Homesteading Update #2: Chickens!!!

If you follow me on Instagram you know that a couple of weeks ago we added some chickens to our homestead. We actually bought them from one of my students!

We brought home four hens and one rooster last week during vacation. Our property had an old (but very nice looking and complete) chicken coop and I am so thankful I took the time last fall to clean the whole thing out. All I had to do to prepare was to throw down some pine shavings, clean out the nesting boxes and buy a waterer and we were good to go. I don’t really know much about keeping chickens but I had done my fair share of reading on the internet. It’s another “learn as you go” project.

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We have a nice little enclosed area that they can go in and out of from the coop. When we are home we usually let them out of the fence and let them roam around. They always come back and night and never stray too far.

The rooster is feisty.  He will certainly let you have it when you try to mess with one of the hens. I have some black and blue marks on my shins to prove it.

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So all was good and fine for a couple of days, but in all reality we knew we needed more hens. The hens were getting harassed by the rooster because you are supposed to have a 1:10 ratio of roosters to hens. Plus we were only getting 1-2 eggs per day. No bueno, especially with my egg consumption.  We finally got a hold of somebody on Craigslist and planned on picking up 6 more hens.

About an hour before we picked them up, I was googling around and realized that you can’t “mix” two groups of grown chickens because they will fight and could possibly transmit diseases to one another. We were scrambling trying to figure out what to do. We had this super nice chicken coop made for up to about 15 hens but we couldn’t put the new ones in there yet! We ended up quickly constructing a “make shift” coop in our barn with some “nesting boxes”. We got this done in the hour before we left to go pick them up. I also made a homemade chicken waterer out of a pie pan and old coffee can. Now I’m mad I spent $24 on the first one!

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The makeshift coop. Homemade waterer in the corner.

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Chickens inside the “coop”.

So basically they just hang out in the barn with the pigs and we let them out when we’re home. The two groups haven’t “mixed” yet but I let both groups out this weekend and there was a minor squabble, so I ended that quickly.

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“New” chickens

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The girls taking a dust bath.

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These guys are getting big!!!

So, what’s the verdict on chickens? I love having the eggs! Considering I was spending up to $40 a month on cage free organic eggs, it’s great to have them fresh every  morning. Now with the 10 hens we are averaging 4-6 eggs per day but I’m sure it will increase in the summer.

The chickens are very high maintenance however. They are messy and you have to change their water every day (I do for the pigs too) and then I have to chase them and try to catch them if they wander too far away (talk about a workout). They poop EVERYWHERE. It’s just a pain in the butt right now since we have two chicken “coops” all the work that chickens require is basically being doubled right now (change two waterers, feed both groups, let both groups in and out, etc).

But I enjoy it. We already knew we’d be tied down with the pigs all summer so figured that we might as well get chickens while we’re at it. It’s a sacrifice I’m okay with. Besides I love being outside taking care of them.

Next up is plans for pastured meat chickens. I’ll let you know when and if we start on those!

The garden is also coming along great. I transplanted some of my tomatoes and peppers this weekend and dug up some more of my garden. They will be planted outside in about a month if everything goes okay. Our frost date is May 15. But I distinctly remember snow falling last May……so I will probably wait until memorial weekend.

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Also, we got a new toy!!!!

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This will be handy to have around this summer while getting work done around the “farm”. Can’t wait! I love four wheelers!

Hope your week goes great! Let me know any tips for chicken keeping in the comments!

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