All homesteaders and survivalists should keep a small flock of chickens. That sounds like an exaggeration, but the truth is that chickens are an important part of a simple lifestyle. Not only can chickens supply you with food, but they can also provide a nice income for your family. Chicken droppings are great for fertilizing your garden or helping to create rich compost. In addition, chickens are friendly and sociable.
You can buy chickens at your local farm supply store during the spring time. If you live in an area where there is no such store, you can actually purchase chickens by mail. When purchasing your chickens by mail, you need to by at least 20. This is so that the chickens can stay warm while they are being shipped. Always buy plenty extra the people who sex chickens while they are often right, you want to make sure you get plenty of hens when you buy your chickens.
For information on purchasing chickens by mail, you may want to check out the following catalogs:
This is a great catalog for chicken enthusiasts as there are all different types of rare breeds of birds that you can order. For many years, we had Bantam chickens with the feathers on their feet. Not only were they beautiful, but they were also great egg layers.
This catalog has everything in it. Not only can you purchase all types of chickens, but you can also purchase supplies to help take care of the chickens.
Once you have decided that you want chickens, you want to do some research on how to care for them. It is not hard to take care of chickens: they will need a pen for the night-time as well as a place for their water and food to be stored. Although some people install electricity in the coops to provide heat and light, this is not necessary, unless where you live gets an stays very cold for large parts of the year. We often used heat lamps to help keep our chickens warm.
During the day, I would let my chickens out of the hutch so that they could forage and get some exercise. If you decide to do this, keep their wing feathers clipped or they may fly away in order to explore your area! If you wish, you can make a portable pen to put the chickens in during the day. Simply put the chickens on a new section of lawn each day. At night, put the chickens back into the pen. You will find they will want to go back into their pen, they feel safe there, and they love to roost at night. Always put your chickens back into their pen before it gets dark. Chickens like to go to bed once it is dark outside.
I do not like to put their food and water inside the pen simply because it attracts mice, rats, snakes, and other pests. This is unsanitary. However, if you keep your water outside of the pen, that will usually solve the problem. Note that if you have cold winter temperatures, you might need to get a heated water bowl in order to keep ice from forming in the water. Either that or you can replace the water frequently during the day.
Most chickens stop laying as the days get shorter and the nights get longer. If you still want a supply of eggs during the winter months, you will need to install a light in the pen. Make sure that the chickens get at least 12 hours of light per day. Another positive thing about installing a light in the pen is that the light will give off heat and help to keep the chickens warm. Keep in mind that egg production will slow down even if you provide lighting. Don’t worry though, spring is just around the corner!
The biggest problem with the chickens is what to do with the chicken waste. I found that it is easy to clean up if you add some straw or pine mulch to the floor of the coop or pen. Simply shovel the mulch or straw out and onto your compost pile in the summer or onto your garden in the winter. Put new mulch or straw down on the floor. Then, repeat this process as often as necessary. How frequently you need to clean out your coop will depend upon the size of your flock.
We got our first chickens 20 years ago quite by accident. Since that time, our flock has increased and decreased depending upon a lot of factors. There have been times when I’ve given away my chickens simply because I felt it was too much work. Usually, I find that I am ordering a catalog a bit later and making plans for a new flock of chickens. I suppose I should just accept the fact that I don’t have chickens; they seem to have me.