The chickens were my first introduction to farming, as they are for many people. I can’t say enough good things about keeping chickens. They are easy to care for, produce delicious eggs (once you have a farm-fresh egg, you can’t ever have anything else), they clean up kitchen scraps, contribute to the compost pile, and they are beautiful! They make the sweetest noises, are fun to watch peck around the farm, and have distinct personalities. What more could you want in a farm animal?
As I said in my Sheep post, I prioritize rare and heritage breeds on the farm and that goes for chickens too. Among other breeds, I have Buff Orpingtons, Silver-Laced Wyandottes, Black Australorps, Light Brahmas, and Barred Plymouth Rocks. My favorite breed is the Speckled Sussex, though. I have three Speckled Sussex hens and they are calm, friendly, curious, and great layers. After every yearly molt, they become more and more speckled too. They really have everything that you could want in a chicken.
I like to buy my chicks from online retailers and pick them up at the post office when they are two days old. You can also get chicks from local feed stores or other farms. Either way, raising chicks is so fun and allows you to tame the birds while they are young. I don’t keep a rooster, but that is obviously a way to replenish your flock without having to raise the chicks yourself- just get a mama hen to do it! You can get the most interesting chicks with a “farm mix” for different hen and rooster breeds. Obviously, hatching eggs on the farm will give you a 50/50 split of girl and boy chicks, so this is a good plan if you want to harvest the boys for the freezer. If you buy from an online store, you can choose to get only pullets (young hens), only cockerels (young roosters), or a mix of both. We only keep hens around the farm and I don’t keep chickens for meat. If my girls free ranged further from the house than they do, I would probably get a rooster to protect them.
If anyone is dreaming about homesteading, check out the zoning in your area and get a few chickens. There is no better way to get a little farming in your life and you will fall in love with them!