Animals can be expensive to keep so how do you make sure your flock is an asset to your homestead and not just another expense?
Getting the most out of your feed
The more you are able to let your flock free range the better. But if you need to supplement with grain, why not get more bang for your buck by fermenting feed for optimal health and egg production. All you need is a jar with a loose fit lid, grain, water and heat.
Fill 2/3 of your jar with feed and top with room temperature water. Your water should sit about one inch above your feed before it gets absorbed. Place a loose fit lid over your jar and keep it in a warm place for 3 days. I like to keep mine beside the wood stove but a sunny windowsill, a spot by a heat vent or oven work well too. After 24-48 hours you will begin to see bubbles forming in your mixture. After 3 days I start feeding my fermented feed to the hens and keep the leftovers in the fridge.
I can't say enough about the benefits of fermented feed. It will help your chickens to continue laying in the winter and to produce large eggs with thick shells and rich yellow yolks. It will also give your chickens beautiful plumage and your days of having to bath your chickens will be behind you!
It's always easier to prevent health problems than to deal with them after they occur. If you have invested time, money and love into raising animals, it's frustrating if health issues spread amongst your flock. Diatomaceous earth has been very effective in our experience for preventing outbreaks of worms, lice and mites, while providing our feathered friends with essential minerals to help them lay bigger, healthier and more nutritious eggs. Once a month I give our coop a good sprinkle of diatomaceous earth which has eradicated any parasites. Diatomaceous earth is an incredibly cost effective way to keep your chickens healthy.
Ensure your chickens have a nice dry coop with fresh bedding and consistent access to fresh water. During the winter months, as temperatures can often drop below freezing here, I like to put a heat lamp in the coop. And in the summer the children enjoy adding various herbs and flowers to their nesting boxes. This might sound a little extra but it really is worth the effort. These little details will encourage your hens to lay more egg and and to lay them in their nesting boxes. Don't you hate it when you find a big old stash of eggs in one of your plants!
Farm fresh eggs are one of those products that everyone wants. These little beauties will practically sell themselves. I've posted a handful of ads to sell them and have gained regular customers and always have a waiting list. We put out a little stand at the end of our driveway to sell eggs and fresh cut flowers. Customers place their order and pick up at a time of their choosing. It's a simple set up that works well.
Selling laying hens
Another great way to add income to your homestead is to raise heritage chicks and sell them as laying hens. There is a large market of people who wish to start their own flock with young heritage hens who are just starting to lay. Chicks are very affordable to purchase and selling healthy, heritage laying hens will fetch you a good profit.