If you are passionate about homesteading and looking for the best way to get your feet wet, the chicken is the place to begin your journey. Chickens are absolutely foundational to homesteading, and this can be seen in nearly every aspect of what they can provide for your farm.
Homesteading is considered a mindset in today’s society, and if you are new to this way of life, chickens are happy to show you how it’s done. What was once a way of life that was non-negotiable, is now a favorable option for those looking to live a self-sufficient, efficient, and simplistic lifestyle. A lot of what chickens can offer to their owners has been lost with the introduction of factory farming. Unfortunately, the fact that chickens provide much more than just meat and eggs has been forgotten.
Let’s take a look at how your chickens lay the foundation for your homestead and help remind us that there is so much more to them than the chicken and the egg.
There is no comparing free-range eggs to store-bought eggs, and once you’ve had a taste of your hens’ free-range eggs, you will never want to go back to the bland, cookie-cutter, eggs you were used to in the store.
So, why do they taste different, look different, and are generally better for you? Well, its because free-range chickens or those who have access to the environment act like real chickens and eat what real chickens eat. Yes, layer feed is a great supplement, but your chickens will always prefer greens and protein they can find in your yard.
Not only are free-range eggs delicious, but they also provide more vitamins A, E, and Omega-3 fatty acids that store-bought eggs. Additionally, free-range eggs are lower in cholesterol and fat.
So, think of all the things you’ve heard about eggs being unhealthy, and turn that around with your own free-range eggs.
A Bird in Its Natural Habitat
Speaking of free-range birds, the benefits of having your chickens live their lives as free-birds is not just to make delicious, healthier, eggs, but it is also to provide an element of function to the life cycle of your farm.
For example, large farms are often riddled with parasites and pests, but chickens are naturals at control pests that spread disease. They are also wonderful gardeners, they love to eat grubs and pests that cause problems for your plants…just make sure your chickens aren’t eating a part of the garden that is not meant for them, like your tomatoes.
Free-range chickens are aerators as well! They scratch and peck at the earth which leaves soil loose, allowing for better growth. Additionally, they fertilize as they go so you can expect lush green grass, or gardens, wherever your chickens have been.
Having chickens roam your farm, or even rotated in your fields following livestock, can be extremely beneficial to your operation. Where livestock has beaten down your pastures, chickens can follow with their natural fertilizer and hand-dandy aerating techniques.
Chicken manure is highly sought after due to its wondrous ability to fertilize naturally. It is fantastic for use in vegetable gardens due to high nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorous. Chicken manure must be composted for approximately four to twelve months before adding it to your garden due to the high nitrogen content. To speed up the process, it can be rotated periodically to allow airflow and faster decomposition.
So, whether your chickens are rotated, or even amongst your livestock, or if you are accumulating their manure separately, it can be the perfect foundation for luxurious crops and gardens on your homestead.
As stated above, pest control is one of the most beneficial aspects of free-ranging chickens on your homestead. If you live in an area that is known to have mosquitos, ticks, and other pesky disease-spreading insects, chickens can naturally cut-down on the number of nuisance bugs you harbor on your property. Mosquitos carry diseases like West Nile and transfer heartworm to your canine companions. Cutting down on these risks are chickens’ specialties. Plus, it is these very insects that help chickens produce the delicious eggs you enjoy.
Raising meat for your family is an extremely rewarding experience. What is better than knowing exactly how your poultry was raised, what it was fed, and that it contributed to your homestead through countless ways before it nourishes your family? Not much.
Free-range poultry can taste different than factory-farm raised meat. Some people can taste this different more than others. Sometimes, the process of butchering your own chickens can be an eye-opening experience, but again, if you’ve never butchered your own meat, chickens may be one of the best to start with. They are small animals, that can be butchered quickly. Plus, seeing what a chicken carcass looks like, that hasn’t been caged, might surprise and educate your family. Depending on the breed of chickens you use, you may notice smaller breasts, different colors of chicken skin, and other observations you would never see in your store-bought chicken.
Butchering your own chickens can also provide you with some byproducts that you would not have access to otherwise. Chicken feet and other parts of the chicken make for desirable, and healthy, dogs treats. Some cultures even enjoy eating the feet, adopting the idea that nothing goes to waste, give it a try, you might be surprised! Chicken feet are protein-packed little calcium-filled morsels that may take a bit of getting used to, but hey why not honor your chickens by using the whole bird.
Want one more use for a chicken after butchering? How about feathers for fly-fishing? Take those left-over feathers and use them as attractive bait for your next fishing expedition.
Providing for Your Family
Whether it’s you and your dog or a family of four, there is a sense of pride that comes with raising an animal that can benefit your household in so many ways. There is a reason they call the chicken the gateway animal to farming, and it’s because they are easy to care for, and without much effort, they can teach their caretakers about the many facets of homesteading.
Once you understand the benefits of laying the foundation for your homestead by raising chickens, building upon the foundation becomes easier and easier. Adding livestock to provide meat and other byproducts for your family alongside your irreplaceable chickens will spawn a thriving homestead for years to come.
If you are looking to get back to your roots or enjoy the country life by adopting a homesteading mindset, you can easily start by adding a few chickens to your family. They will help you understand the foundation of a well-rounded farm because your chickens provide food, fertilizer, introduce you to animal husbandry, and provide hours of entertainment.