I’m not sure if you’d officially call us backyard homesteaders, but we are definitely wanna-be’s (largely because we both work outside the home full time). So far on our 13-acre plot with 1940s farmhouse we have 2 hens, 2 ducks, and 12 chicks, 2 almost finished beehives without bees, seedlings started on the sunporch turned greenhouse, and a ton of ideas. We have been long-time gardeners, building a good spread in most of our homes over the years but are way behind this Spring largely due to my chicken experiment. I know I need a deer fence to avoid them demolishing my garden and I refuse to plant just to watch them feast. The chickens have been a learning experience, for sure, and at this point it’s becoming a saga.
- 6 chicks from Tractor Supply + pre-built coop on bricks + free ranging = 1 rooster moves to the new “farm”
- 1 Rooster + 4H at the state fair = 4 hens
- 4 hens + free ranging = 3 hens = “cooped up” all winter
- 2 broody hens = 15 mail-order fertilized eggs
Picking up there, we add lessons on life when one chick is stillborn, and two mysteriously die on day 2 (a 3-year-old and a dropped board may have had something to do with one).
- 15 eggs + 21 days = 9 chicks & 3 hens + 3-year-old + water feeder/ moody hen? = 7 chicks & 3 hens
Last Fall and Winter we dug a little pond on our property. After some research I learn many folks keep ducks alongside chickens so I decided to hit Tractor Supply and get a couple ducklings. This is where the bright ideas end and the compulsive buyer takes over so I leave with 2 ducklings and 6 chicks to supplement those that didn’t hatch or were lost. I figure I can just put these chicks, who are the same age as the others, right under the hens, right? Nope, don’t try it. Within an hour the new chicks were hiding in the corners throughout the coop and one was so badly gashed she didn’t make it even with our help. Needless to say I spent the weekend figuring out how to rig the heat lamp and barriers so no hens could get in with the new chicks without burning my coop down.
All was going well until about a week later. I got home and unusually my husband arrived first. As I pull in he tells me dinners in the freezer, huh? Weird. The yard looks like it’s snowed feathers. My first thought is I KNOW that coop was closed when I left , how did a chicken get killed. Then I see the big stump where we split wood… and I knew. Apparently upon checking the chicks and finding the one non-brooding (and only laying) hen with the chicks with big peck wounds on their tails triggered a protective reaction. Naturally he chopped off her head. She tasted pretty bad, but we did eat her (I confess, I had to Google how to clean her).
- 7 chicks & 3 hens + Tractor Supply = 13 chicks, 2 ducklings, & 3 hens + Moody hens = 12 chicks, 2 ducklings & 2 hens
So far we have no more casualties. The Turkin has taken over the mommy duties and the white Americauna still looks terrible but is laying every day. Not sure if she gave up or got kicked out of the club. I quickly got over a scare they all had a tumor on their chest and learned their stomach (crop) is on their chest (thank you other homestead bloggers for that tip). Apparently they were just stuffing themselves. We finally got the yard built and although the Turkin still rushes the ducks and broiler chicks they are so big now they can handle a little scrape.
More to come, surely. Hopefully there’s no drama until we slaughter (planned this time) the broilers in a couple months.