Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Keeping backyard chickens

A lot of homeschool families raise small livestock, if they have the space to do so, as well as raising a garden. When we were homeschooling, it was practically a given that we, as well as others, would have goats, chickens, and rabbits, that homeschool moms would wear denim jumpers, and that a trip to the grocery store would incorporate a math lesson.

I really don’t know if any of that has changed, but I’d be willing to bet that some of it still holds true. These days, homeschoolers aren’t the only ones who are seeking to be more self-reliant, though. A lot of folks are investing in backyard chickens, rabbits, and even a dairy goat or two to give them the meat and milk/milk products they need.

Many towns will allow a handful of hens to be kept in the backyard. They are generally quiet, and if they are properly cared for, don’t produce an offensive odor for the neighbors to complain about. Those who live in the country may be able to raise even more chickens along with other small livestock, provided they aren’t living in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association that forbids such activities.

Chickens are just about the easiest way to provide your family with a protein source in the form of eggs. They will average an egg a day, though there will be some “down time” when they don’t lay at all or very little. They are also a good source of meat protein when you need to cull some lazy hens or you have too many roosters.

Hatching eggs is a good project for the whole family. Through this, your children can learn all about a chicken’s reproduction from rooster and hen to egg to chick.

Chickens are also very entertaining. Watching them chase an elusive flying bug or come running at breakneck speeds when you have some treats for them is delightful. Sometimes they’ll lay in a dusty spot and fluff and scratch until they’ve very nearly changed colors due to the amount of dust they’ve thrown on themselves. (This is also a clue that the chicken may be fighting some external parasites and it’s time for a good dusting with diatomaceous earth.)

Caring for chickens is a pleasant activity. Listening to them “sing” as you toss grain out to them has a calming effect. You can also throw all your kitchen scraps to them except for bones. They will turn it into rich, valuable fertilizer for your garden or flower beds.

The biggest concern is keeping predators away from them.

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