Self Sustainable Homesteading

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by uaj0sh, Jan 8, 2014.

  1. uaj0sh

    uaj0sh Out Of The Brooder

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    Hey guys,

    I'm still a new comer to raising chicks. I've experimented with the Meat and Egg combo from McMurray Hatchery to get a feel for it and got in trouble due to my county's regulations against Roosters. So long story short, I moved from my 2 Acre plot to 35 acres of I do what I want. With that, we upgraded our egg layers to Black Orphingtons. I guess I didn't realize that doubling the number of growing birds meant doubling the amount I'm spending on organic chicken feed.

    The bill for the last round of a month to month and a half's worth of feed costing 175$ made me step back and think that this can't be the only way. I understand what chickens need in their diets (Great article) , but I'm more curious what the pro's do to grow their own food on their farms. There has to be something I can grow to feed them on the land, as a homesteader would have done in the west.

    To add to the problem, I'd like to figure out how to automate it as best as possible, there are already a lot of chores to do, so figuring out food sources that care for themselves would be awesome as well.

    We are already experimenting with fodder systems, but I don't believe that provides a complete nutritional experience. Anyone willing to share ideas, and pictures would be much appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Josh
     
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner True BYC Addict

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    You might want to go to the Sufficientself sister site down at the bottom of this page. That’s a natural topic for them. I’m sure it has been discussed a lot.

    To me, being self-sufficient with chickens or any animals is about how you feed them more than anything else, especially once you get by start-up costs. How much work and time you have to put into it is also important.

    You are going organic so any feed you buy will be more expensive. It sound like you plan to do all the work yourself as opposed to letting them do some of the work.

    I didn’t grow up on a homestead in the west. I grew up on a small farm in the ridges of East Tennessee. We managed our chickens pretty much as they were managed on small farms world-wide for thousands of years. We let the chickens do all the work, with the exception we supplemented their feed a bit in the colder weather.

    In the better weather we never fed the chickens. They foraged for all their food. Totally free range. We had good forage for them, all kinds of grass and weeds, grass and weed seeds, and plenty of creepy crawlies for them to find or catch and eat. They had cow patties and horse manure to scratch through and find all kinds of nutritious goodies. We had a farm pond for them to drink from, covered with algae in the summer. Chickens, cows, and horses all drank that water. We carried that same water for the pigs. Life was good for chickens.

    We grew two acres of field corn. Some of that was ground for corn meal, but the vast majority went to the pigs, milk cow, plow horses, and chickens. We did not worry about micromanaging the exact amounts of proteins, fats, fiber, or other nutrients. The shelled corn was simply a supplement to whatever they could forage for in the winter.

    Our chickens were not big obese birds barely able to waddle around. They were pretty trim and athletic, but Mom could still feed five kids and two adults from one bird. They did not lay double extra huge eggs but they laid plenty of decent sized eggs. Since feed cost essentially zero for a lot of the year, they were pretty efficient.

    One big thing on this model is predator pressure. Back in the 50’s and 60’s when I was growing up, fence rows were kept cleared out and pasture fields were kept mowed, not overgrown with brush. People did a lot of hunting, mostly squirrel and rabbit, and they would shoot any fox, raccoon, skunk, or anything like that they could. The number of predators was kept under control and the habitat was not all that great for supporting large numbers of them. The same cannot be said today for most of the country. Mom and Dad would go many years between predator attacks, but occasionally a fox or dog would fine the flock and have to be dealt with. I can’t do that here. It’s not the wild animals that cause me the grief, it’s not neighbor’s dog, it’s people dropping dogs off in the country for the good life. I can’t free range because of that. That means I have to buy most of the food my chickens eat.

    So there’s the model to be self-sufficient if you can pull it off.
     
    2 people like this.
  3. BarredBuff

    BarredBuff Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have been striving for years to make a sustainable chicken/poultry operation. The truth of the matter is that it is hard to do. Very hard to coordinate. If you are like me you want birds that will care for themselves, feed a lot by their selves, and reproduce by their selves. You will never be fully sustainable. Won't happen, but you can make great dents in the process.

    Breeds
    The cornerstone to successful sustainable flocks is careful breed choice. I'm not going to tell you to sink hundreds of dollars to purchase breeder quality birds. I don't think it is worth it, personally. However, if you make a few smart choices from a good hatchery you can lay the foundation for a self reliant flock.

    You want hardy birds. You want active birds. You want birds that lay well, and have the potential to go broody and hatch off great chicks. You may want birds that you can breed to make a meat bird type chicken. I'd recommend any of the following: Black Australorp (great egg layer, and hardy), White Plymouth Rocks (good meaty bird and good rooster to have), Dominiques (all around good chicken), Orpingtons (good egg layer, nice carcass, and can be broody), and Cochins (good for brooding and adding size to the flock, not a good egg layer). A combination of these birds will make a nice flock and they good mixes for the next generation.

    Feeding
    This is the most expensive part of keeping chickens. You will find difficulty meeting all of their nutritional needs off-the-land without grain production. You can whack away at it though. I like to sprout green feeds for my hens in the winter, but I am too busy to do it as often as it needs to be done. It can be a lot of work. If I were you, I'd ditch the organic feed. I'd switch them to a commercial all-purpose poultry feed like Purina Flock Raiser. I'd keep this in a free choice feeder as a way to balance their diet. Be sure to also provide oyster shell as a supplement to ensure good egg shells. I would free range your chickens completely from sun up to sun down. They will gather a good part of their food this way.

    Free ranging is certainly not always a death sentence as some believe. The range needs to be protected this may be done by a kenneled dog. That's how we've done it, and I have had good luck with that route. Your range needs to be rich. Create places that make plenty of food. My hens range through the orchard (which provides bugs, old fruit, and usually seedy plants). The chickens also have a good woodland type area to range in. It is mulched well with rotten leaves and creates a haven for worms, grubs, and bugs. Don't drain your range. Don't put more animals on it than it can handle. You will be able to tell when your hens begin to eat more feed from the feeder.

    I recommend you give them your table and canning scraps.Old bread, old cooked veggies, old cooked meat (they love it), spoiled fruit, and any thing else you would have to eat when it was good. Usually except raw peelings. I put them on the compost pile. Do this year around. Throw it out where they can get to it, and let them pick through it. Also give them your old egg shells for added calcium.

    If you grow a garden, grow extra foods for them. This includes: winter squash, melons, extra sweet corn, grain corn, and maybe tomatoes past their prime. When I can meat I usually give them leftover poultry or beef bones and allow them to pick the leftovers off. I also give my hens a coffee can of corn and cat food in the morning. Which will provide them with extra carbs and protein for the day. Especially in cold weather.

    This will not eliminate feed store trips, but can save you a bit of money.

    General Management
    You have to run them like a business. Cull out unproductive or sick members. If they have no genetic information or practical use to contribute cull them out. I don't mean sell them or give away. Slaughter them. This keeps bad genes out and preserves your better quality individuals. Some will not like what I said, but its the key to successful homestead flocks. On old homesteads this was done every fall.

    You need a good rooster. One that comes from egg laying stock, but comes from hefty individuals. This is to preserve eggs and meat in your offspring. The rooster needs to be bonded to the hens. He should lead them to food well, and be protective over them. Not aggressive to you, but to anything that tries to bother them.

    I suggest a trio of geese to add to your homestead too. Don't house them with the chickens, but keep them around. They are good watchdogs, and can be aggressive with many predators. They also are cheap to maintain.

    Hope this helps! May be more than you wanted!
     
    2 people like this.
  4. Spanishchick

    Spanishchick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks ridge and barred. Great info I'm working on a homestead.
    You both answered a lot of questions I've had for a while.
     
  5. Spanishchick

    Spanishchick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have to say this was very well written. You should be a writer if you are not one.
     
  6. uaj0sh

    uaj0sh Out Of The Brooder

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    You guys hit the head on the mark.

    It will be awesome to get started on that this spring and see if I can make enough for the birds to survive.

    Thanks guys,

    I'll try and remember to wrap back on my and update the forum.
    ~Josh
     
  7. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

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    Ridgerunner's post is exactly the kind of free range environment that use to exist all across the country. It can exist again but only when or if we humans change our attitudes toward predator control.
     
  8. Spanishchick

    Spanishchick Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am thinking that with all of the homesteaders now joining the hunt that things will change. For example we are attempting 50% of all our food this year to be from farming, hunting fishing and livestock.
    If I want to make it this coming winter without buying meat for my household I need 4 good sized dear and a good amount of fish. I have some members in the family who won't eat bear, and although I would I don't want to force them.
    Not that I think it would be easy to hunt a black bear anyways..........but I would try!!!
    Down south (around here and beyond and in some of the Appalachian parts of the country a little north) people eat animals I would have never dreamt to eat. But I think they've been doing that for a long time now.
     

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