Try Chicken Starter Livestock for the Homestead

Getting started with a backyard or homestead flock of chicken starter livestock is simple and inexpensive. If you have your own hens, you’ll get the freshest, most nutritious eggs possible! Plus there are so many ways that chickens (and other poultry) can help in the garden and around the homestead. Following this advice on housing, predator control and flock management will get you off on the right foot.

| December 2007/January 2008

Try chicken starter livestock, these easy-to-keep chickens will provide delicious eggs and meat, plus bug control, fertilizer and tillage. Includes two viewpoints on selecting the right breed of chicken for your situation!

Try Chicken Starter Livestock for the Homestead

Eggs from backyard flocks are of a quality and nutritional density that those dependent on the supermarket can only dream of. Necessary culling (of excess males and non-productive females) graces the table with flavorful meat. But backyard flocks can contribute to self-sufficiency in more ways than simply putting food on the table. They offer bug control, tillage and great entertainment.

Poultry are incredible starter livestock for most homesteads, because their needs are easily and cheaply met, and the homesteader can start on a small scale.

Coming Home to Roost

One reason poultry are the easiest livestock is that their housing can be simple. All domesticated poultry are hardy and will do well if given protection from predators and the extremes of weather. Any housing that protects the birds from wind, rain and snow will be adequate for your flock. (Remember, too, their need for shade on the hottest summer days.) You should provide a minimum of 3 square feet per adult bird — 4 or 5 would be even better.

Chickens, guineas and turkeys all have an instinct to roost at night and will be more content if given perches to do so. Any structure that allows them to sleep perched above ground level will satisfy their urge to roost.

If there are laying hens in your flock, you should provide nests. I make my own (12 inches high and wide, 16 inches deep) and fill them with straw, leaves or other clean, soft material.

12/1/2008 10:12:10 AM

From the author: I can't address the question as an expert, since all my experience with poultry has been in much warmer climes--I'm in northern Virginia, Zone 6b. Couple of things come to mind: Northern "flocksters" often prefer breeds with minimalist combs--that is, combs (and wattles) that are much smaller than for example in the single-comb breeds. Those big exposed combs (especially on the cocks) tend to get frostbite in really cold winter temperatures. A good dual purpose breed you might consider: Chantecler. They were bred in Canada, and the combs are almost non-existent. They're also considered good winter layers. I've worked only with Partridge Chantecler, but there are other colors/patterns as well. PC hens have a tendency to go "broody" (set a clutch of eggs to hatch out chicks). You may or may not consider this a plus--some folks find broodiness a pain. An excellent source of info for helping make a choice of breeds is Barry Kofler's "feathersite": ~Harvey Ussery

Hawaiian Healer
11/15/2008 11:10:41 AM

what would be some good breeds for southeast idaho. In the summer it can reach 95-100 degrees in the winter it can reach -30F and I'm at 5,700 feet above sea level. I'm just wanting a few chickens around the yard for eggs mostly. thanks in advance for any help

8/21/2008 1:58:02 PM

Nice article and comments. We have been raising chickens for the past 4 years in portable poultry shelters(chicken tractors)We have raised several batches of broilers as well as keep hens for eggs. The best shelter on the market today is from Easy-Garden. See the web site at The shelters are used at Bee Heaven Farm in Florida as well as the 4W Ranch in Washington as well as several other sustainable farms and hobby farms.

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