For as long as I can remember we grew a garden. Over the years the garden grew and grew. We now garden over 4000 square feet of land. But we never really had a homestead until the day we decided to add chickens to our property. They say that chickens are a gateway animal and that once you have chickens other animals are sure to follow. They were right, we now have pigs and ducks, and we also process meat birds. Adding chickens to our homestead was scary at first, neither of us had experience with animals. We researched and purchased our equipment. The basic equipment included a heat lamp, feeders, waterers, and a big brooder box to get our chicks started. One of the best parts of raising chickens is getting them in the mail. To receive a box of peeping chicks from your post office is something everyone should do in their life.
Once you get them out of the box and settled in the brooder you take a deep breath and just watch them. They are about the cutest things on earth. We chose to order all female birds because we were just interested in egg production. While these little birds were growing and learning how to roost (we added a little roost about 2″ high for them to learn on), we began to build a coop for them. Chickens require about 4′ of interior space each to be comfortable. We set out to build a 4×8 coop for our small flock. The coop included 4 nesting box for them to lay eggs in.
We also included a run that was 12×20 and totally enclosed to keep predators out. We tried to make the coop aesthetically pleasing as its the first thing you see when you look off of our deck. At this point we were about $700 into owning chickens. The first batch of chicks that we raised started out in our living space but quickly went to the garage, the heat lamp was enough to keep them warm. After 10 weeks we moved them out to the coop. We ran a cord and heat lamp out to the coop so they would stay warm. Let’s meet some of the girls.
They all seemed very happy and on days that we could watch them we would let them free range in the yard and vineyard. We chose brown egg layers because to us it seemed like what you would get on a farm, plus they look great.
Then it was time to wait. The hens we chose took about 20 weeks to start laying eggs. Everyday we would check the coop for eggs, like a child on Easter morning. Finally we were rewarded. We were even lucky enough to have one hen who laid double yoked eggs. Our homestead was now producing more food.
We immediately noticed a huge difference between our eggs and the eggs from the store. The difference was so stark that it is hard for us to eat store bought eggs anymore. Our egg is on the right. The yoke is vibrant and full, I am afraid to think how old the store eggs are or what conditions the hens must live under. Once you start raising and growing your own food, the store looks less and less appealing. It makes you push to raise more of your own food. Now we knew why chickens were gateway animals.
The last issue we had to deal with was an overabundance of eggs. 6 eggs a day doesn’t sound like a lot until two weeks have gone by and you have 84 eggs. We gave some away, but ultimately we were able to sell some to offset our feed costs. When we sold our first dozen we had such a great feeling of accomplishment. We really enjoy our girls and have been able to also make use of their droppings for the garden and vineyard. They also eat ticks which is a big concern in our area.
So if you are looking to make your garden into a homestead, go online and order some chicks today. Before you know it you will be feeding fresh chicken eggs to your family, and your pigs.