Your Questions Answered: Homesteaders Of America
We recently travelled to Columbia, TN to attend the first “Learn How to Homestead in a Weekend” event at the Homesteaders Of America conference this spring. Over 300 people attended this event held at Roy Feek’s homestead; full of presentations, hands-on demonstrations, and a family-like homesteading atmosphere. We wanted to share with everyone some of the most commonly asked questions we received while attending the conference.
We had lots of questions following Joel Salatin’s presentation on how to raise broilers in chicken tractors. There are many variations of chicken tractors, including PVC, metal and wooden structures with varying degrees of building skills needed. We recommend building the simplest design possible to begin with on your first time around with raising broilers in a tractor. We really like the chicken tractor plans for sale on our website that were developed by Marie, Meyer Hatchery’s blog editor, who has a lot of experience raising small batches of broilers on her farm in Ohio.
Start Small With Broilers
Jeff suggested starting with a small number of broilers your first time raising them. Starting with 20 or so will be easier to feed, clean and manage. Additionally, you wouldn’t invest a TON of money in the chicks, feed and housing if you discover that you don’t like raising them.
Cornish Cross Versus Rangers?
It’s a matter of personal preference, but Kendra prefers Rangers over the Cornish Cross broilers. Rangers tend to move around more, foraging for bugs and seeds more than Cornish Cross do. The Rangers do dress out to look “skinny” like a layer, while the Cornish cross will look more like what you expect to see in a commercially raised bird, with heavy breast meat and short, thick legs and thighs.
What Beginner Layer Breed Do You Suggest?
Jeff suggests picking out breeds based on what you find beautiful. After you’ve decided what color eggs and what level of production you want, pick what looks pretty to you. If you don’t enjoy your chickens, you may be less motivated to take care of them in all types of weather. Kendra advises to match the number of hens to the size of your family. Otherwise, when the spring “egg rush” happens, you may find yourself overwhelmed with eggs. Think about how you may deal with too many eggs. Initially, raise hens to produce eggs for your family, not to monetize your homestead right from the start.
Do The Colors Of Your Chickens Help Prevent Aerial Predator Attacks?
At the Homesteaders Of America Conference, many people mentioned that they have increasing issues with aerial predators attacking their flocks, particularly with hawks. Several attendees asked if the color of a chicken helps prevent or increase the incidence of attack by overhead predators.It may help to have a darker or all black flock, but it probably will not completely eliminate it. Darker colors are harder to see from above. White birds may tend to be more noticeable. There are many deterrents such as reflective scare tape or overhead netting that will help prevent hawk, eagle or owl attacks.
What About Ground Predators?
Keeping your chickens in tractors will also help prevent predator attacks of many types. Allowing your chickens to free range may not always be possible if you live in an area where many predators exist.
Choosing sturdier hardware cloth instead of chicken wire will also help you deter ground predators. Using the hardware cloth as a “skirt” around the perimeter of your coop and applying stone over the top of the hardware cloth may help prevent predators from digging under the walls of your coop.
How Do I Introduce New Chicks Into My Existing Flock?
We’ve discussed this at length on a previous blog. But briefly put, you want to allow some time for the newcomers to be seen by the older flock, but not able to be accessed. The newcomers will likely get pecked and maybe even injured severely if you simply throw the newcomers in the older birds’ housing and walk away.
What Books Do You Recommend for Homesteaders?
Kendra suggested “The Chicken Health Handbook” by Gail Damerow and two books by Adam Danforth on processing livestock. His first book is called “Butchering” for many types of livestock, and the other one is “Butchering Chickens”. Kendra owns both of these books and highly recommends both if you are processing anything else besides poultry.
The Coop Podcast with Meyer Hatchery
In Episode 54 of The Coop we answer the most commonly asked questions from the Homesteaders Of America event attendees. Listen today on your favorite podcast app or through the link below!
For those of you who were not able to attend the Homesteaders of America event this past spring in Columbia, TN, we hope to see you at the next event coming up in October to be held in Virginia. See you there!
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