Chicken : [chick·en] : gateway drug to urban homesteading.
Chickens are food making machines! They produce eggs, meat, & excellent manure that will vastly improve your compost, which in turn makes a better garden, which makes even more food. They also forage and scratch in the soil, eating lots of the little creepy crawlies in your yard and garden.
Used to, chickens were a fixture of the barnyard, not so much the backyard. But today is a different story. They don’t require much room, the upkeep costs are minimal, and the time requirement is minimal. This makes them perfect for the modern homestead, whether you have a few pet chickens in an urban backyard or 50 farm birds out in the country. Not to mention the fact that they are just fun critters to have.
But the term “poultry” covers more than just chickens. There is an ever-growing number of people raising ducks, turkeys, quail, and even guinea fowl!
Ducks are raised often for their richer eggs. They’re higher in protein and many minerals than chicken eggs, and you can ask any chef, duck eggs have no equal when it comes to baking. They make the fluffiest cakes and are amazing boiled, poached, fried or scrambled. And while they will still scratch and forage for bugs like chickens, they aren’t quite as destructive to your garden and most plants. They are a bit messier than chickens though.
Turkeys are the king of the Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner table. In these days of ever rising food prices and with commercial agriculture continuing to produce low quality, almost tasteless meat, it’s making more and more sense to raise your own and produce fresher and tastier meat than you could get from any store. The downside is they require a fair amount of room, so they usually aren’t the best option for an urban backyard.
With quail, you can produce more meat per square foot than any other type of poultry, so if meat is your main goal, or if you have very little space, you might look into them. The meat is light and tasty and the cleaning process is much quicker, cleaner, and easier than with chickens. Plus you get the eggs. While the eggs are much smaller (5 quail eggs equals 1 chicken egg), the taste is very similar, perhaps a tad richer due to more yolk.
Guinea fowl are definitely not desired if you have close neighbors for one of the main reasons people get them… they are nature’s alarm system. They’re like guard dogs that lay eggs, and they hunt bugs every waking minute. Usually expect eggs only during the spring and fall, and while the eggs are more triangular in shape than chicken eggs, the taste is almost identical. You can find no better bug killer, mine kill all the scorpions and spiders that usually would make it to my house and have even been known to kill small snakes. But I will say again, they are LOUD!
Regardless of what kind of poultry you choose, they really are food making machines! Get a coop, pick up some chicks, and make the commitment to your food independence today.