The Ultimate Guide to Homestead & Backyard Chicken Keeping 

The Ultimate Guide to Homestead & Backyard Chicken Keeping. Everything you need to know about keeping small flock chickens on your homestead or in your backyard. Whether you have a lot of space or not, or a lot of chickens — or not — there are some things you need to know or may be curious about regarding chickens.

Chicken Eggs

Most of us are getting chickens for their delicious and nutritious eggs first and foremost.

But how many chickens do you need? First, calculate how many eggs your family eats, how many you will use for baking, and whether or not you plan to preserve any eggs to use during winter.

Then figure out how many eggs your chickens will lay each week. This will vary by breed so do your research. Chickens will also slow down laying as they age and most will slow down or stop during molting and during the winter.

Chicken Breeds

There are many hundreds (thousands?) of chicken breeds. Some are primarily for eggs, others for meat, and some are dual-purpose (usually heritage) breeds. Some are tiny (bantam) or economical (most egg layers are smaller and cost less to feed) whereas others are enormous.

We choose to keep a mixed flock of layers, meat birds, and heritage dual-purpose chickens.

I’m always adding new breeds to the flock to test them out for personal experience.

Dual Purpose Chicken Breeds

A growing list of some of the most intriguing dual-purpose heritage breeds.

We have personally raised the English Orpington (still a favorite), the Bresse, and will be adding more from this list to the flock too.

For meat, we have raised the Red Ranger chicken breed as an alternative to the Cornish X. They are a great layer while also being phenomenol meat bird.

Egg Laying Breeds

These are some of the best egg laying chicken breeds you can choose for your flock.

Interesting Breeds

Sometimes you want to add some beauty and color to your flock on top of practical considerations — nothing wrong with that. Some of the most beautiful chickens are also the most productive and worthwhile too.

Chickens come in every color imaginable and some are quite striking.

Chickens also lay eggs in numerous colors and shades too.

Baby Chicks

Baby chicks are adorable and delicate, especially the first few weeks, and they need special care and consideration. You can buy day-old baby chicks or even incubate and hatch fertile eggs yourself. We do both and it’s a wonderful experience.

Feeding & Treats

Feeding chickens doesn’t have to be complicated. All of our chickens (egg layers and meat birds) get the same fermented feed from hatching throughout egg laying and beyond. We feed all sorts of additional extra healthy things on the side and provide calcium in the form of crushed egg shells on the side at all time. Be careful of extra snacks and scraps.

Roosters

Should you keep a rooster? We do for breeding purposes and (potentially) protection of the girls. But you don’t need a rooster for eggs.

Coop & Run Management

You need to have a plan for your coop and chicken run. We use wooden sheds converted into coops by simply making them draft-free, adding roosting bars, nesting boxes, ventilation up high (above the roosts) and extra protection (hardware cloth) wherever predators may enter.

Health Issues

Health issues may pop up and you need to be ready to deal with them. Not a lot of veterinarians bother with chickens, so be prepared for that being a reality where you live. And it likely would not be worth the cost regardless. Luckily there are many easy ways to treat your chickens yourself at home.

Predators & Safety

This might be a big issue where you live — especially if you free range your chickens like we do. The coop and run needs to be securely made and reinforced with hardware cloth. Dusk and night time are the worst times so make sure your flock is safe and secure inside.

Chickens In Winter

Are you ready for the winter with your chickens? Do you know what to do? Do you know that humidity in the coop is the number #1 reason for frostbite in chickens and that you can prevent it by keeping ventilation up high (above the roosts) and by not having water inside? Or that adding heat can be dangerous? Did you know that deep litter can help keep your flock warmer and healthy?

Interesting Chicken Facts & Things

Just random chicken articles and facts, because chickens are lots of fun.

From the best breeds of chickens for eggs or meat, to dual-purpose breeds that do both. From commercial hatchery strains to old heritage chickens breeds that go back hundreds of years, there is MUCH to consider.

Ask yourself the following questions:

What breeds will you keep? 

How many can you legally keep?

How many eggs will they lay? 

What should you feed them?

What happens if a health problem pops up ?

What is the best way to keep your coop clean?

What do you do with chickens in the winter?

What do you do with extra roosters?

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