Chickens, chickens everywhere

Hello faithful readers!  I haven’t had much to post this past few months, but today, I’m going to get you all caught up on what has been happening with our homestead.

First off all, I learned something important.  If you store your chicken feed in a plastic bin, you’re going to have issues with squirrels and other animals.  I woke up one morning, and found this lovely hole in the side of our feed bin.  I have since purchased a stainless steel feed container.  It holds a 50 pound bag of chicken feed easily, and has yet to be broken into.

I have to point out that I used the plastic bin because it was the cheapest option available.  And this is where I have to mention that “low budget” sometimes means paying a little more up-front in order to save money down the road.  Using a cheap or free plastic bin cost me more in the long run, as I had to buy the metal bin anyways, and lost some chicken feed in the process.

In other news, I have officially been raising chickens for over a year now.  I’ve learned a considerable amount, and decided that it was time to try to earn some more from chickens than I have been.  We checked with our local extension office, and learned that we can have up to fifty laying hens without needing to be licensed by the state, and can sell those eggs directly to consumers.  Any more than fifty chickens would mean that we’d have to have our eggs graded and sized, and the cost would become prohibitive.

Our chickens started out in a brooder for the first 6 weeks of their lives, on our dining room table, with a heat lamp keeping them warm.   We learned that we’re not fond of having the house smell like chicken poop, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.  Consistent cleaning keeps the smell down, though won’t eliminate it entirely.  We kept the chicks in a kiddie pool with mesh over it so they’d stay safe.  That’s the picture at the top of this article, with some of the chicks checking out their new temporary home.  It wasn’t a perfect solution, but we had the pool laying around and it only cost us a few bucks to put their brooder together.

Several weeks ago, we moved them out to their coop.  Since we’re working on staying low budget, we looked at a number of options for a chicken coop before we settled on our final solution.  We had thought of building a coop out of pallets, but couldn’t collect enough pallets to make something decent in time.  Then we came across someone giving away an old, falling apart mobile home.  It wasn’t something that anyone could live in without a great deal of work, but it could be turned into a chicken coop extremely easily.  We were going to use that option, and have the mobile home moved out to our land, when the family member that lives next door offered the use of his barn.  All we needed to do was clean it out, put up one wall, and move the chickens out.

We have a roof over their heads, and they’re quite happy.  We built a waterer out of a 55 gallon barrel and 12 poultry nipples.  The barrel cost us five bucks, but you can get them for free sometimes.  The poultry nipples are about four bucks per package of 4.  Our chickens took a bit of time to learn how to use the new waterer, but now that they know how it works, they’ve been happy to use it.

We built a simple feeder out of another barrel.  It holds several hundred pounds of feed, and there’s little wasted food.  I’ll show that feeder in my next post in the next few days, and teach you how to build it.  It can easily be adapted to smaller sizes as well, for those of you with just a backyard flock.

We have a few things still to do.  The barn we’ve got the chickens in is about 80 years old, and we have to level some ground and put up the fence for their run.  Following that, we’ll be building their nesting boxes so they have a safe place to lay eggs in a few months.  The chickens are staying inside until the fence is up, and they get used to their living space.  They’re happy, healthy, and will be a great source of income when we start getting eggs from them.

I suppose I should mention how we plan on selling those eggs.  There’s a farmer’s market in town, and we’ve already spoken to them about having a table there.  With only 50 chickens, our income from these chickens won’t be huge, but any money coming in will be better than nothing, and will help us work on our next project.






Update on the Flow Hive

Hey there everyone!

This is just a quick update to let you know about the Flow Hive.  If you remember, about 18 months ago, they started looking for funding on IndieGoGo, and raised a ton of money.  Since then, they’ve sold 35,000 Flow Hives, and are now back on IndieGoGo, selling their beehives at a reduced cost.  It’s only for a few days though, so if you want yours, you need to go there now and place your order.

I love these hives, and I think they are much more cost effective than a traditional hive.  They may seem more expensive to start, but require much less work and other equipment, saving you time as well as money.

Head on over with this link —>> Flow Hives on IndieGoGo <<—

Beekeeping the easier way

Beekeeping is, in my opinion, one of the most important things you can do as an off-gridder.  With the decline in bee populations, every new beekeeper is a necessity.  Without bees, humanity’s ability to produce food collapses.

So, on that cheery note, we’re going to take a quick look at beekeeping, and how to do it easily.  You’re going to notice that in this case, I haven’t said we’re going to do it “cheaply”.  This is because today, we’re not going to look at the cheapest, DIY option, but rather one that will save you time and money in the long run, as well as something that is easier on your bees.

First of all, you’re going to need a hive super, which the colony will live in and the queen will lay eggs in.  I recommend the following because it is cheap, well-made, and will work well for you.  It’s recommended you start with two of them, to give the colony enough room to grow.

Now, here is where things get interesting.  You *could* buy more of these, and build a perfectly good beehive, and the hive itself will be relatively low-cost, only a few hundred bucks.  However, then you have to take into account the cost of the tools you’re going to need to harvest the honey.  You’ll need a beekeeper suit, a comb knife, a hive tool, a frame grip, and a smoker.  You’ll need a centrifuge to get the honey out of the comb.  And you’ll need several hours worth of time and a lot of effort to get the honey out, killing many bees in the process.

This is where I suggest the more expensive option.  A hive has been developed that doesn’t require that you pull the honeycomb frames out, doesn’t require that you cut the comb open to get the honey out, doesn’t require that you spend hours and hours with lots of backbreaking labor to get the honey out.

The Flow Hive is a more expensive option, yes.  However, it requires basically turning a tap, and letting the honey pour out of the hive into a jar or bucket.  It takes minutes instead of hours, and doesn’t disrupt your bees.

Here is a video showing how the Flow Hive works.  It’s absolutely fantastic, and I think every beekeeper should invest in them.

Now, where a complete traditional hive costs somewhere around $200 to $300, and all the accessories are another $200 or so, the Flow Hive is priced higher, in the $700 range for a complete hive.  As you can see though, the ease of use makes this entirely worth it.

I have provided a link to their website, which is the only place you can currently purchase them.  I don’t have any business connection to them at this time.  I just really think they offer the best product for beekeepers.

Flow Hive website

Finally, I want to mention that when you keep bees, you’re doing a few things that are important.  First, you’re helping maintain a healthy bee population, which this world desperately needs.  Second, honey is something that everyone can use in their home, saving themselves the cost of sugar, and keeping things like high fructose corn syrup out of the house.  And finally, you can bottle that honey and sell it, making a very tidy profit.

The possibilities are amazing.

Why You Want to Raise Chickens

Simply put, when it comes to a food source that you can raise yourself, chickens are your best option.  They are relatively inexpensive to start up and cost almost nothing to care for once you have their initial costs taken care of.

Chickens can be raised in most cities, so if you’re not quite ready to go off-grid, this is a good starting point if you have a yard.  The chicks themselves cost a few dollars each, and you will need to buy chick feed, which costs under $10 in most places for a twenty-pound bag.  You can buy a feeder and waterer, or you can make your own.

Your largest initial expense will be to build a coop and a yard for them, and you can cut a lot of expense here too.  Building a coop can cost hundreds of dollars if you want to create something fancy, or you can repurpose old pallets and it will cost you a bag of nails.  If you have a fenced-off yard, you could allow them the full use of that yard, or you could buy chicken wire and give them a smaller area.  The choice is yours.

Once you have your chicken coop, and a yard set up for them, and your chickens are fed and watered and happy, there’s almost nothing to taking care of them. You let them out every day, and close up their coop when it gets dark, and in return, they’ll give you eggs.  Six or eight chickens is more than enough to make sure that a couple has enough eggs to eat every day.

Chickens lay eggs for an average of two years.  After that, you can choose to keep them as pets, or you can use them for food.  Chickens are a very healthy meat and high in protein.

So, in your off-grid adventure, if you’re looking for something to eat that doesn’t cost very much, requires little in the way of continuous care, and gives a great return, it would be a great idea to invest in half a dozen chickens.  If you want to earn an income from chickens and have your private plot of land, you could scale up a chicken operation to a few hundred chickens over time, and earn a living from them.