get there once you make that decision? You can either find ready-to-lay hens (pullets), or you can start from scratch by raising chicks of your own. Here’s how.
Raising Backyard Chickens: The Basics
So you’ve been thinking about getting some chickens. For many people, raising backyard chickens is a logical next step in the homesteading/self-sufficiency adventure.
As far as livestock go, they’re small and don’t require a lot of space, expense, or hands-on care. They’re fun to have around, a good experience for the kids, and a great source of natural fertilizer. And of course, they produce eggs, one of the healthiest sources of protein you’ll find. I had some doubts too, but in my experience, chickens are about as easy as it gets. If you have a cat or dog, chickens shouldn’t be any more work, plus dogs don’t lay eggs.
I could (and many people have) write a book about raising backyard chickens, but for those of you who like the abridged version of things, I’ll try to boil it down to the basics. Obviously, there are numerous specific topics that you may run into that aren’t covered here. In those cases, a quick search is all you need. Otherwise, I hope to touch on enough to get you comfortable with the idea of raising backyard chickens yourself!
Sorghum for Seed and Syrup
So if you’ve been following our adventures, you know we got some chickens in the spring.
You might also remember that as an attempt to defray some of their feed costs, I planted a few different things to see what, if anything, would produce something worthwhile.
The mangels (giant beets used as animal fodder) were dismal – not sure if I need to amend the soil or what, but they ended up smaller than my regular beets.
The sunflowers were also mostly a fail, but just because the slugs destroyed most of the seedlings before they had a chance to do anything. The few that survived did okay, so they’ll get another shot next year.
That brings us to sorghum.
Sprouting bird seed for your backyard flock
Flock of chickens, I’m presuming, not chickadees, although they’d surely appreciate it too.
With winter coming up, I’ve been looking for some ways to supplement the diet for our girls, since the worms, crickets, and most everything green is going to be scarce for the next six months. We’ve taken to soaking or sprouting most of our grains before we eat them, since it increases their nutritional value and enzyme activity, and who doesn’t want more nutritional value in their food? (Okay, lots of people clearly don’t care, or they wouldn’t be getting every meal from a drive-through, but there are some to whom it makes a difference.)
First egg and a miracle
Just about a week ago, one of the girls laid the first egg – they’re finally starting to earn their keep (at least one of them)! Once they all get into the swing of things, we should be getting somewhere between 2 and 4 dozen a week. Not bad from a handful of oversize sparrows (really, I do value them more than that :)).
To coincide with this momentous occasion came another that can only be attributed to God’s humor. I took C in on Monday for an egg challenge as part of his allergy testing, and after it was all said and done, the doctor gave him the green light to eat eggs! Needless to say, he’s more or less lived on egg sandwiches for breakfast since then. The girls need to pick up the pace, because he has three egg-free years to make up for.
If this worked for dairy, I’d go out and get a cow (or a goat… what do you say, dear?).