When planning on a sustainable homestead, chickens are the ideal starting animal. The practicality of having chickens on the homestead, the small farm, or the backyard for that matter, make them the first choice of many starting out.
First of all chickens are small compared to other animals. Smaller in size means the less it needs to survive and thrive. Less feed and room to produce it’s desired product. A full grown laying hen needs only about a quarter of a pound of feed a day. If birds are allowed to free range that feed requirement will be lower. Other than feed, finding a place to comfortably house your birds is easier.
Chickens are happy to wander about in the yard or farmstead. Predator control is the biggest worry in keeping your birds alive and well. Unlike commercially grown chickens, free range birds don’t require as much to keep alive. They are pretty hardy creatures when provided theyre basic needs.
Keeping Pests at Bay
Free range chickens provide a second benefit around the homestead. Keeping insect levels in check. Just think, the bugs floating around the yard, being turned into meat and eggs.
They Grow Fast
Compared to other livestock, chickens grow at warp speed. A commercially grown broiler, meat bird, can be ready to harvest in six weeks. Take the production time of beef steer at over two years, and you can seen the level of productivity. When looking at reproducing, a hen can lay eggs at around 18 weeks old and hatch an egg approx 21 days after its laid. Meaning from the time you get chicks on your homestead you could realistically be producing new chicks in 21 weeks total. A heifer will normally breed at between 15-18 months of age and have gestation period of 9 additional months.
Free range chickens will leave manure everywhere they go. While close to your house or front porch may not seem like the best place for chicken poop, the droppings are have a rich fertilizer value. Keeping your birds in an area you plan to plant a garden or other plants later on can have big benefits.
Chickens are relatively cheap to have. Chicks can be purchased for a few dollars each. Daily feed costs less than that of a dog or other pets. Free range birds will cost less. Not to say however, when buying a chicken coop, waterer’s and feeders, etc. can get pricey depending on what you want.
Many breeds of chickens can lay over 200 eggs a year. It doesn’t take many birds to lay far more eggs than a single person can consume. When that hen gets to old to produce eggs you can still use that same bird for meat. If your raising meat birds then it can take only a few weeks for that bird to grow big enough to harvest. Chickens are great converters of feed into meat and eggs and therefore are one of the best investments when it comes to a self-sufficient homestead.