After much thought and debate we brought 25 new chickens to the homestead. We are trying to be more deliberate on our homestead and not get new critters just because we can or want them. We are trying to avoid many of the mistakes that we made in our first year. But because the main goal at the end of the day is the have our homestead make enough money to support itself, we did need to start bringing on more chickens. There are no freeloaders on our homestead, except Bear. The best way that we can do that is to bring on the best dual purpose chickens we can find.
Why More Chickens?
Bringing more chickens home is a multi-layered answer. First, we sell eggs to friends and family. That means that we need more eggs than our current eight hens can keep up with. Seriously, I’ve got a wait list going on. Second, we want to be able to hatch chicks and sell those babies to others. Third, and most sensitive to people, we want meat. Having the additional 24 laying hens will up our production in all of those areas. Since the third reason is so controversial I want to briefly touch on it.
We eat meat, as I am sure many of us do. But with the rising prices of everything, the cost of meat is skyrocketing. I don’t know about you but I can’t afford to keep having to fork out hundreds of dollars a month on meat. And going vegetarian is not a viable option either. Let’s not mention the living conditions of some of these chicken houses. You can read more about my choice to raise our own meat chickens here.
But to expand a little more, when you raise meat chickens you normally hear about the Cornish X. These birds are not genetically modified but they have been bred from several other breeds of chickens to get big as fast as possible. That’s fine with me. We raised fifty of them over winter. But I’m not going to lie, they don’t taste good.
I’m not sure if it’s because they were allowed to free range, we waited to butcher a little too long or what, but I’m not a fan of the meat. But to keep with the point, my issue with the Cornish X is: what happens when I can’t order them? I want to close the holes in our food security as much as possible. So having to order them from a hatchery doesn’t make a lot of sense.
So we made sure to order chicks that are all dual purpose breeds. We have Dark Brahmas, Sussex, Ancona, Dorking, Black Cochins, and New Hampshire’s. They are also pretty good egg producers with a mix of cream, white, and brown eggs. Lastly, we made sure to get a couple of breeds that are good mothers. We wanted to have the ability to leave the eggs and let them hatch them out.
Our thinking was, if the power goes out for several days (which we are prone to here), we don’t want to rely completely on an incubator. I’ll keep you up to date on how they are doing but for now, they are warm, happy, and loving their box.
Shortly after receiving our new chicks, we also welcomed 25 ducks on the homestead. We bought 10 jumbo pekin and then 5 harlequins, 5 Cayuga’s, and 5 black runners. Since having them, I am torn because I really love my ducks and I don’t want to butcher the pekins. The compromise that Jared and I came up with was that we would butcher 7 of the pekins and breed the rest. That way we wouldn’t have to worry about getting more meat ducks. I’m not thrilled but he said he would handle the butchering this time.
PS: Jared got attached to the ducks and we have yet to butcher them…. Oops.
They have turned from cute little fluffballs into huge quaking beggars and I really do love these ducks. Next on my list is a better duck pond for them.
The Next Generation
Since the original publication of this blog post, all of the girls are doing fantastic. We’ve had a few issues with predators, but nothing since losing our favorite fluffy foot (black cochin). We are starting to get some eggs from them as well.
We’ve also had a lot of success with our incubator and it has yielded us several roosters which will be butchered with the meat ducks… If I can get Jared to do it. If he can’t, I’m not really sure what we are going to do. I guess in the end we will have 10 jumbo pekins that we have to keep a close eye on for health issues.
The best part about this next generation is the peace of mind. I knew what I was trying to do when I ordered them. I wanted to create a system that reduced our dependence not only on the grocery store, but also hatcheries. To see that actually happening is pretty awesome.
If you have any questions feel free to ask and I’ll get back to you. If you like this post feel free to share it on all your social media.