Homesteading and Livestock
Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.

Frugal Living: Could we be Doing More?

Can we Live more Frugally

Note: The author was provided with a complementary copy of The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Chelsea Green Publishing in order to write a review on her blog.  This is an accompanying article.

As homesteaders, frugal living is often a way of life.  After all, living in a self-sufficient way is synonymous with living frugally.  But could you be doing more?  And are there other ways to look at what it means to be "frugal?"

In July, 2018 The Happy Hive Homestead hosted a book group with homesteaders from across the United States and beyond.  Out of five books to choose from, the group select The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser Rowland and Adam Grubb.  We were immediately taken with the book, in particular for the creative way that the authors frame frugal living not just as the act of being cheap or living with less, but as a way to enjoy life even more by reframing what we see as normal (click here to read our review of the book). 

the art of frugal hedonism

This book got me thinking – what more could homesteaders do beyond our already simplified lifestyle to live more frugally and enjoy life more?  In other words what does Raser-Rowland and Grubb’s book offer to a group that is already “the choir” when it comes to preaching frugal living?

I came to the conclusion that homesteaders can gain at least three things from reading this book and from thinking about frugal living differently:

A way to quantify what we are gaining financially by living an “alternative” lifestyle instead of what we are losing. So often, we think about the choices we make as homesteaders in a negative sense – in particular, we think about not having an external job or only working part-time as a financial gap that we have to struggle to fill (at least, I have felt that way).  Raser-Rowland and Grubb invite us to create a “new normal” in which working full-time and more is not actually necessary to live the life we’d like to lead.  They walk you through not only a rationale for why and how we can work less, but even help you to see how much you are saving yourself by not working.  They flip the equation, so to speak, to ask if external employment is actually a good or necessary solution to financial security.

A confirmation of the value of social connections as part of frugal living. I’ve written before about how self-sufficiency is not a sufficient term for homesteading.  This book helped to confirm my belief that being more self-sufficient is actually more possible when you are part of a community with similar values.  Raser-Rowland and Grubb articulate the social fabric that is and can be grown by living frugally – how simple gatherings with friends at home can create stronger bonds than gatherings that entail a lot of spending; or how trading tools back and forth with neighbors helps you get to know neighbors more and create social connections you might not have otherwise had. 

More ideas to expand your frugal lifestyle. While its true that a homesteader reading this book might say to themselves “hey, I already do that” I can almost guarantee you that Raser-Rowland and Grubb are going to present a few suggestions you hadn’t yet considered.  The book is divided into chapters that are themed around areas in your life where you could live more frugally.  The trick is to try a few new things out while you’re reading the book and see if you think they could “stick”.   And the truth is, Raser-Rowland and Grubb aren’t homesteaders and often their suggestions seem to come from a more urban lens, but maybe that’s the real value for our community – to listen and learn to those who live just a little bit differently and see what they have to offer.  Otherwise, we’re still preaching to the choir.

Note: you can join The Happy Hive’s Homesteaders’ Book Club by visiting our Facebook Group Page.  We’ll be reading books a few times a year, and participants vote on what to read.  We’d love to have you join us!

Carrie Williams Howe is a blogger at The Happy Hive HomesteadShe is the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit by day, and parent and aspiring homesteader by night and on weekends. She lives in Williston, Vermont, with her husband, two young children, and a rambunctious border collie. Carrie has a PhD in educational leadership and is passionate about learning collaboratively. Connect with Carrie on The Happy Hive Facebook page. Read all of Carrie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.  

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A Week of Tetris: And Yes, It's Gonna Fit!

bags of cleaned wool

The load of cleaned and carded wool from the mill that somehow all managed to pack into the Prius. 

Why oh why oh why is there never, ever enough room for things on the farm!?  At least that seems to eternally be the case on our 103-year old homestead.  Even with the best of intentions and careful backing up, the machinery never seems to all fit into the machine shed and something (usually the latest broken-down something) ends up spilling over into the garage, kicking the truck out to sit in the snow for the winter.

I think that, even if three more sheds somehow magically appeared on the farm, we could still manage to fill them!  But what to do in the meantime?  Tetris.

Remember that game?  Hours of agony as a child, trying to figure out how all these pieces could possibly fit together to make the desired shape.  I also remember feeling so frustrated, until I spent some time with the answers part of the book and noticed some common combinations that appeared to be the secret code to the process.  If you could learn the trick in overlaying the right shapes, the rest of the pieces came together.

Tetris is a good description of how the myriad of equipment fits into the shed, with the rake sidling in first, followed by the haybine, then the two hay wagons with the chicken tractors perched on top.  But now that Kara successfully sold the rake and haybine, the tractor can move back out to the shed from the garage.  Whew, a little breather room!  Such are the perks of offloading making hay to Groeschl Ag Services.  At least there can be a bit more sanity in the old shed, but that’s just one of the Tetris places on the farm.

I was out in the garden (weeding, most likely), while the rest of the crew was bringing in the 225 round bales of first crop hay.  Mom and Steve in both the Jeep and truck were pulling hay wagons loaded with the bales, while Kara unloaded them with the skid-steer into tidy North-South oriented rows for winter’s feeding.  As they headed back out to the field for another round and the sound of engines disappeared behind all the trees, I heard a faint, distant tone.


At first, I thought it was a piece of large equipment backing up, perhaps at the Metcalf farm or the road grader on Fullington, but no, the sound persisted.  It persisted to the point beyond which any backing up could possibly be logical.  And then I remembered that the sensor alarms we had installed on the freezers in the garage that was up the hill from the garden made such a beeping sound.  Could it be one of them?  If so, it was time to investigate.

And sure enough, the big three-door reach-in freezer was warming, though the internal temperature was still at 18 degrees.  There was no other option but to empty out all the meat and blueberries from that unit and troubleshoot its problem.  But what a monstrous pile of boxes!  Where to put them all!  Freezer Tetris, and the game was on before anything started thawing.  Sore backs on top of a long day working on the farm ensued, but we did manage to get everything to fit into the walk-in and chest freezers.

I’ll spare you the details, but four long-haul trips, two parts attempts, two repair personnel visits, and three freezers later, we are back to a manageable state in the freezer department.  Seriously, think of all the gardening time we could have had, if that three-door hadn’t thrown in the monkey wrench mid-summer!

And then there was wool Tetris on Wednesday.  Yes, you read that right.  While lighter than farm machinery and more malleable than boxes of frozen lamb chops, even the wool had an adventure.  In preparation for the Fiber Fest we’re hosting at the farm on Saturday, August 4th, we were getting fresh product ready for display and sale.  Ewetopia Fiber Mill in Viroqua had called, saying most of our washed wool and roving was ready to be shipped—perfect timing for Fiber Fest.  But shipping wool can be pricy since it’s high in volume though low in weight.

Mom and Steve were making at trip to Platteville, so we decided it would be a perfect time to swing by on the way and pick up the order.  Remember, this is the wool we delivered earlier this spring in the back of the pickup truck.  Maybe we forgot that part when Mom and Steve decided to head off in the Prius—gets great gas mileage, right?  And it wasn’t the full order of wool…so…

When they pulled up to Ewetopia, Kathryn the owner was ready for them, with her SUV packed full of our product.  “Where is your vehicle?” she asked, opening the hatch.

“Right here,” Mom replied, pointing to the Prius while eyeing the cadre of garbage bags willed with fluff.  “Is it going to fit?”

“Uh, nope” was Kathryn measured reply.

But it did.  Wool Tetris.  Kathryn wanted a picture when they were done, and I wish I had a copy of it.  Later that afternoon, I’d called to see how the pickup had gone, only to learn the saga and hear that Steve finally had a full head rest in that tiny car!  Guess they would have to skip picking up more jam jars on that trip.

Do you have any Tetris moments?  Fitting everything into the moving van?  Packing the whole garage band into the Volkswagen Bug?  See if you can’t pull one out of the hat for a good laugh.  Pulling that wool out of the Prius was like some kind of clown car routine!  Time to get back to prepping for Fiber Fest.  See you down on the farm sometime.

Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453

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Going on Vacation? Caring for Poultry While You're Away


A reader of my blog asks: How can you have backyard chickens when you are gone? We go to Norway to visit my family for about 2 weeks every year. Is there someway to deal with that?

Let me just tell you how wonderful it must be to be able to travel to Norway every year. I am so jealous! My passport is a long-lost relic of my traveling days after I graduated high school. I was able to visit Paris, Madrid, and Barcelona when I was 18, and I wish I had more time to travel now that my children are a little older.

Reader, I hope that your jet-setting ways haven’t discouraged you from getting chickens because it is possible to have backyard birds and have the ability to adventure away from the homestead.

Feeders and Waterers

If you are planning a short trip, a weekender, perhaps, then your poutry should be fine with a large-volume feeder and waterer. I do not recommend these for everyday use, but they work perfectly for those times when you are unable to do daily chores.

I Googled high-capacity poultry feeders, and a ton of ideas popped up that are inexpensive, so you don’t have to spend a fortune before you even leave your property. My father-in-law cut four-inch-diameter holes in an old plastic shopvac canister and made a wooden lid for us a few years ago, and it worked great to feed our layers.

For water, you could purchase a few more waterers (which is good to have on hand anyway because these will freeze tight over the winter, and it’s good to have extra to rotate while they thaw inside). Or, my husband bought poultry waterer nipples and drilled holes in a five-gallon bucket to hang in the coop. These are nice because it keeps the water clean and prevents tip-over when your birds get a little flighty.

Now, I do not recommend a large-volume feeder for regular use because you need to feed your chickens only what they will eat in a day. Leftover grain is a magnet for rodents, and you will likely have a problem with mice or wild birds eating your chicken feed. It might not seem like a big deal to see wild birds eating feed, but migratory birds can spread avian flu and potentially infect your flock through fecal contamination.

Call In for Back Up

Here’s a tip that not too many consider if you’re going to be gone for more than a few days: If you live in or close to a rural area, your local high school may have an agriculture teacher. A quick phone call to your local ag teacher or county extension agent can help put you in contact with a responsible, experienced teenager who is more than happy to care for your chickens while you are away, especially if you’re willing to pay a little something for his or her service.

I should know a little something about this because I’m married to an ag teacher, and Matt gets calls all the time from people in our community who need help baling hay or unloading wagons. In a few texts, he can contact students he knows that can handle the task and get you the help you need so you can be rest assured that your poultry will be well-cared-for.

And, it is a good idea to have someone collect eggs every day because there is a likelihood of broken eggs as the nesting boxes get full. Broken eggs left in boxes is attractive to chickens, and they will eat their own eggs. This is NOT a habit you want to encourage in your flock. Once an egg is broken and eaten, the hens may then purposefully break and eat the rest of the eggs in the box. And if they start doing that, it is very hard to get them to stop. Your supply of eggs diminishes, and you’re wasting money feeding chickens that are eating what they’re producing.

If you are concerned about the eggs, know that they do not have to be washed and refrigerated every day. An unwashed egg can be safely kept in a cool, dry place. It is when eggs are washed, removing the natural protective coating, that they must be refrigerated. Have your student caretaker collect the eggs and keep in a designated spot, or let him or her take them as part of the pay.

These students are extremely experienced with livestock and are a great resource for any community. Getting to know your local ag teacher and county extension agent is vital for when problems arise and you have questions about your backyard birds. They can steer you in the right direction to get you all the information and help you need.

I hope this helps ease your mind when it comes to vacationing and poultry keeping. If you, or any readers, have more questions, please leave a comment below or message me on my Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page. Enjoy your trip!

Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer in Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo, with a BA in English, creative writing concentration. Along with her husband, Matt, and two children, Fletcher and Emery, Corinne raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne on her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Fat and Sassy Kunekune Pigs

three sleepy kunekune piglets

“Laura!” Kara calls from the south wing of the 1919 Gambrel barn this morning.  “Come here and hold a pig.” 

Deloris, one of our black-and-white heritage Kunekune sows had just farrowed (had babies) last Sunday, and the little porkers needed their iron shots to stay healthy.  Stepping into the barn beside her straw-festooned pen, I was greeted by a chubby little girl piglet, ready for me to hold, her tiny trotters waving in the air looking for a footing that wasn’t there.

I put my gloved hands around the chunky little rib cage to give her support while she waited her turn, blinking at how different her little world looked from this chest-high perspective.  The tiny trotters continued to bat the air, cloven toes splayed, but she offered no squeals or squeaks.  The black and white spotted-ness of her silky coat showed the little brown racing stripes along the back that will only stay while they’re little—camouflage remnants of the New Zealand breed’s wild ancestry.

Kara tipped a red-and-black spotted boy over while Mom administered the dose of iron with her practiced physician precision.  Just a little squealing and squirming and then it was over.  The little one was returned to its momma, who paid no heed to the over-dramatization of her son to the necessary process.

While the little piglets and momma need to keep their stress low right now, you can visit our two celebrity pigs of the same breed that have their own portable pen at Farmstead Creamery.  Two white brothers of the Kunekune breed with the classic short snouts and chin waddles, we’ve named them after the Wright brothers—Orville and Wilbur (because pigs can fly, right?).  Orville (the bigger, bossy one) and Wilbur absolutely love the wood-fired pizza farm nights on Thursdays and Saturdays because people bring them any extra crusts to eat.  And being, well, pigs, these two are happy to oblige!

The name Kunekune comes from the aboriginal New Zealand language.  If a word is repeated twice, it’s like adding the adjective “very” to the word.  Kune means “fat.”  So “fat-fat” means very fat.  And these pigs do love to chow down, helping us recycle kitchen scraps, weeds from the garden, plant extras from the greenhouse, as well as some whole, local grains.  Sour milk?  No need to worry about what to do with that on this farm!

But Kunekunes, like other lard pig breeds, put that extra fat on the outside of their frame.  This, along with their furrier coats, helps keep them warmer in our harsh winters, without making the meat beneath too fatty.  A Kunekune to full market weight takes a year and a half to raise, much like a steer, and this added time and slower growth means that they take on a more complex flavor profile, enhanced by their varied diet.  We never throw out the bacon drippings from our pigs.  It’s way too tasty!  Use that for cooking eggs and other goodies in the frying pan.

The pigs were featured this Thursday as part of our Spoken Word series in the evenings.  Between listening to the works of local authors, we host a three-word poetry challenge.  This non-competitive event involves picking three words from a hat and writing whatever you want, so long as it uses those three words somewhere in the piece.  Here were my three words and the resulting poem I shared last Thursday.

Swine, Induct, Whine

The swine will dine
The swine will whine
If they haven’t dined—yet.

The tune of their tummies
They squeak and squeal
Even scream!

Induct the silence unto my ears
Feed the pigs.

So if you’re curious to meet some of our heritage pigs, stop on over and visit Orville and Wilbur on our animal trail at Farmstead.  Come for a wood-fired pizza farm event, save a little crust, and you’ll be friends for life!  By the end of summer, I’m sure they’ll be the most fat and sassy pigs on the homestead.  Time to feed the pigs.  See you down on the farm sometime.

Three little piggies in their portable pen.  Photo by Kara Berlage.

Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. 715-462-3453

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Reader Question: Can You Raise Broilers and Layers Together?


Glenda C writes: Can you raise layers and broilers at the same time and can they share a space? Totally have NO idea about chickens, sorry if it is a dumb question.

Great question, Glenda! Believe me, after answering a ton of questions at farmers’ markets over the years, there is no such thing as a dumb question. The lack of knowledge regarding food production is sometimes overwhelming, but I give you mad props for asking a question that I guarantee others are also wondering.

The answer is somewhat challenging because I don’t know what your set-up is and your available space for raising poultry. It is possible, but there are a few reasons to not raise them together to consider before you purchase chicks.

If you have the space available, I would recommend raising your broilers (meat birds) and your layers (chickens that are primarily used for egg production) separately, especially if you are going to buy Jumbo Cornish Cross broilers (I plan to discuss heritage meat breeds in an upcoming post).

Feed Differences

There are a few reason why I make this recommendation. First, the feed is different for meat birds versus layers. Broiler feed will likely have a higher protein for faster muscle growth. This is important for a cross broiler because they will be ready for processing in seven to eight weeks, and you’ll want the most muscle on your bird as possible because your processor (if you don’t harvest your own birds) will likely charge by the bird, not by weight. It will cost around $3 per chicken to slaughter, clean, and bag. It will cost more if you want your carcass further processed, such as sectioned or deboned. It’s usually the same to process a three-pound or a five-pound broiler, so it’s more cost-effective to beef-up your birds with a high-protein feed.

Laying chicken feed is formulated with calcium and other nutrients for egg production. This helps your girls lay eggs with hard shells and encourage consistent production, especially for hybrid breeds, such as my fave, Golden Buffs. Layer feed is usually about 16 percent protein, which is lower than broiler feed, so it can take a little longer for your meat birds to gain an acceptable harvest weight.

Mobile Coops

I’m going to assume that GlendaC already has some sort of coop for laying chickens, and I understand not wanting to spend a great deal of money on another coop for broilers. However, I really feel this is an important investment for your homestead. There are a ton of ideas online for mobile broiler coops, and you may be able to make an inexpensive pen in a short amount of time. It’s really important to make it secure, though, because once your broilers are six weeks or so, they’ll start to pack on the pounds, and it is difficult for them to move at a quick pace.

Broilers also don’t roost, so your coop can be just a few feet high. But be sure to give them enough ground space for ample pasturing during production. Like your layers, broilers love to snack on a variety of protein sources, such as worms, insects, and mice, and you can proudly claim that your birds are not strictly vegetarian-fed (eye-roll), which is a marketing term I have come to loathe, and one that really confuses my customers as to what naturally raised poultry should be.

Broilers will also start heavily soiling their ground at around five to six weeks, meaning they’ll really be chowing down on their feed and, ah-hem, projectile pooping all day long. Now, this might be a slight exaggeration, but not really. Broilers produce a lot of manure (like, coating the ground in yellow stink), and you’ll need a coop that is easily moved daily, either by hand or by tractor. This job is usually allocated to my hunky husband, who will move the coop every morning, giving the broilers access to fresh pasture.

Another upside to a broiler pen is that once your birds are harvested at eight weeks, you can use it for other livestock, such as raising a colony of meat rabbits. Again, make sure it is secure from predators! I can’t stress this enough because we lost four hens last week due to coyotes and (we think) an owl or hawk. Or, if it’s a temporary set-up, simply store it in your barn until next summer.


Once you’ve got your broiler coop up and running, you’ve ordered your chicks, and you’re ready to go, there’s one more thing in which to prepare: your brooder. Broilers will also need to spend a few weeks in a heated brooder. I’ve used a plastic tote, wooden box, and my father-in-law’s antique brooder, all with success. The key is using a heat lamp, maintaining a good temperature, and keeping your chicks dry by adding fresh bedding every day. If you notice a chick with a pasty butt, remove the white poop from its rear and it should be fine once you notice it is able to pooh properly.

They will quickly feather out, losing their yellow fluff within a week or so. I usually put my broilers out in their mobile coop after two weeks, depending on the weather. This is when I switch from medicated chick starter feed to broiler feed with the higher protein percentage.

Your cornish broilers will be ready to process in about eight weeks, and it’s really easy to raise enough chicken to feed your family in one flock. I generally order 75 chicks, with the goal to have 60 to process. You can count on some loss during production, so order a few more than you need.

I hope this helps you get started on raising broilers in addition to layers. I always take pride in being able to raise superior-quality poultry for my family, friends, and customers. Once you start raising your own meat chickens, it’s definitely hard to go back to carrageenan- or salt-water-injected store-bought nonsense. And please keep posting your questions! I’m so happy to help and address your concerns about raising poultry. I’ve got a few more reader questions to answer in upcoming posts.

Corinne Gompf is a writer and hobby farmer from Morrow County, Ohio. She is a graduate from the University of Toledo and has a BA in English, with a concentration in creative writing. She raises poultry, Boer goats, rabbits, and chemical-free produce. Connect with Corinne at her Heritage Harvest Farm Facebook page. 

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

6 Steps to Picking your First Chicken

Picking a Chicken Breed 

As many experienced chicken keepers will know, the spring and summer times are extremely busy as we like to add chickens to our flock. This is also the time when beginners tend to start keeping chickens for the first time. With over 100 different breeds of chicken, choose the right one can be an overwhelming thought.

In this guide we will talk you through the key things you need to consider to make sure you pick the perfect chicken breed for your needs.

Step 1: Eggs, Meat or Both…

Generally speaking most breeds of chicken can be broadly split into either egg layers or meat birds. There are also combinations of both which are known as dual purpose chickens. So before you go any further you need to decide why you want chickens. By far the most common reason people want chickens is for the eggs, so generally I’d recommend beginners to get either an egg laying or dual purpose breed.

Step 2: Is Your Climate Suitable?

Next up is making sure the chicken breed you’re interested in can be kept in your climate.

Certain breeds of chicken, such as Minorcas, are known for being able to tolerant hot climates. Whereas other breeds, such as Plymouth Rocks, are known for being able to survive very cold climates; most breeds fit somewhere in the middle. With many being able to tolerate both mild and warm climates. Generally a good rule of thumb is if there are local breeders who sell that specific breed then it’s good to keep in that climate.

Step 3: Do You Have Enough Space?

Keeping chickens in cramped conditions is a surefire way to upset them and encourage unwanted behavior such as bullying and feather picking. If you’re planning to keep your chickens in a small pen then you should choose chickens that don’t requirement much roaming space, such as Polish. Likewise if you don’t want a particularly large coop you should choose small chickens that don’t need as much roosting space, such as Bantams. As a rule of thumb the average chicken needs 15 square foot of roaming space and 4 square foot of coop space; make sure you can provide enough for the chicken breed you’re interested in.

Step 4: What Temperament Do You Want?

More and more people are starting to get chickens as pets now, as opposed to purely ‘livestock’. More traditional breeds such as Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns will generally keep to themselves and be fairly timid around humans. Don’t get me wrong, they will perform their duty of egg laying but don’t expect them to come running over when you appear near their coop. Whereas Silkies will come and greet you. They are known as a lap chicken and as the name suggests they will happily sit in your lap whilst you stroke them and feed them treats. Suffice to say that, like humans, chickens have different temperaments and you should make sure the breed you’re interested in matches your expectations.

You don’t want to get a breed such as Marans, which are known for being incredibly skittish and then be upset that you can’t pick them up and stroke them.

Step 5: What Appearance Do You Want?

Similar to the section on temperament above, you need to consider the purpose of why you want chickens and what you want them to look like. If you want to keep ‘traditional’ looking hens then something like the Barnevelder will be perfect for you. However if you’re looking to be the envy of your neighbors and get compliments on your chickens then a ‘fancy’ breed such as the Sebright Chicken will do. Remember with the fancy looks comes maintenance. For instance with a Polish chicken (known for its fancy hair-do) you will need to groom them to stop their feathers covering their eyes.

Step 6: How Much Do You Want To Spend?

The final point of consideration is the cost of your chickens; both the purchase and running bills. Most common breeds are available to purchase for under $4 per chick. However, rarer breeds can command prices up to $150 per chick. Also you should consider the feed cost. Larger breeds such as Jersey Giants can eat up to three times the amount of a regular egg layer such as Rhode Islands. This should all be considered.


The key takeaway here is to remember that like humans, chickens are unique and each has their own care needs and requirements. Each breed can offer you something unique.

Are you looking for an affectionate chicken than stays indoors with you? Or are you looking for a hardy ‘working’ chicken that will lay plenty of eggs for you. One thing is for certain there is a breed for every circumstance. Best of luck on your chicken journey, and let us know in the comments which breed you decided to get.

David is an off grid enthusiast and when he isn’t building log homes he can be found tending to his homestead. He is a third generation chicken keeper and keeps a flock of over 20 chickens.

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

Why a Kangal Dog is the Perfect Dog to Protect Your Farm

Kangal Puppy (c) KorayGokhan 

(c) Kangal Puppy Koray Gokhan

Origin of the Kangal Dog

In researching an ideal guardian for my farm, I discovered the magnificent Kangal Dog. The Kangal Dog has routes back to the 12th century where shepherds in Turkey bred the giant dog to protect their huge herds of Sheep.

When I say giant, I mean giant! Some can grow to over 145lbs (65KGs). It is said that two Kangal dogs are able to protect herds of over 200 sheep; pretty impressive! Turkish Shepherds bred the dog for over 800 years harnessing their natural size and breeding a strong temperament. They will show huge loyalty and guardianship over their master, family and flock and major hostility towards all potential predators.

They are best known for protecting sheep from predators such as wolves and bears in rural regions of Turkey. However, in recent years, in Europe and the US Kangal owners have trained the Kangal for highly effective cattle guardianship.

Kangal Dog Profile and Breed Standard

A typical shepherd dog should measure between 30 to 32 inches to their shoulders and will be around 36 inches in length. Packed with over 140 lbs of muscle and over a 46-inch chest; the Kangal is easy to identify by silhouette alone.

They should always have a solid coloration on their coat which is typically tan for their overcoat and grey for their undercoat; he has a double coat. The most prominent color should be tan; the overcoat. The length of their coat sometimes changes during season. This can range from between 2 to 4 inches in length. The only color you should expect to see, other than tan, is white on their paws (sometimes) and a full black face mask with black ears (always).

As they were bred in isolation within the remote Sivas region in Turkey, cross breeding was very rare. It is very easy to spot a cross-bred as the breed standards for this purebred dog is very strict and easily controlled by American and Turkish Kangal Dog associations.

In addition to the giant appearance, Kangals are a very intelligent dog. A Kangal is best suited to an active role and living outside. The temperament of Kangals, combined with their high levels of intelligence, require them to undertake an active role rather than a family dog. An active role gives a Kangal mental stimulation and a sense of accomplishment.

Typically, Kangals are ready to learn flock guardianship or active security once they reach two years old; at this point they will be fully matured.

Why I Chose a Kangal Breed for Flock Guardianship

Kangals have provided loyal guardianship for over 800 years. If that doesn't convince you - nothing will! Dating back to the 12th century guarding flocks of sheep in remote Turkish peninsulas to the 21st century guarding cattle in rural America. This dog has guardianship and protection in their blood.

They work best in pairs or teams up to four to protect their flock. This allows two to undertake active patrolling whilst two stay close to the flock. They will typically guard their flock through keeping watch over high ground.

Kangals are at their most alert during evenings as this was when their ancient flocks were most susceptible to attack from predators. When a predator is discovered Kangals will initially bark. If a loud bark isn’t sufficient to deter a predator they will roar with a large ferocity. As a last resort, he will attack, always keeping themselves between their flock and predator.

Four Interesting Facts about Kangal Breed Dogs

1. A Kangal can live up-to 15 years old, despite their giant size.

2. Kangals were used in Africa as part of a Cheetah conservation effort.

3. The Kangal breed came over to Turkey from Asia.

4. They learn cattle guardianship from their parents from two years old.

Kangals can provide your farm with superb guardians who are willing to die for their flock. They can protect your flock from land and air predators including wolves, bears, foxes, rodents and even eagles. They are a very loyal dog with high intelligence levels and activity levels making them best suited to active security role.

David Woods is a carpenter, outdoorsman, and author with more than 30 years of professional woodworking experience. He is the author of best-seller How to Build a Log Home and has educated more than half a million people on how to build a log cabin via his blog, Log Cabin Hub. Connect with him on Facebook. Read all of David’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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