Part of homesteading should include producing meat and eggs (unless you are a vegetarian—I’m not.) Attempting to do this on a meager 1/5 acre in a subdivision is not easy. Zoning regulations aside, there is space—or lack thereof—to consider. My family is now eating fresh eggs and semi-free range chicken, courtesy of our little homestead.
My initial goal was to purchase chicks and raise them, with egg production starting toward the end of summer. An opportunity came up for me to buy seven adult hens with unknown egg production. I figured this would fill in the gap between now and when the pullets would start laying. After a quarantine period, we merged the adult hens with the pullets. Egg production started out okay—averaging two eggs per day. My family uses more eggs than that, but it is a start.
I was trying to figure out which hens were laying. Three were identified, but I was pretty sure there was a fourth, based on egg color and the time when I found the eggs. On Monday, my hens proved that there are indeed at least four laying hens. It was the first ever four-egg day! My ladies gifted me with eggs in shades of pink, tans, and green. Today was a repeat performance.
Egg count from 6/14 to 7/1: 29
Meat production is something that most chicken blogs do not discuss. Well, this former City Chick raises both laying hens and chickens for meat. Is this cruel? No, my chickens live a good life with access to fresh air, sunshine, supervised free-range time, and healthy food. For years I have been very vocal about how large-scale confined chicken farming is inhumane. I own my home, so it is possible for me to raise chickens for meat.
Broilers and dual purpose chickens
I started my venture into chicken raising Cornish-cross chicks. This would be the acid test to see if raising chickens was something I wanted to do. After 12 weeks, the birds would be processed and I would know if my venture into chickendom was successful.
Turns out, chickens are not that difficult to care for. We built a large chicken run which housed both the broilers and the pullets. Turns out, some of the pullets were cockerels–that’s a problem.
After 15 weeks, we processed four, very large broilers. They dressed out between 8.5 and 9 pounds. It is hard to say how much money this saved us. You cannot find chickens that large in the grocery store—especially ones that are semi-free range and free from added hormones and antibiotics.
Meat production so far
We have harvested 26 ½ pounds of chicken:
One 9 pound roast chicken.
7 ½ pounds of boneless skinless chicken breast.
6 pounds of chicken leg quarters.
4 pounds of backs and wings for chicken stock.
So far I am pleased with the returns I am getting from my little homestead. My new adult layers are starting to produce better than expected and we are enjoying fresh peas from the garden to eat with our chicken. Soon, there will be squash, sweet potatoes, plenty of tomatoes, and fresh herbs.