Two steps forwards, one step back
I don't know about you, but as an eager budding homesteader wannabe, I can't wait to try the 'next thing', from canning, to making my own makeup. I find the whole learning and accomplishment extremely rewarding.
It's very easy to get carried away and think, right I can do that now - what's next? The problem with racing ahead like this, is that if we are not careful, we can completely miss the point.
Take my chickens for example, whilst I have ticked the box of keeping chickens for egg consumption, does swapping the purchase of eggs, for the purchase of chicken feed, make me any more self-sufficient?
So that's why I'm following a 2 steps forward, 1 step back approach. Every time I accomplish a couple of homesteading goals, I take a step back to reflect on what I have acomplished so far and how can I improve on it.
Today I am taking a step back to reflect on my chickens. It makes me happy to know that the chickens which produce eggs for our family get to live the life they deserve, but for me personally, it doesn't fully satisfy my desire to become more self-sufficient. I'm still relying on others as much as I was before - swapping eggs for chicken feed.
So what can I do to get more self-sufficient value from my chickens?
Producing Chicken Feed
For our family, producing all of our chicken feed is not feasible (yet). For a start, we would need to dedicate about 1/5th of an acre for growing grains to meet the nutritional requirements of our 5 chickens. Whilst I can't commit to 1/5th of an acre, I could stretch to a quarter of that, so I'm going to give it a go - wish me luck!
As well as grains, I already raise mealworms and give our chickens access to lots of healthy treats in the garden. Treats should be limited to 10% of their daily diet to ensure they get the right nutrition to stay healthy and productive. If you would like to know what tasty treats I feed my chickens, take a look here.
Using up more eggs than I would normally
We have just 5 chickens, but we still can't keep up with all of their eggs! One way to tip the balance in the favour of being more self-suffcient, is to make more use of their eggs. So whilst still relying on external sources for their feed, at least I can become more self sufficient in other areas thanks to our fluffy bottomed friends. After stepping back and reflecting on this, here is what I have come up with for our family:
- Feeding my dogs one egg per day and reducing their current dried food
- Making up and freezing waffle mix
- Making up and freezing yorkshire pudding mix
- Making up and freexing pancake mix
- Making cakes for kids school lunches instead of buying
- Grinding up the egg shells for a calcium-rich suppliement powder for our chickens
The power of poop
I'm sure most of us that keep chickens and keep a well stocked garden, will already be reaping the rewards of composting chicken manure. It's high content in nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and calcium make it and excellent fertiliser for your crops and garden.
So I am now at ease with my choice to raise chickens, safe in the knowledge that not only am I reducing the demand for commercial chickens, kept in less than ideal conditions, but I am also going to be just that little bit more self-sufficient after all.
~Mrs Homestead-Wannabe @20th October 2023