What NOT to do when starting a homestead.

I grew up in South Florida (West Palm Beach area) but have lived in TN or AL since college. My wife and have lived on her family plot of about 20 acres in Alabama for around 7 years. We (mostly me) started getting interested in livestock and gardening a few years ago. I would like to  give you some tips that are pretty obvious but I still went and made the mistakes anyway.

Start small: I am a big guy and I like to go big on things and then figure it out later. I started reading Salatin’s books and thought I would get some chickens. I saw the fry pan bargain for chickens on a website where you could get 100 roosters for $.27 and I thought why not. I thought it would be a good learning experience before the 100 Cornish Cross I had ordered came in later in the summer. It turns out it takes a lot longer for those little dudes to grow up and a lot more feed. I ended up spending more on feed for those guys than if I had bought them from Joel.  Another problem was the chicken tractors. I started out in the side yard and worked my way into the goat pasture. I use the term pasture loosely. I had too many chickens and they destroyed the grass. It wasn’t a great stand to begin with but it was mud after they went through even after 3 moves per day. I built the tractors too heavy and I kept getting caught on little stumps and stuff.  I ended up getting frustrated and bought some electric chicken nets. Those were much easier to work with. I just cut the wing feathers and tossed them in there. I had a couple escapees but they stayed close to it and would go back in when I would toss feed over it and hold the bottom up. I ended up turning about half loose to eat bugs in the yard and they did that. but then they pooped on the porch and the wife was not having that. The pigs also got mad at the chickens. After the first slaughter my friends who were helping me slaughter thought it would be good to toss the remnants in for the pigs to eat. The pigs really enjoyed it. in fact they started hunting the chickens who would peck through their fence trying to get their corn. I think they killed 40-50 chickens. 13 in one afternoon. It was just mass chaos. I would never have that many at one time without some serious infrastructure. It was also too expensive to feed them out. If I had just 25 I could have fed garden scraps for free and saved a lot more money. However, I will admit I enjoyed the experience and it was worth it to me to see the looks on people’s faces when they pulled in the driveway and dozens of chickens ran to their car hoping for a meal. I should also have the most fertile grass ever at my place next next year.


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