Buy Livestock for Less

For homesteaders on a tight budget, here are a few tips to help you stay within your means when you buy livestock.

| September/October 1974

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    You might have dreamed of a barnyard full of animals, but if you're short of funds you'll be better off if you buy livestock other farmers or homesteaders don't want.

  • 029 buy livestock2

Almost every non-vegetarian homesteader dreams of fresh meat, eggs, and milk, but many who set out to buy livestock get a rude awakening from the initial cost of pigs, cows, sheep, or chickens. Fortunately, there are ways to stock your land with healthy animals at little expense ... or do without them entirely.

If you're beginning a small flock of chickens, for instance. you might check with a nearby hatchery for discards. Such a business has days when orders are exceeded by the number of newly hatched birds. If no facilities are available to keep the surplus chicks, they're destroyed and dumped into the garbage can. (This is done only as a last resort, since the owner has an investment in labor, eggs, incubators, and heat used for hatching.)

If you buy chicks in the usual way, remember that almost all hatcheries sell them by sex and that pullets are much more expensive. Cockerels, however, are cheap ... and, since sexing chicks isn't an exact science, every lot of 100 supposed males will contain a few females. If you don't like those odds, "straight run" chicks—in theory, half pullets and half cockerels—are usually priced at about half the going rate for sexed pullets.

It's not necessary to buy a year's supply of chicks at once. You can start with a dozen or two and begin another miniflock several weeks later. Just be sure the birds will be feathered out before snow falls.

Here's another approach to stocking the poultry yard: A neighbor who keeps any of the heavy breeds of chickens may sell—or, in some cases, give—you a "clucking hen". (A heavy breed is suggested for this purpose because lighter fowl such as leghorns are great on laying but are generally very indifferent mothers.)

A clucking hen is a gal who wants to set on a batch of eggs and makes quite a pest of herself telling everyone about it. If you get one of these biddies, get some eggs too by providing a gentleman to run around the barnyard with the ladies. This is an easy way to start a dozen or more chicks, since the hen does most of the work.

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