5 Reasons To Raise Chickens

Chickens are often the first livestock to be added to a homestead and have been laughingly referred to as the gateway livestock. However the benefits of adding a flock of chickens to your backyard, homestead, or beginning farm, are no laughing matter. Chickens bring some serious good ju-ju with them and open the door to a number of opportunities for the sustainably inclined.

5 Five Reasons To Raise Chickens1. Improved soil condition & fertility

For a homesteader or farmer, one of the greatest benefits (aside from egg-production) of keeping chickens is the remarkable improvement to your soil. Wherever chickens go they’re forever scratching and digging as they hunt for food, pooping as they go. The poop is then worked into the soil via that same scratching and digging. Chickens are experts at mixing manure with mulch; they’re gas-free, noise-free tillers (and the noise they do make you won’t mind!), and they do a great job of cleaning up the garden after the growing season is done.

2. Pest and disease prevention

Chickens are natural foragers: they’re always on the hunt for spiders, ticks, beetles, grubs, worms, grasshoppers, etc. They’ll keep the pest population down for your family and your livestock by grazing on weeds and insects; homesteaders and farmers can take advantage of this by rotating chickens on pasture following other livestock to control fly and parasite problems.

3. Increased self-sufficiency & sustainability

raise chickens for sustainability
You can get started with chickens without too much investment.

With a minimal investment in time and money, chickens allow us to operate a closed-loop system for each and every household, homestead, or farm. Through the recycling of food and yard waste, we can keep more waste out of landfills; one city in Belgium even gave their residents chickens in an effort to save money on waste disposal! Not only can we produce our own eggs─but when the chickens begin to age we can put those birds in the freezer for meat and further reduce, possibly even eliminate our dependence on the industrialized food system.

 

4. Knowing how your food was produced

grow your own chicken for food
I keep my birds for 2 years as layers, then in the fall they go to freezer camp and become food to feed my family.

raise chickens for egg productionWhen you raise or grow your own food you have control over exactly what goes into producing that food. You’ll know what went into those eggs─whether it’s organic or non-GMO feed, whether those birds were kept in cages or raised on pasture─and you won’t feel guilty because you’ll know the quality of life your oven-roasted chicken had. You can raise your flock according your own specific priorities and adhere to your own unique principles in the production of your own food.

5. Income for your budding farm-business

raise chickens for farm income
The sales my farm makes from egg-production pays the feed bill for all of the critters on my farm.

If you’re a beginning farmer, or even just a homesteader looking to earn a little money on the side, adding chickens to your operation is a relatively quick and easy way to generate some income. Chickens require a minimal investment since you can house them in all sorts of creative ways to cut costs on infrastructure, and they require very little of your time each day to keep the birds healthy and happy. Many folks like to start with chicks which are cute and fluffy and cost about $3/bird, but if you’re willing to spend a little more money you could get established layers and an immediate source of income.

 

 

 

Open the gate!

Not everyone can grow their own vegetables or raise their own livestock for eggs or meat, but for those who not only have the space and time, but also the inclination to live and work toward a more sustainable lifestyle─chickens are the ideal place to start. Chickens really are the gateway livestock for the simple reason that they are the perfect first step for the new homesteader or beginning farmer. With their low-cost set up and easy maintenance chickens allow the farmer to learn as they grow, becoming comfortable handling livestock and becoming familiar with the ebb and flow of life in tandem with animals and nature. What’s more, in addition to the farm-fresh eggs are the added benefits of soil-conditioning, a ready source of fertilizer, pest and disease prevention, and when the birds have outlived their usefulness they become food for the farmer. Chickens are a no-brainer for the backyard and homestead, and an important cog in a diversified farming operation. I say open that gate!

Do you raise chickens too? What’s your favorite reason to keep them?

 

A farmer without a farm

runamuk logo

It’s probably the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make: stay in an unsatisfying marriage in order to follow my dream of farming and pollinator conservation–or walk away from it all and start over in pursuit of real happiness. After the struggle to move Runamuk to the old Burns farm and all of the support that has been shown me along the way–it was incredibly tough to give up the land. But ultimately I just wasn’t happy and I had to choose divorce and the chance for a truly happy life.

Some couples are fortunate–they share strong bonds that are only strengthened by time and life’s trials, and almost miraculously they manage to sustain their marriage for decades and decades. I am completely awe-struck when I hear of couples celebrating fifty or sixty years of marriage–I think it’s wonderful and beautiful.

 

Keith and I met our senior year in high school and we’d been together for 17 years–married for 15–but I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t more than a little dissatisfied with my marriage. I tried for more than a decade to make it work, to assuage the nagging feeling that I wanted more than Keith could give me. I tried to improve myself in hopes that would lead to a more satisfying life, spent time outside working in the garden in hopes that exercise and sunshine would alleviate the depression that ate away at my soul over the matter. I got involved in my community, made new friends, and started my farm-business. But through it all the dissatisfaction remained.

I don’t care to lay blame or point fingers–it is what it is, and it just got to a point where I had to make up my mind if any of it was really worth it. And for me the answer was No. If you’re not happy–you’re just not happy. And I firmly believe that everyone deserves to be happy.

So despite my fears and misgivings, I took a deep breath and bravely walked away.

Keith and I agreed on joint-custody of the kids. I took my Willow-dog and I took Runamuk, and since the land has been in his family for 3 generations I felt obligated to leave that with him out of respect for the Burns family. Some day that acreage will be passed on to one or both of the children Keith and I created together.

In the meanwhile, I’m a farmer without a farm.

I’m in search of a place to rent for the next 2-5 years while I build up my business, for all that Runamuk is–it is not yet self-sustaining, and certainly doesn’t provide the income that I need to live without working off the farm. So I’ve taken a job at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, which is located about 40 minutes from the Madison-Anson area, financed a new-to-me subaru outback, and Willow and I begrudgingly moved into an apartment in-town in Madison while we search for a more permanent rental where I can move chickens and the goats and have space to garden and homestead.

I do not regret my marriage, I would not be the person I am today were it not for the life and experiences I lived alongside Keith. And by no means am I giving up my dream or homesteading ambitions. My life is in disarray, things are uncertain at the moment, but all things considered–I’m optimistic that this is just another speed bump on my journey and that some day my future will be all that I imagine it will be.

The plan is to focus on the bees–invest in new hives and increase honey production and production of my beeswax products. I want to focus on writing and increase my personal self-sufficiency for the next couple of years while I get back on my feet.

Long-term, I still have aspirations for a pollinator conservation center, a hundred or more hives, published writings and elegant art pieces. But for the time-being I am not looking that far ahead. For the time being I am concentrating my energies on re-grouping, centering myself, my heart, and my soul, and making a fresh start.

Homeschooling Adventures

On Friday I loaded my boys into the Runamuk-truck and we ventured over to New Sharon for some goat manure.  Two older women manage the 80-something goats and their farm, and for $10 will use their tractor to load your truck with manure.

The boys had a blast petting the goats while we waited–the tractor needed a boost to get going after all the damp weather we’ve been having.  One of the farmers kept us company, and Winter and Summer asked questions about the goats and the farm, then we watched as the other woman–a spry, white-haired lady used the tractor to load the truck.  I paid the ladies, then we drove home with our truckload of poo. Read more