It’s entirely possible to live a resourceful, frugal, self-reliant life without keeping chickens (or any livestock at all), but I do consider chickens to be a wonderful addition to almost any household. Chickens are useful, easy to raise, and fun. They don’t require a lot of space or much of your time. If you do it properly, your venture into chicken-keeping can provide you with wonderful-tasting fresh eggs, pest control for your yard and even valuable manure. You might even end up with extra eggs and/or birds to sell in season.
Not for the faint-hearted
A warning about raising livestock – it might take a lot of investment in time and money before these ventures begin to pay off, especially if you run into unexpected trouble. All the chicken owners we know have had their flock demolished by a fox, a mysterious disease or a stray dog at least once. Most goat owners lost does and/or kids because of a kidding that didn’t go as it should have, or else had to pay a large vet bill. These things are heart-wrenching and highly discouraging, apart from the cost. However, it is possible to minimize your chances of disappointment; more on that later.
Which breed should I choose?
It depends on what you want to get out of chicken-keeping. The most popular reason for keeping chickens is eggs, but some people raise their own meat birds, and other focus on heritage breeds and hatching chicks for sale. For eggs, I recommend sturdy reliable egg-layers such as Rhode Islands, Plymouth Rocks or Sussex.
If you plan on breeding your own chickens, you must, of course, have a rooster. If you’re only interested in eggs, a girls-only flock will do. I personally love roosters – they don’t just add a dashing colorful splash to your yard, but add order to a flock and protect the hens.
Of course, cross-bred chickens will also provide you with eggs. Currently that’s what we have, actually, but I’m on the lookout for some good-quality heritage breed chicks, and that’s what I think you should keep if you possibly can. The costs are the same (feed, housing, etc), but the birds you have are more valuable. If you have extra chicks to sell, you can get a higher price for pure-breeds.
There’s a wealth of information out there about various chicken breeds. Once you start researching, you’ll be hooked. Whatever you choose, only buy from a reliable breeder who will sell you healthy birds and won’t try to pass cross-breeds as pure-breeds.