On Friday, 6/23, our first livestock on the homestead arrived! We knew from the start of our plans we would keep chickens for eggs. We have more plans for future livestock, but hens for eggs seemed like a reasonable first since we eat a lot of eggs and they would pay back any investment we put into them very quickly.
Rather than starting with chicks and having to wait for them to mature to lay eggs, we decided to get adult hens. A friend of ours has a lot of free range egg layers, so we bought 6 hens and 1 rooster from her. They made a 4 hour drive from Green Bay, Wisconsin to the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan. They have been settling nicely since and have provided us with over 2 dozen eggs in the last week and a half since they arrived. Based on this number of eggs, and the way our hens look, we believe only some of them may be laying. 2 hens in particular seem younger and may not be layers yet (just a wild guess on this, based on hen size and their plumage). We also believe our rooster may be younger since he hasn’t developed his distinctive tail feathers yet, and we have not heard him crow.
Being that it’s pretty wild up here, we wanted to assure our chickens would be safe. For that reason, their coop is located within a fenced garden area. The fenced garden area they are currently in is not growing any thing (expect grass and weeds). Their current roam space is about 50 feet by 35 feet. Besides our chickens being for eggs, we also have them at work – prepping our garden (digging and scratching the ground) and fertilizing it (poop). This way we can rotate the garden and rotate the chickens and they will help us cleaning up the old garden and prepping the new garden space. This is part of the permaculture way we intend to mirror in our homesteading efforts.
Because the chickens will be moving around the property, we wanted to give them a home that would be easily portable but that they could be locked up in at night for extra security. Based on lots of research, Tim built a mobile coop (a “Chickshaw”).
Total project cost = $40. The Chickshaw is based on the concept and design plan from chicken and permaculture expert Justin Rhodes of Abundant Permaculture.
Tim built it over a few hours in 2 days. The chickens arrived a day later. We were pleasantly surprised that every night they go in on their own and then we just go and lock it up. Each morning we let the chickens out, check for eggs, and feed them some kitchen scraps. We check again for eggs in the afternoon.
We are quickly learning that each have their own personalities (or chickenalities, as Flora says!). Also, that chickens can be very hard to get good pictures of 🙂 Meet the flock!
We have been enjoying the chickens! The eggs are amazing, they have beautiful orange yolks. The chickens have been entertaining and are warming up to our human interaction. 2 are eating from our hands.
What’s next for livestock on the homestead? We don’t want to undertake too much at once; we want to give each project (or animal) the attention they deserve. Right now we are focused on the garden and the chickens. Perhaps meat chickens will come next.