Fur, Feathers, Fluff and Fuzz, Poultry

For the Love of Chickens

Chickens are probably the most novice-friendly livestock out there. Granted my husband and I both grew up on farms as children with various types of livestock, but when we decided to start growing our homestead we decided to grow slowly. We did not want to be overwhelmed by getting everything at once, and instead chose to add livestock one at a time until we feel we are at capacity. So the first thing we got… chickens.

Obviously you already know my love for Fluffy Chickens (which have their own advantages) but we needed something that would be good for meat production as well as egg production. I have read several books, websites and articles over the past two years that had information regarding chicken breeds. These include Cackle Hatchery, Backyard Homestead and Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Animals. I also used the Livestock Conservancy website, as I believe it is important to help grow the breeds that are struggling.

The breed I finally settled on was the Delaware. Delawares are a fantastic breed if you are looking for a dual purpose bird. They grow rapidly with weights from 5.5-6.5 lbs for pullets and hens and 7.5-8.5 lbs for cockerels and roosters. Their lovely white feathers also makes the plucking job look much cleaner on a meat bird.

As far as egg production, each hen will lay an average of 3-5 eggs per week. After the “new layer” phase, these eggs will range from large to jumbo in size. Furthermore, I don’t know about you, but there’s just something about a brown egg that makes it feel more “home grown.”

Personality is also HUGE for me when picking out animals; I don’t like creatures that I’m going to have to tussle with. Delaware chickens are known to not only be calm and friendly, but the word “docile” has also been thrown around to describe them. They are also decent setters, which means they will make fairly good mamas if you want to raise your own chicks.

Delaware chickens do well in all weather climates, but the Rooster’s do have a large comb that needs to be monitored for frostbite in the cold. I also found that they are pretty good at foraging for their own food. Even as chicks, mine would go into a tizzy when let out to free range. Hello decreased food costs!

If you do choose to raise your own chicks, the recommended mating ration is 10 hens to 1 rooster. Although I will say that I have currently been rocking 2 roosters with 12 hens in one coop and 4 roosters with 5 hens in another since I got them as chicks 7 months ago. Please don’t judge, they were a gift and I don’t have the heart to “off” them. We haven’t had any vicious battles or injuries to date.

The Delaware also happens to be on the Livestock Conservancy list of “endangered” livestock, if you will. It is considered to be a sustainable heritage breed, yet prior to the 90’s the breed had almost died out. Still lingering between the categories of “watched” and “critical,” and given all the traits mentioned above, I believe Delaware chickens should be top consideration for anyone looking to keep chickens.



Fur, Feathers, Fluff and Fuzz, Poultry, Saving Money, The Piggy Bank

Ferment All the Things!

I’ve already written about fermented tea, and I’m sure you’ll hear about some of my other ferments in posts to come. But… did you know that you could ferment things for your animals as well? Ferment all the things!

After reading Welcome to the Farm, by Shaye Elliot, we began a 3 day fermentation on our grain. To do this, we fill a 1 gallon bucket with grain and then fill the bucket with water until we can see it just below the surface of the grain. I loose fitting lid, or towel is placed over the top of the bucket and the bucket is set at room temperature for 3 days.

We start a new fermentation every day so that we always have freshly fermented food for our hens. We currently have 12 hens and they make their way through most of this feed each day. I would adjust it accordingly for your chickens as after 3 days the ferment can begin to turn.

Moldy food is never good for any of your animals and can make them very sick, so it is also necessary to make sure that you clean out the feeder well each day. The fermented food can easily become stuck in the corners and edges of the trough and mold and turn sour to the point that it is no longer good for your chickens to eat.

The advantage of fermented grain? Well, as mentioned with fermented tea, good bacteria grow in the fermented grain and are great for chicken’s digestive health. Additionally, the fermented grain expands and sometimes will start to sprout, providing more nutritional value to your hens.

In providing more nutritional value, the shells of your eggs will increase in thickness. Added bonus? Bigger yolks. I may not like hard boiled yolks, but when it comes to bigger yolks in my poached or over-easy eggs… yes please!

This is also more economical. Since the nutritional value increases and the grain expands with fermentation, your chickens are full faster. Thus, you spend less money on chicken feed for your chickens that are not solely free range.

For now, we just purchase the grain from our local MFA feed supplier. However, at some point we would love to grow our own grains to make our own scratch to ferment for our chickens. However you choose to do it, I think the advantages definitely outweigh the draw backs.

Fur, Feathers, Fluff and Fuzz, Poultry, Saving Money, The Piggy Bank

Two Birds… One Stone

Living on a homestead or farm… you’re pretty much always trying to find ways to kill two birds with one stone. Efficiency is key on the farm and we do our best to work smarter, not harder. We work hard enough as it is and we are always about trying to find things that work in multiple ways, things that serve multiple purposes or things that can do multiple jobs.

Chickens… for instance.

We recently built a movable chicken coop to allow our chickens to “free range” in a contained manner and save us some money on feed. Initially, my father was concerned by the devastation the chickens were leaving in their wake; they like to peck and scratch until they’ve almost cleared the grass and have made some dust baths for themselves at each location.

Then we started to notice something happening at the oldest coop locations. Thick, green, beautiful grass trailed along behind the chicken coop. Healthier grass than the rest of the yard had! It was literally repairing the yard, one 12′ x 5′ section at a time. When we get a fenced in yard… I’m all about letting those ladies free range wherever they like.

So we started strategically moving the chicken coop about the yard to make a more consistent pattern of thick, fresh grass. It is working like a charm folks!  But why stop there? There are SO many more things they could be helping with… like the garden. So we tried it.

We had weeds popping up in our freshly tilled garden left and right, the perfect fodder for our chickens. They LOVED making a dust bowl out of the garden and taking care of our weed problem so we could plant our corn and squash. We killed not one, not two, but three stones that week as we fed the chickens, allowed them to weed for us AND fertilized our garden.

So technically…

Three Birds… One Stone.

Fur, Feathers, Fluff and Fuzz, Popular, Poultry

My Case for Fluffy Chickens

Not that anyone has denied me a fluffy chicken (yes, I know they are also known as Silkies, I just like the term “fluffy chicken” more). In fact, I have a very wonderful mother-in-law who has volunteered to buy me multiple fluffy chickens and a mother who is willing to house said chickens on her property until we have a home and outbuildings of our own in which to put them. Nevertheless I NEED a fluffy chicken. And here is why:

1. First and foremost, I love a good laugh and have you SEEN a fluffy chicken? I’m pretty sure my sister-in-law thought I was bonkers when we visited them in North Carolina and I couldn’t stop my uncontrollable giggles when I saw her neighbor’s fluffy chicken. I didn’t even know such a creature existed and I grew up on a farm folks. Watching all that fluff bob up and down each time the chicken scratched, stepped, or,oh my, when it ran… I could NOT stop watching that chicken guys. If we were outside, my eyes were on the chicken. So point numero uno… who wouldn’t keep one around just for humor’s sake?

2. Apparently these fluffy chickens are extremely difficult not to love. According to the writer of The Do It Yourself Homestead, she is not easily attached to farm animals… and she loved those little guys. They ALL did. Furthermore, one of co-worker’s sons wants a fluffy chicken so badly that he did a report for school on the topic. His intent was to persuade his parents, but it was his teacher that went out and bought a fluffy chicken after his presentation. See? Lovable.

3. I don’t know if you’ve ever owned a Banty rooster or chicken, but folks the ones we had were mean. These fluffy chickens are of the Bantam category… but guys… they are friendly. Even the roosters are, not only, gentle with their ladies but with their owners as well! They even like to cuddle. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle with a fluffy chicken?

4. As an ornamental aspect, these chickens are sure to please (or at least entertain) any visitor you have to your hobby farm or homestead. Additionally, bantam chickens mean bantam-sized eggs! Kids, and people in general, LOVE tiny things. I mean there are whole YouTube channels devoted to those people that cook on working dollhouse sized stoves. Speaking from experience, the daughter of one of our friends prefers our “chocolate eggs” (particularly the ones with “polka dots”) over the white store-bought eggs. Imagine how she’d feel about mini-eggs! Novelty eggs anyone? I see a niche in the making.

5. For more practical applications… these chickens are notoriously broody. This means they will sit an egg til it hatches. You can use their natural broodiness to your advantage if your other standard-sized ladies are less than desirable sitters. You can simply tuck your standard-sized fertilized eggs under her bum and you’re golden! As long as they fit, she can sits.

6. Another practical use… not only are they good sitters, they are good mothers. Instead of having to worry about your new chicks drowning themselves in the waterer or wandering too far in the yard, getting lost in a stand of grass when you aren’t looking… there’s a literal mother hen for that. You, of course, still need to provide clean water, food and shelter. But that fluffy momma will take care of everything else.

Fluffy Chickens… who knew?