Hello and welcome back to the Gubba podcast. I’m Gubba a first time homesteader following in the footsteps of my homesteading forebears. I discuss prepping, homesteading, food storage and everything in between. Today is kind of an in between because it is all about chickens and how to have and maintain a backyard flock. Chickens are related to homesteading but you can have them in your backyard HOA and regulation permitting.
I have 15 chickens - 14 hens and 1 rooster. This is my first year of having chickens and I have learned a lot in the past few months of having them.
Check out my weekly episode to join the conversation.
What do you need to get started with chickens?
You need to find a source for your chickens first. There are a lot of places that sell chickens and usually your local farm supply stores are the best bet. Come spring, the stores will be alive with little chirps from chickens, ducks, turkeys, and sometimes pheasants.
Where do you order chickens from?
You can also order chickens online and have them delivered to you. This is pretty fun because you will have access to way more breeds than you would just by going to your local farm store. You can usually sort by color of egg that they lay too. Say you want a chicken that can lay blue eggs, well you can easily explore online what kind of chickens do that and order accordingly. In my experience, the farm stores don’t have this kind of variety but sometimes provide details of the chickens they’re selling.
You can also get chickens locally from Craigslist. This is a good idea if you want to find out what breeds do well in your area. Some chickens are more cold or heat hardy, so you can see what other people are breeding and have available.
What are heritage breed chickens?
I’ve noticed that locals sell a lot of heritage breed chickens which I think is cool. A heritage breed chicken is a chicken that is bred from a line that existed prior to the mid 20th century. These lines haven’t been tampered with and genetically modified like some of the zombie chicken breeds we have now. Heritage breeds tend to be more broody as well which means they’ll want to sit on their eggs and raise their own young so they make great birds to have for a self sufficient flock.
Once you have figured out your source for chickens, figure out how many chickens you need.
How many chickens do you need (chicken math)?
Three to four good laying hens will give about a dozen eggs a week, so figure about how many eggs you eat a week and adjust accordingly. I’m trying to eat a dozen eggs a week, but I have 14 hens and if I get three dozen eggs a week I don’t really know what I’ll do with all of the eggs. I better get pickling and freeze drying. I can’t really share my eggs with my neighbors because everyone has chickens. My last neighbor get together a lot of neighbors brought deviled eggs from their surplus.
Chickens are flock animals, so you will want to get more than one for the happiness of it. You wouldn’t want a chicken to roam around by itself, that would be sad. It definitely needs a friend or two. Once you start buying chickens though, it is easy to get carried away because they are so cute and there are so many different varieties with different purposes.
What kind of chicken do I get for eggs? What kind of chicken do I get for meat?
Different breeds of chickens have different purposes. There are egg-laying chickens that are optimized for eggs and won’t have much meat to them. There are meat chickens which get fat and are optimized for meat production and there are dual purpose which are good for both eggs and meat but you won’t get an abundance of either generally. I had researched prior and some homesteaders I listened to didn’t care for the dual purpose chicken because you don’t get much meat or a ton of eggs and they suggested to do one or the other. Honestly, I can kind of see that Joe that I have chickens. I would rather have their purpose be specified instead of a dual purpose. Majority of the heritage breeds are dual purpose. My chickens are egg laying hens and are a variety called a leghorn
What is a leghorn chicken?
A leghorn chicken is a white chicken and smaller and is bred for egg producing. They produce a ton of eggs and the eggs are white so you won’t get any exotic egg colors from there. The only exotic thing I got from them so far was a massive egg. It was ginormous and I couldn’t imagine one of my chickens laying it.
What kind of coop do you need for chickens?
Your chickens will need shelter, a place to sleep, and. Safe place to lay their eggs. I would suggest a coop and the size will vary depending on your space availability. You will want nesting boxes for them to lay their eggs and be cozy in. The general rule is one nesting box to every three hens. They don’t have to take up a ton of space but my hens do prefer the bigger nesting box compared to the smaller ones though they could fit in all of them. You will also want a roost for your chickens to sleep on. They sleep in order of superiority so the higher they are in the pecking order that is how they will sleep. Your chickens will find creative places to roost so you will have to watch for that because you will want them to roost generally on 2x4s where you position them to make for east cleanup of their droppings.
Can chicken poop be used in compost?
You can use their droppings for compost. Their droppings contain nitrogen so they add nitrogen back into the soil and are a great additive to the ground. They fertilize your soil and yard. Let them roam and fertilize for you. Not only will they eat the bugs but they will make your grass greener too.
Can you let chickens free range?
You can allow your chickens to free range so you basically let them wander where they want to and then at night they will come back to the coop. This does require some training at first but they know where they need to go to sleep.
What is a chicken tractor?
You can also purchase a chicken tractor which is a portable coop that you can attach to a back of a four wheeler or truck to move around your yard or property. This has benefits because you can rotate where your chickens fertilize your yard. You can also do this by having portable fencing but using a chicken tractor will definitely make it easier to move your chickens around.
I have an enclosed chicken run that is large and my 15 chickens have so much space to roam about. You definitely want to have some sort of yard for your chicken to roam because how sad would it be for a forager like a chicken to be cooped up in a coop all day long and never see the green grass. Definitely plan in advance so you can give your chickens the happiest of lives.
Are chickens easy?
Chickens are easy to take care of and are the perfect first homestead animal or backyard homestead starter animal. They don’t require a ton of maintenance and are pretty self sufficient. You do have to keep their water and food bowls full so they have access to eat and drink.
What do you feed chickens?
I personally use a non-GMO feed that is organic because that’s what I want to eat in my eggs but that is up to you. Chickens can eat most kitchen scraps too which is nice to limit your kitchen waste. Today I took out radishes and their greens. I’ll be taking out broccoli and greens later tonight for them too.
If you have dogs you will want to introduce them to your chickens slowly so they can get use to the chickens and not kill them if they happen to get out of the coop
What is a broody chicken?
I don’t think I have discussed broody chickens yet. Sometimes hens will get broody which means they will sit on their eggs to hatch them. This can be a good or bad thing depending if you want to have baby chickens. Heritage breeds of chickens are more prone to go broody, so that is up to you and what you prefer. You will also need a rooster to fertilize the eggs if you want to continue the flock.
Should I get a rooster?
Roosters in the flock can be great but they can also be bad. They’re great because they protect their hens but they’re also bad because they protect the hens. They can get aggressive towards you or your family and even kids.
My rooster I’ve been regularly around since I got him at a month old and he hasn’t shown any aggression towards me but he does look super mean and I wouldn’t doubt that he would be aggressive towards others. Be careful with roosters and handle them from the time they are baby chicks so they can become use to you and not attack you every time you go outside with the hens.
What type of bedding do you use for chickens?
Also, there are different types of bedding you can use for chickens: sand, straw, wood shavings, shredded newspaper, and others. I have read horror stories of using straw because it doesn’t absorb moisture and just becomes a mucky mess. I personally use pine shavings and so far it has been great inside of my coop. The chickens like to scratch around in it and it keeps clean.
Well, I hope you enjoyed this podcast all about chickens and make sure to let me know if you get any chickens! Tweet me a picture because I love seeing what yall have going on. I love my chickens, and it is a blast going out and watching them roam around. What a peaceful time! Thank you for taking the time to listen, have a good day, and don’t do anything a gubba wouldn’t do!