No self-sufficient homesteading setup is truly complete without chickens. They’re fun to watch, and fresh eggs are the best. But you should know a few things before you buy your first hens.
1. Chickens Are Smart
Chickens can remember, learn, figure things out, and feel emotions. They get bored and cranky if they feel cramped and uncared for. If handled by you when young, they often like to cuddle.
Don’t underestimate your chickens. They can easily become escape artists or learn to act up like a spoiled child to get treats.
But when you respect their skills, you can train them to come when you call, play with chicken toys, and even perform certain actions for treats.
2. They Don’t Give You “Free” Eggs
This is especially true when you consider that time is also money. Chickens require housing, food and grit.
With that said, chickens aren’t expensive or high-maintenance. Applying some homesteading hacks can reduce their costs to the point that you may in fact save money. Create a self-sustaining chicken-garden permaculture system:
- Feeding them kitchen veg scraps, garden pruning, and excess harvest
- Raising worms for extra protein and using the worm castings on your garden
- Composting their poop to reduce your garden soil costs and increase yields
- Growing barley, wheat, corn, and soybeans for feed.
Work toward a system where the chickens feed the garden. The garden feeds them.
3. Chickens Are Good & Bad for Your Garden
Chickens create nitrogen- and phosphorous-rich poop for your compost. Your garden will love it. They also eat many larvae in the dirt that will become garden pests.
But if they actually get into your garden, their scratching will destroy small plants and they love to eat ripening fruits before you can.
The fix: Chicken poop is also too acidic to add directly to the garden in high quantities anyway. So compost it. Or only allow the chickens into the garden when no human-edible plants are growing.
4. Chickens Don’t Lay All The Time
You may hear that a certain breed lays 300 eggs a year and think that’s almost one egg a day. But if you have high-yield chickens, you’re more likely to have too many eggs for half the year and too few when it’s cold out. They don’t produce all winter and slow down after 2-3 years.
However, chicken eggs stay safe and delicious at room temperature for at least two weeks if left unwashed. And in a fridge unwashed for much longer. Healthy chickens don’t lay dirty eggs. So this isn’t as disgusting as it might sound to those accustomed to washed eggs.
5. You Will Fall in Love with Them
You have dog people and cat people. Both can fall in love with chickens. This bird can be both independent and highly affectionate. They’re fairly low maintenance and low cost if you develop a good system.
Eggs are an excellent protein source for a self-sustaining homestead, especially if you prefer not to butcher goats, sheep, pigs, and cows.
Homesteading with Chickens
Chickens are an important part of self-sufficient permaculture. Review local codes and follow them, then add a small flock to your homestead.