When my dream of farmsteading came into view, the very first thing I knew I wanted was CHICKENS. Easy enough, right?
Our feather-filled dream of 7 or 8 chickens has multiplied — now at a whopping 24 chickens! Whoa now. How the heck did that happen?!
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty details here, shall we?
We started our journey at the feed store. Knowing that spring was when the chicks started rolling in, we anxiously awaited our trip into town to pick up the fuzzy little buggers. We started with 6 initially, but after someone left the door open and the dog promptly killed 3, my husband when back into town to get replacement – 18 replacements. Who’s the crazy one now, huh? 🙂 We later ended up deciding to raise a few for meat as well, so we found a local chicken breeder on Craigslist and purchased a number from her. Now, we have lost a few along the way (check out here and here), but this is our current roll call:
Americauna = 6
Barred Rock = 5
Rhode Island Reds = 5
Golden Sexlink = 2
Buff Orpington = 1
Naked Neck = 2
Black Austrolorp = 2
Some sort of mixed reddish hen = 1 🙂
So you might be wondering if we free-range our chickens, right? Although we live on 5 acres, we do have large dogs (that I don’t necessarily trust with the chickens), coyotes, and other sketchy critters that could potentially harm our ladies (+ 1 rooster). We utilized a large, mobile coop that is contained within a fenced 2-acre pasture. So essentially, our chickens are free-rangers. They do not get locked in their coops at any given time – they have free access to all that is around them.
Currently, we are feeding them a standard layer feed from our local feed store. However, we have not been satisfied with this and have been feverishly researching recipes for homemade feed – Trust me. You’ll be hearing from me when it is decided! We also give them treats of scratch and scraps from our garden and kitchen. The only other “supplement” that they receive is calcium via crushed and baked eggshells – This is one of their favorites!
We offer their layer pellets in a hanging feeder that stays in their coop. Our goats had been notorious for finding ways to get to the chickens feed — So far, this has worked great! I use a small feed container for their eggshells. As far as the scratch, I don’t offer it free choice – usually just scatter around for them when I go out to the pasture. Their water dispenser is the same hanging-style as the feeder – but there is also a large basin of water that the goats drink out of – and the chickens have claimed that as their own as well. 🙂
It is true what they say: It rains a LOT in Washington – at least on the West side where we are. Our summers can get warm, up to the 80’s or 90’s, and the winters down below freezing. In the summer, we always make sure our animals have lots of fresh water and shade (a good chunk of our pasture is wooded, which offers great protection for all of our weather changes). This will be our very first winter with animals on the farmstead, but we have already winterized the coop with deep bedding, a closed floor, and additional lighting. So far, so good!
As I’m sure you may have gathered by now, this is our first full year having chickens – so no “stewing hens” for us yet! We have, however, decreased the flock by one aggressive rooster – Great learning experience, I’ll say! I haven’t figured out yet how we will determine who isn’t laying anymore. But come a few years from now, hopefully I will have found a method Bottom line, they WILL end up as stewing hens, eventually. We would love to have a consistent group of layers (around 20) and possibly do one or two groups of meat chickens per year – But I will be honest: we haven’t exactly done much as we originally planned!
Hey now – Isn’t that one of the best things about homesteading?
All in all, our chickens are a source of constant enjoyment on our farmstead. They are quirky, funny, friendly, and sweet. Well, most of them, anyhow!
What about you? Chickens on YOUR homestead? Dreams of chickens floating around your head? Yeah, I’ve been there… 🙂
This post can also be found at the Homestead Barn Hop!