Finding Food Security Through Homesteading: The Role of Chickens

by Manda H

Published June 25, 2024

In the last few years, we have watched before our own eyes a time in our world’s history when the ability to go to the grocery store might not be as simple as we once thought it would be. A few short years ago many of us had to stand in long lines waiting to be able to enter a grocery store only to encounter limits on many products such as milk, eggs, and meat. 

While it was scary for most people, I had extra trepidation. I was a young widowed mother who had children to feed. The limitations on food purchases were the same for me as it was for every other shopper. I remember posts on social media that were scoffing at anyone having an issue about “non-essentials,” which included the gardening center, being blocked off at stores. People said it wasn’t essential, but to me it was. I needed to be able to plant my garden because I needed to feed my children. While we can only hope that those days are behind us, the truth is, they could happen again. 

In the last few years, I began shifting things around my homestead to provide me with a sense of food security. I took a look at the various types of livestock to consider and which animals I could continue to feed in the event I was not able to purchase anything off the homestead. I reviewed what each animal required and what additional benefits they provided. I took every last thing into consideration.

Plymouth Barred Rock Hen Chicken Flock in the background Meyer Hatchery

Chickens and Food Security

What animal ends up being the best to raise? Chickens!  So what makes them so helpful in obtaining food security? 

Due to their size, they can be kept in smaller areas compared to cattle or pigs.  You can easily retrofit an old dog kennel into a chicken coop. It does not require a barn or anything elaborate. It is important to provide them a place that protects them from weather and predators while they sleep. During the day, depending on your setup, you can allow them to free range. During the summer I barely have to buy chicken feed as they have access to my yard during the day. Trees, a short jaunt away, provide them with bugs. My rich loam also provides them with ample earthworms that often hang out along the top of the grass in the morning dew. This is a win-win situation, as the chickens also help to eradicate pests such as ticks and slugs while these bugs nourish the birds.

Colorful Farm Fresh Eggs Basket Meyer Hatchery Rainbow Eggs

Meat and Eggs

Another way they contribute to food security is their ability to reproduce. Depending on which breed of chickens you raise, they can even do it when you are not trying. This summer I had my Black Copper Marans disappear into the tall grasses and come out a little more than 3 weeks later with her little ones.

With chicken eggs only needing 21 days to hatch, you can have a quick turnaround for growing meat for the table, expanding your laying flock, or both with a broody hen or an incubator

A chicken egg contains approximately 6 grams of protein. This is very helpful in times when food might be a little scarce. Just as a matter of comparison, a guinea egg has about 10 grams of protein, and a quail egg only about 1 gram, making the first two great options for consideration. You can see more egg nutrition comparisons, here. I prefer the chicken due to having a longer egg-laying season, the ability to free range, and the ease of keeping them contained.

Scraps and Compost

Chickens also utilize food scraps from the house or gardens to reduce waste. They should not be fed scraps alone as it would not meet protein requirements, but it can certainly help to offset feed costs. The chicken droppings help me add fertilizer to my lawn and during the Spring and fall, when I deep clean their coop I have a lot of litter and manure to add to my compost piles to help me grow bigger, better, and healthier garden produce.

Barter

When I have extra eggs, they are very useful for bartering. I have used my farm fresh eggs to trade a neighbor for straw and hay or as partial payment for lending a hand. They become a form of useful currency.  One could even barter with hatched chicks, started pullets or fertile eggs.  

I hope you enjoyed following me as I went through the various ways that chickens are an easy-to-raise animal that can assist you with a sense of food security. If you are still considering whether chickens may be for you, be sure to check out the various blogs and YouTube videos by Meyer Hatchery as we help to educate others on how to raise chickens, ducks, turkeys, quail, and more that can help you on your homesteading journey.

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