Our first year with animals on the homestead, we raised somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 hens, three roosters, and a dozen guineas. We lost quite a few birds to predators, so we’re practically starting over this Spring.
This year, we’re expanding to both layers and broilers. Cornish Cross are far and away the most popular broiler, but we opted for a healthier, more durable breed. This year we are experimenting with Delawares.
One Week Old Australorps
Two Week Old Dominiques
Goals for Raising Chickens
- Consistent supply of nutrient dense eggs
- Meat grown on our own land
- Tick and general insect control
- Hatch our own baby chicks in the future
When we began this homesteading adventure, we had to acquire many resources from the outside, including animals, tools, and feed. Over the next five years, my goal is to close that loop and begin producing our own animals and our own feed.
There’s so much to learn but it’s an exhilirating experience.
Trying New Breeds
Our Dominiques, for instance, are reported to be a very independent breed that will excel at foraging for food. Some breeds require more feed to continue producing eggs without robbing the hen of its own nutrients. We are excited to see how the Dominiques differ from the Australorps and Red Stars we’ve had in the past.
So right now we have nearly 70 chicks in our house. 20 would be fun. 40 would be inconvenient. 70 is a little draining. The Dominiques will be four weeks old Sunday. We’ll put them in the coop with the adult Australorps no later than 6 weeks old. The Australorp chicks are a week younger and should be introduced to the flock a week later.
I have no doubt the Dominiques will do fine on their own. They already exhibit quite the independent streak.
Feed and Lifestyle
The Dominiques and Australorps will free range from noon to dusk. The Delawares occupy our test project, the zip tie dome chicken tractor. While inside the chicken dome, they’ll be free to scratch and forage the ground beneath their feet. Each day we will drag the dome to a new patch of grass.
I’m not sure what to expect from that project. The chicken wire surrounding the dome may or may not keep out predators. The chickens may or may not get enough to eat from their patch of ground each day. We may have to move twice a day or supplement feed as necessary.