The Homestead Poultry Flock
*Table of Contents for the Poultry Section is at bottom of this page.*
There is a lot of information on this website about poultry. There is even more in my book, The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, published in 2011 by Chelsea Green—publisher of authors on agriculture and sustainability such as Gene Logsdon, Eliot Coleman, and Toby Hemenway. See a full description of the book and what noted writers are saying about it.
I write on this site disproportionately more about poultry than other livestock not only because I have more experience with poultry, but because they are the “entry-level” livestock par excellence. A homesteader with no prior experience will find it much easier starting a small flock of chickens or ducks than starting to care for and milk a dairy goat. If her property is small, she might well have space to keep that small flock, even if a couple of lambs are out of the question. And if she has a busy life requiring her to be away from home periodically, she will find it much easier to find a neighbor to pinch-hit on chicken feeding and egg collection duties than to find one who is able or willing to milk her goat.
If you are new to poultry husbandry, the Poultry Overview section has a couple of general introductions.
My approach to poultry is a homesteading approach, steering a course between keeping “pet chickens” and seeing the home flock as an analog in miniature of huge commercial flocks. If you would like to know how to put the flock to work in various homestead applications; pasture the flock safely so they can forage more of their own food; make your own feeds; work with broody hens (natural chicken mothers) in lieu of electric incubators and brooders; protect your birds while staying on good terms with the animal friends in your neighborhood; practice easiest, most efficient and healthful manure management—then spend some time exploring this section in depth. If you’ve never butchered your own birds for the table, I hope the article on butchering (with step-by-step illustrative pictures) will be of assistance. Slaughtering one’s own birds for the first time is typically fraught with anxiety; but I promise you, if you do try it, you and your family will be saying with heartfelt gratitude, “Man, chicken was never like this!” Perhaps those feeling really adventurous will join me in reviving the almost-lost art of caponizing (surgical castration of male chickens to produce prime roasting fowl).
Note the addition in late January, 2009 of a Small Markets subsection. It is important to note that my interest in market production is oriented to the low end of the scale. I believe the homesteader who has mastered the challenge of producing all the family’s eggs and dressed poultry will have the requisite skills to make selling to small local markets more a “stepping up” in scale and complexity, rather than a radical switch to a wholly new enterprise. (The major difference may be the necessity of dealing with regulations and regulatory agencies.)
Please note that more ambitious homesteaders, even if they have no interest in producing for sale, may find parts of the new section useful. For example, if they raise the fast-growing meat hybrids, they may be interested in alternatives to the vitality-challenged Cornish Cross. Or they may want to experiment in the production of capons for fabulous roasters on the family’s table.
Browse the Table of Contents below for dozens of pages of time-tested information on natural poultry husbandry. Enjoy! ~November 2013
Table of Contents for Poultry Section
- Poultry Overview
- Feeding the Homestead Flock
- Feeding the Homestead Flock: It Ain’t Rocket Science!
- Making Your Own Poultry Feeds
- Alternatives to Soy
- Sprouting to Enhance Poultry Feeds
- The Challenge of High Feed Costs
- Current Feeding Practice
- Feeding the Flock from the Homestead’s Own Resources
- Feeding the Flock from Home Resources
- Raising Earthworms to Feed the Flock
- Protein from Thin Air: Breeding Fly Maggots for Poultry Feed
- Cultivating Soldier Grubs to Feed the Flock
- Housing the Flock
- Ranging the Flock
- Breeding the Homestead Poultry Flock
- Breeding Our Own Chickens
- Breeding Your Backyard Flock
- My Long Goose Breeding Saga
- Brooding Chicks: Two Options
- Brooding Chicks on Deep Litter
- Working with Broody Hens: Let Mama Do It
- Selecting for the Broody Trait: The Boxwood Broody
- Making and Using Trapnests
- Trapnests for Improvement Breeding
- Flock Identification: Toe Punching, Numbered Bandettes, Wing Bands
- Using the Clan Mating System
- Dealing with Poultry Predators
- Butchering Poultry
- Producing for Small Markets
- Poultry Miscellaneous