Sunday, February 1, 2015

Backyard Chickens

One of our favorite homesteading accomplishments is raising our chickens. We have about 30 laying hens, a few roosters, and this past year we raised 50 meat birds.We consider them a "farming staple," if you will, but that is not a universal sentiment!

 There has been a lot of controversy surrounding chickens in the past few years, concentrating in city's where folks want to raise chickens within the city limits. Some consider them as a nuisance, a pest perhaps, creating excess noise and waste within their close quartered neighborhoods. While I understand how this is a problem for some, I wouldn't have it any other way here on our little plot of land.

Chickens happen to be one of the most sustainable resources a homesteader can invest in! Let us start in the kitchen for instance. Consider the organic waste we produce on a daily basis. I don't mean FDA approved, stamped organic, but organic as in can be put back into the earth. All of our produce scraps, and our egg shells go out to the chickens. Seems a little cannibalistic with the egg shells, I know, but they are a great source of calcium and minerals for the chickens, and will in turn make their eggshells stronger. So, there is that. We take them our kitchen trash, which they recycle and
in turn, give us nutritious, protein filled butt fruit hehe! Or in the case of a meat bird, a substantial meal.

In addition to feeding them the kitchen scraps, we also set them loose in the garden each spring. This is an excellent adventure for the chickens, fresh sprouts to eat up, and worms to DIG up! They think it is an all you can eat buffet, meanwhile, they are digging up the garden, getting rid of baby weeds and tilling up the soil. Throw your compost pile and the old bedding from the coop on top and they incorporate all of those nutrients into your soil by scratching and pecking and digging.

Back to sustainability, they eat the grass and bugs in your yard, which is doing you a big favor. They are getting rid of pesky insects such as Mosquito's, and that all has to go out the other end. A messy situation indeed, but what is fertilizer made of? So they eat the grass, but are fertilizing it at the same time. A great situation if you can free range! We however live in an area with many predators, and cannot free range, so we have chicken tractors instead. Not the kind they  can drive around in, but a portable fence that we can move to fresh grass once they have eaten and re-fertilized the ground.

So while our roosters like to sing the song of their people first thing in the morning (their internal clocks must be set wrong because last I checked, morning did not start at 4 a.m.) and cleaning the coop is not the most fun chore in the world, raising chickens is one of my favorite parts of homesteading. They are entertaining to watch, full of character (and sometimes attitude), and provide us with 2 of our biggest food staples. It is an extremely comforting feeling to have a freezer full of meat at the beginning of winter, and an even better feeling to know I can go out to the back yard each day and get one of the most versatile foods ever used in my kitchen! I can see why many people are hoping to raise them within city limits, I don't know that we could ever be without them!