We have chickens, I know we do. But I forget about them…a lot. Their presence is wanted, as they do many things on our homestead, such as eat bugs that bite and lay eggs. Their happy clucks and crows echo off the hills, and they can be seen doing the chicken waddle thru the yard as they chase after a yummy meal. But I don’t feed them unless there is snow and ice on the ground.
I know this sounds cruel, and to some it would be. But, we do make sure they are well fed. Here’s how you can reduce or even do away with your chicken feed bill for part of the year.
Don’t Over Crowd Them
Chickens will only range so far from their place of roost that night and chickens will habitually roost in the same place every night if trained to it. Therefore, if you put too many chickens in an area where they roost together, they will go through the food that mother nature provides them in their “range” before Mother Nature can replenish it. We have found that for our homestead, ten chickens and a rooster is all that should be trained to roost in one area. This will be different for everyone, depending on where you live, the climate, your bug populations, and your soil quality.
Assist Mother Nature With Providing Them Food
Have you ever noticed that if a pile of animal droppings is left alone, the bugs will soon claim it as theirs? Maggots, flies, bettles, and other creepy crawlies find animal droppings to be great places to raise families. So, keeping chickens in an area where other homestead animals live really helps to provide them with valuable meals and proteins. Plus, the chickens prevent those creepy crawlies from getting out of hand and causing you and your animals to be miserable. It’s a win-win for all of your animals. The chickens will also clean up after any feed that you provide to your animals. Wasted expensive feed is no longer a problem, it helps feed the chickens too!
Provide Them Supplements When Times Get Lean
If our summer gets really dry, or we experimented with how many we could keep in an area and they picked it clean, it’s always good to supplement them. We also supplement anytime there is snow and ice on the ground (or the ground is frozen), because they can’t possibly scavenge for bugs and green growing things when everything is dead, dormant, or frozen. We slowly throw out handfuls of pelleted chicken feed from our local farmer-owned co-op feed store until they are no longer voraciously attacking every morsel, then let them clean up the rest during the duration of the day.
Chickens On the Homestead – A Low Maintenance Win-Win
As little as I think about them, and have to tend to them, I still value chickens on the homestead a great deal. They have very important roles that make life on the homestead so much less miserable, and they provide us with amazing protein sources (eggs and crock-pot chickens, yum!). If you leave a hen or two alone, they will also replenish themselves every spring and give you new little peep peeps running around with little human intervention. What could be better than that?