Raising Chickens, Goats and Vegetables for a Sustainable Homestead

Raising Chickens, Goats and Vegetables for a Sustainable Homestead

Posted by Mandi Chamberlain, Tue, Apr 7, 2020

 

Homestead: Now More Than Ever 

A few weeks ago I was in a meeting with a variety of folks, and we were all asked, “What does nature mean to you?” There were several different answers, but they all led back to the same commonality: being more sustainable. Now, what does that really mean? Merriam-Webster defines sustainable as “relating to, or being a method of, harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged; or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods.” So, let’s tie that into homesteading.

I am often asked, “Why raise dairy goats?”, “Why do you have so many chickens?” or “Why do you grow so many vegetables?” The answer is often the same—it makes me happy to know that I can do all of this for myself and my family, and to experience the joy that accompanies self-sufficiency. Now, more than ever, it is critically important to identify a local source of food and supplies—or, better yet, do it yourself. I feel very prepared to be on my homestead for weeks if I had to, which makes me feel safe and comfortable. The following are some of the highlights of self-sustainability and what you should consider in order to get started.

Chickens

Do you eat eggs daily? Wouldn’t it be nice to know you could just go to your backyard instead of the store? It doesn’t take much to start your own backyard flock. You need a safe coop and run with three square feet per chicken, food, a water source, and a minimum of three chicks to begin with. For a family of four, you should start with a flock of six laying hens. With this flock size, you will have plenty of eggs for your family as well as some to share with family, friends and neighbors. Eggs are an excellent source of protein. Additionally, you can give back to your garden by saving your eggshells and scattering them around. If you don’t have a garden, you can crush the eggshells and feed them back to your hens for a great source of calcium, which is crucial for strong eggshells. Oh, and by the way, backyard-fresh eggs taste soooo much better than store-bought eggs that have been sitting in a warehouse for days, if not weeks!

Hard-Boiled Egg Tip: Adding a teaspoon of baking soda to the water increases its alkalinity, making the shells easier to peel.

Goats

Now, you may be thinking, “How does adding mouths to feed, such as a couple of dairy goats, to your homestead equal being more sustainable?” Do you drink milk, cook with butter, eat cheese or wash your hands with soap? My guess is that a majority of you answered yes to all four. Two dairy goats can provide you with all of those and more! You need to have at least two goats because they do not do well alone. A family of four likely needs to milk only one goat, but two will allow you to sell or share your products. Time-wise, it is very safe and easy to implement once-a-day milking instead of morning and evening. The resources you have at your fingertips from raising a dairy goat are endless, and in times when self-sustainability comes into play more than usual, it’s one more important comfort you can secure for yourself and your family.

Goat’s Milk Butter: Combine one cup of heavy cream (from the goat’s milk) and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Take the cream and salt mixture and add it to a butter maker. Don’t have a butter maker? A Mason jar will do the trick. Pour the mixture into your Mason jar and shake! Shake until the cream begins to thicken and get chunky and the butter separates from the buttermilk. Keep shaking until firm and then strain off the buttermilk. You can then form it into a cube or shape of your choice and refrigerate it for up to two weeks. 

Gardening Last but certainly not least (and, in my opinion, the best way to be sustainable) is gardening. Anyone can grow almost anything, in any zone and in any amount of space. If you don’t have a dedicated garden space, you can grow in containers on your deck or outdoor space. Container gardening makes it easy to grow ingredients with which to cook, such as herbs and tomatoes. The pride you will feel when you harvest your fresh veggies will never be lost because you planted the seed, you know what was added to the plant and you were there when it was harvested—a full seed-to-table story! You not only have a sense of pride, but an awareness of where your food came from. As an added benefit, any food (besides garlic and onions) that doesn’t get harvested on time can go to the chickens as a snack, and they will love you for it.

Aloe Vera Sunburn Relief: After a long day in the sun, you may need a little help with your skin. If you have planted an aloe vera plant, which grows like a weed, just follow the recipe: Pick an aloe vera leaf/stem that is about eight inches long, strip the outer shell of the leaf, add two tablespoons of cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil or other essential oil of your choice, mix, and store in an airtight container.

The greatest feeling in the world is knowing that you have the resources and ability to do things yourself! So, why not start now? Self-sustainability is not just about what you can do for yourself, by yourself—it is also about giving back to our planet, making things last and using your resources for things that are unconventional. I hope that I have at least briefly shown you one or two ways in which you can begin to implement more sustainability into your lifestyle. Now is the time to begin. Happy Homesteading!

Download our complete Feeding Guide here

XO, Farmer Mandi 

Mandi Chamberlain

Hi everyone! My name is Mandi. I am a registered veterinary nurse, who fell in love with the art of living slow so I moved to the country. Most who know me would say I do anything but live slow these days though! I live on just over 4 acres in the Midwest. I raise a herd of registered Nubian dairy goats, a tribe of chickens, and a large garden. I have a huge passion for learning, and then teaching others what I have learned. I find country life to be rewarding and challenging every single day, but I wouldn't trade a thing. Thanks for joining me! I am here to help with anything!

Comments

David Rose 01/01/2021, 2:49:45 AM

I am beginning to raise Bob white quail. I just got my first two breeding pairs. They are proven breeders. When it starts to warm up I was told to expect lots of eggs out these guys. I have a nurture right 360 to incubate the young. I live in an area where Bob whites are very rare now, but used to be plentiful. I hope to be able to raise some of the young hands off and be able to try to reintroduce them in my area. Of course not wide spread, just releasing them on my property and if they spread out awesome. I am trying to find incubation information on them. One source said 18 days, but nothing about temp and humidity. Just looking for resources to help me getting started. I would really like to take a step towards fixing what people messed up with fireants. Fireants have all but wiped out quail from our area. There are only five wild cubbies I know of in my county. Doesn't mean that is all of them, just the ones I know of. For the record my breeders are captive breed.

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