Self Sufficiency – Keeping Chickens

With the economy in tatters, rising fuel prices, higher taxes and massive unemployment it seems only sensible to be as self sufficient as possible.

Chicken Coop

A small chicken coop with build in run like this one can be used to keep chickens in a small area. The run can be moved to ensure fresh grass for your birds.

I acquired some chickens through a long and complicated process that would be a full blog post in itself and caused some acrimony with my better half at the time.  To make the story short, I was offered two chickens (a cock and a hen) which I accepted.

I say chickens.  They are Old English Game Bantams.  That is to say, they are very small as chickens go.  The hen was once a supreme prize winning show bird (yes there are chicken shows apparently!).  She is now past her prime though which is a shame and has direct bearing on my story.  The cock is very young and if I were to be entirely honest, and I have no intention of being, I couldn’t distinguish the two when I first got them.

I’ll write another post called How To Keep Chickens in a small area at a later date for anybody who wants more details on keeping chickens.

I bought Layers Pellets (food) for the new arrivals, I bought wheat too, because they love it.  I also bought a bag of oyster shell grit, which they use to break down the other food in their crop, chickens being noticeably devoid of teeth.  I was lucky enough to acquire a small chicken run and house to go with my chickens, so my investment was only about €25 in total.  All the food items were picked up at my local(ish) Co-Op.

I feed them every day and check for eggs.  Actually I stopped checking for eggs every day.  Months and months passed and not a single egg.  It turns out that hens lay less eggs as they grow older.  They lay in “seasons” too.

Keeping chickens - Self sufficiency

This picture was taken with a wide angle lens so the egg actually looks BIGGER than it is in reality. It is small enough to fit through the egg holder in the fridge.

Of course, having a long wait before getting eggs means that it’s a lot more exciting when you finally do get eggs.  There is one thing though.  Bantams are small birds and therefore their eggs are not exactly big.  I wasn’t very impressed.  If I got an egg a day from my one hen it would take a week to make some scrambled eggs.  That is fine, and the flavour is wonderful, but it is a long way from being self sufficient.

Keeping small numbers of chickens is never going to save you money.  While the feed is inexpensive (there is a reason for the phrase “chicken feed” in relation to money), €25 is a lot for one small chicken egg.  This of course will not be the case as more are produced.

I am currently wavering between two plans.  One is to breed the current chickens and that will give a larger supply of small eggs, and the other one is to also get some larger birds.  This also means that there will be more than a mouthful when, inevitably, some of them need to be eaten.

Keeping Chickens may be a nod in the direction of self sufficiency, but it is really more of a hobby and something that young kids love.  We hope to have some chicks by the end of the summer which will involve borrowing a broody hen (one that sits on the eggs and won’t leave them) from somebody else or an incubator if I can’t get one.  The incubator is not as efficient.

I love being woken up with a cock crow, but if you don’t think you would then don’t get a cock.  You can borrow a cock if you need to breed, or just buy one then eat it once it’s done it’s work.  Be aware that just because you like the sound does not mean your neighbours will though!

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