For years before we were able to move onto our homestead I had dreamed, planned, and educated myself on all thing's chickens. Before we had moved to the mid-west, we lived in a town where there were a lot of rules to follow. One of those rules were, no one could own any livestock animal that needed to be raised outdoors including: all varieties of poultry, rabbits, cows, goats, etc. If I really wanted to raise chickens, I would have to raise them in a cage, indoors and that just wasn’t happening. Surely, I could do this, but I am a firm believer that unless a chicken needs to be treated for an injury or illness, they need to be roaming around, scratching and pecking at bugs and slugs and dust bathing in the sunshine.
I knew once we got on the homestead that the very first animal that would be joining us would be a flock of chickens. I had dreamed of gathering fresh eggs with my kiddos for way too long. So, when the local feed store held their chick days just 21 days after we had moved onto our homestead, I was the first in line. The feed store’s doors hadn’t been open for an hour when I was already on my way home with 10 little chirping chatter boxes sitting in a box next to me.
There were just a few problems. We had no brooder, no fencing, no supplies, and no coop. I had the chicks I had always wanted and even a 50-pound bag of chick starter, but neither of those things were going to do me any good without the materials and supplies they needed to survive. I naively assumed that my husband could just slap something together and all would be right in the world.
Although my husband wasn’t pleased with me that he was forced to stop working on building our family a functional bathroom, he did manage to get a brooder together in less than an hour. Thankfully we have a friend who suggested we screw two kiddie pools together, cut a hole in the top and cover it with chicken wire. We used this as a temporary solution, and it worked perfectly.
But this could have turned out much differently had the animal or animals I decided to bring home without being prepared first required much more to keep them healthy and happy.
Be settled on your new homestead before bringing home live animals. Animals require a lot of work and attention, even cute baby chicks. They make messes and knock over their waterers and feeders. They need to be cared for if they get pasty butt or one of their chick mates decides to peck them until they bleed. Their water needs to be changed if it ends up with a bunch of wood chips or worse, poop in it. And chicks grow fast! Within 3-4 weeks they are just about ready to go out into their coop and start pecking and scratching around.
If you have a ton of other projects that demand your attention, then adding animals to your homestead may not be the best idea just yet. This is especially true if you do not have any housing for them. Even if an animal’s house requirements and needs are not intense, taking time away from other pressing projects will create a lot of pressure and stress – no doubt!
Be prepared for the addition of animals by having as many of their supplies ready for them as possible. Whether you are building their housing or purchasing something for them, it is an excellent idea to have it all set up and ready – even if it will be a few weeks until they use it. Purchase the containers you will need for feed and water and at least 2 months' worth of feed. You never know when a flood of record-breaking magnitude is going to flood out the only way into town to get feed (ask me how I know).
Whatever you do, take the time to educate yourself about the needs and care requirements of any animal you are considering raising. I don’t believe any animal should be a “set it and forget it” addition. All animals, regardless of if you intend to process them, sell them, or raise them simply as pets, should be treated with the very best care and attention we as homesteaders can give them.
Becca Moore homesteads on 3 ½ acres in the Midwest with her husband Dan and six of their seven children. They are working toward their goal of providing at least 75% of their family’s food from their gardens, their laying flock, their meat chickens, and their small family of Red Wattle Pigs. You can find Becca on her blog, The Moore Family Homestead, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Read all her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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