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Homesteading Book Review: The Best Books To Help You Become Self Sufficient

Homesteading Book Review: The Best Books To Help You Become Self Sufficient

homesteading book review

The practice of homesteading can find its way into one’s life in many different ways. For some, being a homesteader looks like producing your own food, making your own clothes, managing a small hobby farm, or generating your own power. For others, the journey towards self-sufficiency might be as simple as adding a vertical garden of climbing peas to your apartment balcony.

I started out by adding chickens next to my small raised bed, then integrated other versions of homesteading into my life gradually. The process was a slow one, but that made it fun and manageable.

Start small. Take baby steps to start your homestead. Pick a skill you’re wanting to learn and engage with a book from that list, then see what happens. Happy reading!

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Hi, I’m Ryan

Homesteading can be life changing if you give it the chance, but, like anything, the first step is to learn. I’ve compiled a list of what I feel are the most helpful books for those looking to get into homesteading, and sorted them by category.

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Homesteading Books For Beginners

Homesteading Books For Beginners

Homesteading entails many different areas of work and varieties of DIYing, which can all seem a little overwhelming to a beginner. This booklist includes guides that are broken down simply, ideal for someone who wants to start a self-sufficient life but is looking for some guidance on how to get started.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living

The Encyclopedia of Country Living

by Carla Emery

If I had a friend who was getting into homesteading and asked for my advice, this is likely the first read I’d recommend. Carla’s encyclopedia includes detailed instructions for a plethora of important homesteader skillsets, including canning and preserving food, gardening, growing your own food, beekeeping, cooking on a wood stove, raising livestock, milling flour, tapping maple trees, and much more.


New Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency

New Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency

by John Seymour

With the newest version published in 2019, John’s Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency is full of comprehensive information about life as a homesteader. The guide also includes detailed instructions for various elements of the lifestyle, like how to create an urban organic garden or how to harness natural energy.


The Homesteading Handbook

The Homesteading Handbook

by Abigail Gehring

I know firsthand that life can quickly become noisy, chaotic, and overwhelming. This read delves deeper than the mere process of minimization — it’s about what that process can do for you.

Dana elaborates on the reasons why decluttering can often feel difficult. She writes about the ways our emotions get in the way of creating a clutter-free life for ourselves, and ways to combat these mental roadblocks.


Mini Farming On Quarter An Acre

Mini Farming On ¼ An Acre

by Brett Markham

If the self-sufficient lifestyle of homesteading is appealing to you, but you don’t have a ton of land to work off of, this book is for you. Brett walks you through ways that having less land doesn’t have to limit you when it comes to homesteading.

Even if you have never been a farmer or a gardener, this book covers what’s essential for beginners to know, like buying and saving seeds, crop rotation, farm planning, seasonal gardening, crop rotation, and many other basic farming need to knows.


The Backyard Homestead

The Backyard Homestead

by Carleen Madigan

With several different editions including an all-inclusive guide to raising livestock, growing your own food, kitchen know-how, building projects, and a seasonal planner, Carleen’s The Backyard Homestead series is one of the best guides for beginner homesteaders. Each guide includes step-by-step instructions for the topic it covers, along with pictures and diagrams for you to follow.

Homesteading Books On Buying And Managing Land

Homesteading Books On Buying And Managing Land

Owning, managing, tending to, and working off of your land is the first step to becoming a successful homesteader. Without your own land, it’s hard to maintain a self-sufficient life. These homesteading books will help you locate quality farmland and gain tips for keeping it up on your own.

Finding Good Farmland

Finding Good Farmland

Larkin Hansen

Finding Good Farmland covers every aspect you should consider before buying your own farmland, including government regulations, residential concerns from the surrounding area where you’re searching, soil conditions, and ways to budget. This read is a great self-checker if you’re looking for quality farmland and want to ensure you’ve thought through the basics and the details.


Five Acres and Independence

Five Acres and Independence

by Maurice Grenville Kains

Maurice provides an easy-to-understand view of what small-scale farming entails practically. This read helps you evaluate land economically and agriculturally, guiding you in making an informed purchase. You’ll learn suggestions for land management like draining the land or improving soil quality, suggestions for when to grow seasonal crops, tips for raising goats, chickens, and bees on a small-scale farm, as well as marketing tips for farmers.


Land Buying Tips From the Pros

Land Buying Tips From the Pros

by Pat Porter

Pat’s book will give you specific information about different types of land and what to watch for when thinking about investing. No two types of land are the same, and purchasing a plot comes with a lot of need-to-knows about that specific land type.

The bulk of this book is a compilation of tips from experts on budgeting for rural land based on phone calls Pat had with these eight different experts.

Gardening Books For The Homesteader

Gardening Books For The Homesteader

Growing your own produce from a garden is a huge aspect of homesteading. For me, working in my yard and garden is super cathartic, but it’s also a huge undertaking. Wisdom from expert authors about the best times to plant each crop, tilling and fertilizing methods, tips for crop rotation, and much more will be extremely helpful when creating your first garden.

Organic Gardening For Beginners

Organic Gardening For Beginners

by Lisa Lombardo

Organic Gardening For Beginners opens with an overview of the most popular types of organic gardening, as well as the benefits and setbacks to each. This section is helpful for beginner gardeners to decide which method works in their space.

Lisa also provides explanations to several natural growth methods like controlling pests without chemicals, and a crop-by-crop inventory that tells beginners what they need to know about each plant and vegetable to start growing.


Growing Vegetables The First Time Gardeners Guide

Growing Vegetables:

The First Time Gardeners Guide

by Jessica Sowards

Jessica’s YouTube Channel, Roots and Refuge Farm, is filled with wisdom for the first-time gardener, and so is her book. I would recommend this quick read to anyone who is looking for the most basic information when it comes to growing your own food in a garden. Conversational in style, Jessica delves into common questions like where to put your garden, how to prep your soil, and how to keep pests and critters out of your home garden.


The Flower Gardeners Bible

The Flower Gardener’s Bible

by The Flower Gardener’s Bible

The ultimate flower gardener’s handbook, Lewis walks readers through everything from what to think about when choosing your growing site to increasing the lifespan of your flowers. The books includes many helpful tips on how to improve soil, fight off pests, make informed decisions about seasonal planting, and specific information about each type of flower.


Vertical Gardening

Vertical Gardening

by Derek Fell

Don’t let space limit you from becoming a homesteader. Derek’s book on vertical gardening is made for those who want to start a garden but don’t have a ton of space. The growing up and not out method is not dependent on having land to plant on, anyone can do it! With over 100 colorful pictures and diagrams to help with the process, Vertical Gardening showcases ways to grow perennials, shrubs, vegetables, flowers, and fruits no matter where you live.


A Seasonal Gardeners Handbook

A Seasonal Gardener’s Handbook

by Donna L. Long

The biggest key to knowing when to plant each crop without wasting seeds is to pay attention to seasonal crop patterns. Take it from Donna, knowing when to plant what is an intricate process. Her guide will have you creating your own seasonal gardening calendar and planting by the natural signs of the Earth in no time.

She teaches you everything you could ever want to know about seasonal gardening, including when and when not to prune, creating a simple compost pile, hardening off, tips for plant’s chilling hours, planting by the phases of the Moon, and when to plant each type of annual.

Preserving Food On Your Homestead, Best Books

Preserving Food On Your Homestead, Best Books

Preserving, canning, cooking for yourself, managing your food storage – these are all key aspects of the homesteader’s life. These books will take you through what you need to know to bake, save, and store all your own food stuffs.

The Ultimate Guide To Preserving Vegetables

The Ultimate Guide To Preserving Vegetables

by Angie Schneider

Angie’s ultimate guide gives readers access to charts, colorful pictures, and step-by-step instructions for all kinds of preservation methods like canning & pickling, fermenting, freezing, and dehydrating food. It’s a very helpful book for beginners because the instructions are highly detailed.

Her book also includes many of Angie’s family recipes to try on your homestead, like canned dilly asparagus, fermented corn salsa, dried scalloped potatoes, and dried pumpkin pie.


The Ball Book of Canning And Preserving

The Ball Book of Canning And Preserving

by Ball Test Kitchen

The Ball Book of Canning And Preserving is a classic for homesteading and food preservation. It shows up frequently on best of lists when it comes to food prep. Why? It includes over 350 recipes for the beginner to the experienced homesteader, ranging from jams, fruits, butter, jellies, jerkies, pickles, and salsas.

The instructional section of the guide covers water bath and pressure canning, pickling, fermenting, freezing, dehydrating, and smoking with detailed instructions and step-by-step photos to make the process simple and efficient.


The Complete Guide To Pressure Canning

The Complete Guide To Pressure Canning

by Diane Devereaux

Pressure canning is one of the most popular methods for preserving cooked meals. Diane’s The Complete Guide To Pressure Canning is a step by step resource to teach you the art of pressure canning, so you can preserve your favorite low acid foods for you and your family.

Covering everything from soups and stews, jar meals, broths and beans, and game and other meats, this guide will introduce you to everything you need to know about canning through colorful pictures and diagrams.


A Year Without the Grocery Store

A Year Without the Grocery Store

by Karen Morris

This book is geared towards food preservation to prepare for times when grocery stores may not be accessible. Homesteading is all about self-sufficiency, and these tips from Karen will teach you what you need to know to have enough food for you and your family at the ready, no matter what.

Complete with tips for economically storing food your family wants to eat, simple recipes for baking basic comfort foods from scratch, how to safely store and use water, and common mistakes homesteaders make when storing food with ways to do better.

Books on Off-Grid Living and Alternative Energy

Books on Off-Grid Living and Alternative Energy

Becoming self-sufficient with your energy sources is freeing because it cuts out the middle man. Plus, using alternative energy is great for the environment. Many homesteaders go off grid entirely, so let’s take a look at some books that can educate you on how to make off grid living a reality for you.

Off Grid Living 2022-2023

Off Grid Living:

Back to Basics Guide To Become Self Sufficient

by Small Footprint Press

This updated, 30-day guide to go from energy dependance to an entirely off grid life is extremely worthwhile for the new off gridder who wants to adopt the lifestyle as quickly as possible. This guide includes information on living off the grid without giving up any of your luxuries, how to use solar, wind, and geothermal sources, how to install different types of water systems in your home, the best US states for living off grid, and more.


Off Grid Solar Power Simplified

Off Grid Solar Power Simplified

by Nick Seghers

The most popular method of alternative energy on the homestead is solar power. Many people have asked me about putting solar panels on my own tiny house because I’m one of the few out there that is totally off the grid. Let me be the first to say the process isn’t easy and there is a lot to learn!

Nick is an electrical engineer who specializes in solar power design, so his tips are definitely backed by experiences. This manual delves into things like a comprehensive tool list for installing your own panels, tilting, cleaning, optimizing solar input, types of photovoltaics, and much more.


Wind Energy for the Rest of Us

Wind Energy for the Rest of Us

by Paul Gipe

Not as popular as the solar power method but still accessible for the average homesteader, wind turbines are another way to access alternative energy off the grid. Paul’s Wind Energy for the Rest of Us moves through many different methods for harnessing wind energy on your own homestead, including small and large turbines, water-pumping windmills, and multimegawatt wind turbines.


The Complete Guide to Water Storage

The Complete Guide to Water Storage

by Julie Fryer

Learning to store water is a vital for the life of a homesteader. But properly storing your water so its genuinely useable is a learned process, and this read is a great guide for getting started. Using tanks, ponds, and other means of water storage to maintain a safe and viable source of drinking water has become popularized in prepper and homesteader circles. Other water-saving techniques such as rainwater harvesting and gray water collection are also valuable and are explained throughout this guide.


Wood Stoves How to Make and Use Them

Wood Stoves:

How to Make and Use Them

by Ole Wik

Ever considered cooking with a wood stove? This quick read goes over everything you need to know about using and tending to a wood stove, including information about types of wood and stovepipes, how to actually use the wood stove once its going, how to cook with a wood stove, and general safety tips to consider when using an open flame in your own home.

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Homesteading For A Living: Books On The Business Side

Homesteading For A Living

Homesteading goes beyond self-sufficiency – it can also be a business, that, when maintained well, can bring you abundant rewards and financial freedom. Agricultural financing isn’t easy, but with a little guidance you can create the space to sell your tomato harvest, goat cheese, or homemade bar soap and make a substantial profit.

How to Make Money Homesteading

How to Make Money Homesteading

by Tim Young

This simple guide examines an array of skills that are crucial for turning your homestead into a business. Follow along with Tim and learn how to insulate yourself from financial collapse by monitoring which risks you take, manage your finances as you sell your crop, plan for retirement on the farm, and generate livable income from your own homestead. This book features interviews with 18 homesteaders and farmers who share intimate stories of their own journeys toward a fulfilling and financially freeing life on their homestead.


Starting & Running Your Own Small Farm Business

Starting Your Own Small Farm Business

by Sarah Beth Aubrey

Another great source for those who want to start homesteading but don’t have a ton of space to work with. Sarah Beth’s Starting And Running Your Own Small Farm Business is chalk full of savvy skills to help you get started, like planning your budget, web design to self-promote, and food service wholesalers.


The Organic Farmers Business Handbook

The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook

by Richard Wiswall

After working for twenty-seven years at Cate Farm in Vermont, Richard knows the ins and outs of running a farm like a business. In his book, Richard shares advice on how to make your vegetable production more efficient, manage your employees, create a budget, and turn a livable profit on your homestead.


The Future Is Rural

The Future Is Rural

by Jason Bradford

You might want to give yourself a minute to take this one in. Written by Jason the biologist and farmer, this book gives a very meta-assessment of what we know about our modern world and why that analysis can benefit the rural community.

Jason explains why, sociologically as well as economically, the decline of rural areas and dependence on fossil fuels will reverse entirely in the coming decade. This will greatly elevate the importance of self-reliance. If you’re looking for a high brow evaluation of why turning your homestead into a business and independently oiled machine is worth it, this is the book for you.


Farm Record Keeping Book

Farm Record Keeping Book

by Exocet Journals

Staying organized is crucial for running a successful farming business. Writing everything down in an all-inclusive journal can help with that. This record keeping journal is one smart way to log your daily farm routine, livestock care, seasonal crop rotations, repair operations, budget, and more – all kept in one place.

Books On Homesteading Skills, Tools and Supplies

Books On Homesteading Skills Tools and Supplies

Repairs, updates, and maintenance work is required for maintaining a successful homestead. Knowing which tools get the job done and understanding how to perform basic repairs can help you keep your farm in tip top shape and keep you from having to call for backup.

The Tool Book

The Tool Book:

A Tool Lover’s Guide to Over 200 Hand Tool

by Phil Davey

Phil’s tool book is basically an encyclopedia for common household tools. Leaf through this guide to find pictures of common tools from every imaginable angle, detailed patent drawings, zoomed in diagrams, and step-by-step illustrations of each tool being used with expert advice on how to use each tool best. The book covers different types of hammers, spades, chisels, and more.


Woodworking The Complete Step-by-Step Manual

Woodworking: The Complete Manual

by DK

This step-by-step carpenter’s manual includes guidance for a wide range of skillsets. New carpenters will learn the ins and outs of basic design techniques, how to use essential tools, and basic carpentry techniques like woodturning, furniture restoration, and wood joints.

More experienced carpenters can use their skills and follow the steps in the 28 different DIY woodworking projects the book provides. There’s something here for everybody wanting to learn more about woodworking.


Do-It-Yourself Plumbing

Do-It-Yourself Plumbing

by Max Alth

Another essential skill to get good at is plumbing, especially if you aren’t wanting to hire out on your homestead. This DIY guide includes over 500 photos, diagrams, and drawings to teach how to fix leaky faucets, balky toilets, clogged drains and traps, and even how to install hot-water and steam-heating system on your own.


Farm and Workshop Welding

Farm and Workshop Welding

by John Seymour

With over 400 step by step photos and tons of tips and suggestions for beginner to experienced welders, this comprehensive welding guide has it all. Learning to cut and shape metal will help you keep your homestead up to par and give you the freedom to create endless projects on your own.

Flip through Andrew’s comprehensive guide for detailed descriptions of specific types of welds like arc, MIG, gas, TIG, and plasma cutting. It also includes advice that extends into the wider workshop with advice on drill use, cutting threads, and blacksmithing.


Tools A Tool-by-Tool Guide to Choosing and Using 150 Home Essentials

Tools:

Guide to Choosing and Using 150 Home Essentials

by Steve Dodds

Knowing which tools to use and how to use them is the first step in keeping up with repairs around your homestead. This quick read chronicles 150 power and hand tools with explanations on how to use them.

Steve informs readers in three clear cut sections. The first covers where you can go to find quality tools and what specifically to look for to ensure years of dependable use. The second section explains how to use eight basic tool kits, and the third section is a tool-by-tool inventory of virtually every power and hand tool you could need.

Homesteading Books On Raising Livestock

Homesteading Books On Raising Livestock

A homestead isn’t complete without livestock. If the goal is to be as self-sufficient as possible, producing your own food with as few outside sources as possible, raising animals is the best way to make that happen. This booklist will provide you with all the know-hows you need to reduce your dependance on big agriculture and learn to produce your own dairy and poultry.

Raising Chickens and Goats

Raising Chickens and Goats

by Jason Howard

Chickens and goats are the most popular choices for raising animals on a homestead, especially if you’re getting into agriculture for the first time. Jason goes over how to know if your chickens and goats are healthy when you purchase them, how to keep them from getting sick, and ways to protect your livestock from predators.

For chickens, he talks about how to build a chicken coop, tips to raise robust chickens, and how to choose the best chicken breed on a budget, and more. For goats, he goes over the best places to buy a healthy goat, common mistakes homesteaders make when raising goats, tips to keep your goats from getting diseases, and more.


The Homesteaders Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook

Natural Chicken Keeping Handbook

by Amy Fewell

Pretty much anything you’d want to know about raising chickens is likely found in the little guide. Amy provides detailed explanations of everything from understanding why chickens do what they do, creating your very own poultry or egg business, preventing and treating ailments with herbal remedies, setting up your property, coop, and brooder, and hatching new chicks.


Keeping A Family Cow

Keeping A Family Cow

by Joann S. Grohman

Keeping A Family Cow was originally published in the early 1970s as The Cow Economy, and has been reprinted many times with updates and edits. If you’re wondering if you should get a cow but aren’t sure where to begin, this is the book for you. Joann goes over cow knowledge essentials, like the health benefits of untreated milk, how to easily milk your cow, details on calving and breeding, and the ins and outs of making butter, yogurt, and cheese.


Raising Pigs

Raising Pigs:

The Ultimate Guide to Pig Raising on Your Homestead

by Dion Rosser

Learn the ins and outs of raising pigs with detailed instructions in Raising Pigs: The Ultimate Guide To Pig Raising. Dion’s ultimate guide covers how to choose the type of pig that will best suit your needs, how to build proper housing and fencing for your pigs, how to properly care for your swine, how to feed your pigs well, and tips for pig reproduction and breeding.

Books On Bees And Beekeeping

Books On Bees And Beekeeping

Beekeeping is not as difficult as it might seem at first glance. There are extensive benefits that come with adding beekeeping into your self-reliance skills on your family’s homestead.

The importance of bees often gets overlooked, but they are actually one of the most necessary creatures to sustaining humankind. Their role as pollinators is essential to our food chain and the longevity of society.

By beekeeping, you can do your part to help keep bees from going extinct. And the honey is a major plus! Check out this booklist to kickstart your journey as a beekeeper.

Beekeeping For Beginners

Beekeeping For Beginner’s

by Amber Bradshaw

If you’re new to beekeeping completely, I’d definitely recommend this read. Follow along with Amy, a homesteader and experienced beekeeper, to learn the basic fundamentals of modern beekeeping. This book will walk you through picking the right hive, bringing your bees home for the first time, surviving winters with your bees, the basics of collecting honey, and more.


Beekeepers Problem Solver

Beekeeper’s Problem Solver:

100 Common Problems Explored and Explained

by James E. Tew

It’s easy for things to go wrong when learning the art of keeping bees. This book explores 100 common problems for all beekeepers, from the beginner to experienced level. Then, it provides several methods to solve those problems directly. Each issue is addressed in detail with photographs and diagrams and tangible solutions from highly experienced beekeepers.


Honey Bee Biology And Beekeeping

Honey Bee Biology And Beekeeping

by Dewey M. Caron with Lawrence John Connor

This extensive and heavily researched beekeeper’s guide is for those curious about the science and history behind the art of beekeeping. This deep dive into beekeeping concentrates on the why, how, and when of beekeeping both today and in the past. Dewey and Lawrence explain bee basics in a manner meaningful to people who lack an intensive background in biology, covering colony management, basic bee biology, and more.

Helpful Reads On Permaculture

Helpful Reads On Permaculture

The practice of permaculture is all about managing your land and life in a way that is harmonious with the natural world. Getting started with permaculture begins with your thoughts then moves into your habits and lifestyle.

It means designing your land in a way that does not harm the earth, using your resources with environmental caution, decreasing your waste and your consumption, and creating an ecologically sound life on your homestead.

Permaculture A Beginners Guide

Permaculture: A Beginners Guide

by Graham Burnett

This is a valuable read if you’re entirely new to the lifestyle and mindset of permaculture. It’s a generalized beginner’s guide, so I don’t go this route if you aren’t actually a beginner – you might be frustrated by the level of simplicity! However, if you’re looking to learn the very basics of what permaculture is and how you can take baby steps to adopt the lifestyle, this is your book.


Earth User's Guide to Permaculture

Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture

by Rosemary Morrow

This is a slightly more detailed and extensive guide to permaculture than the one above. Rosemary talks a lot about the principles behind living a life built around permaculture: to care for people and the earth wherever possible.

Practically, she also provides detailed tips and instructions for the following practices: seed-saving, integrated pest management, domestic and rural water usage, dealing with weeds and wildlife in an ecologically friendly manner, and designing land to withstand natural disasters.


Permaculture Design a Step by Step Guide

Permaculture Design

by Aranya

This book is specifically geared toward land design and management under the umbrella of permaculture. Aranya explains the design process in extensive detail from beginning to end, covering designing frameworks, site surveying and mapmaking, placement and integration, and working with clients. There is an abundant use of flowcharts and diagrams throughout to help you learn the practice.

Prepping And Survival Skills

Prepping And Survival Skills

A prepper is an individual who focuses on training themselves in both urban and bushcraft survival skills to be prepared for all situations. Learning prepping and survival skills is a great way to prepare for all circumstances and make sure you have everything you need on your own homestead, should you be disconnected from civilization. These books go over basic and advanced survival skills for preppers and homesteaders alike.

Prepper’s Long Term Survival Guide

Prepper’s Long Term Survival Guide

by Jim Cobb

This step-by-step survivalist guide is full of advice, techniques, strategies, and skills to learn from the perspective of a lifelong prepping expert. Jim gives insight on preparing for the worst with skills like water collection for drinking and hygiene, storing water, growing food, hunting game, foraging in the woods, first aid and home remedies, and tactics for fortifying and defending your home.


SAS Survival Handbook

SAS Survival Handbook:

How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate

by John Lofty Wiseman

John’s handbook specifically addresses ways to survive unforeseen situations as they arise. John provides strategies and tactics for surviving in any type of situation, from accidents and escape procedures to adapting to various climates like polar, tropical, or desert, to identifying edible plants, to creating fire. The is an all-inclusive how to for surviving anything, complete with detailed descriptions, illustrations, instructions, and diagrams.

Natural Medicine And Remedies

Natural Medicine And Remedies

For some, being entirely self-sufficient without using outside sources includes medicine. Many homesteaders engage with herbal remedies like tinctures, teas, syrups, and salves to calm anxiety, heal wounds, or help with ailments like headaches or the common cold. These easy reads will give you some basic advice for beginning the world of herbal medicine.

The Homesteaders Herbal Companion

The Homesteader’s Herbal Companion

by Amy Fewell

This book is the go-to guide for those wishing to start their journey with home remedies. Amy covers everything from incorporating herbs and essential oils around your home, the basics of herbalism, and how to properly use each type of herb around your homestead. Whether you are new to homesteading and herbal medicine or you know the basics already, there is much to gain from this comprehensive guide.


Medicinal Herbs A Beginners Guide

Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide

by Rosemary Gladstar

In this beginner’s guide, Rosemary goes over 33 common healing plants and their uses. She also includes advice on growing, harvesting, and preparing each plant along with tips for using herbs in healing tinctures, oils, and creams. This is a valuable read if you’re looking for an in-depth inventory of useful medicinal herbs with pictures and tips for usage.


Be Your Own Doctor

Be Your Own Doctor

by Rachel Weaver

This book is specifically geared toward creating safe, high quality, in-home medical care. Rachel divides her book into sections: essential household remedies with which includes remedies for common issues, first aid, and immunity boosters, then health hormones and pregnancy, and, lastly, planning ahead and getting supplies. I would recommend this one to anyone thinking about trying herbal medicine in their homestead.

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Baby Quail – How To Raise Quail, What To Feed Them & More!

Baby Quail - How To Raise Quail, What To Feed Them & More!

How to raise baby quail

The past two years I have been trying my hand at raising baby quail for eggs. Now that I’ve learned a lot, I thought I’d share how to take care of baby quail and how to raise quail. Many of you know that three years ago, I set a goal for myself to start growing most of my own food. Many of you might remember this past summer when I got my chickens, soon after I discovered quail was another way I could keep my food local.

While I was learning about chickens, I also learned of quail which have a few unique attributes that really appealed to me. In my journey to grow my own food, I knew I had to design everything to minimize the work I put in while maximizing what I get out.

Are Quail Easy To Raise?

Now that I’m over 2 years in Quail I’ve come to appreciate how easy quail are. In short, quail are quiet, easy raise with minimal space requirement, they produce a lot of eggs and require little cleaning. Here are a few of the main highlights of why quail are so easy!

Quail Are Prolific Egg Layers

Quail lay more eggs per bird than chickens do. While their eggs are smaller, you get a lot more. While a chicken will lay around 200 eggs a year, quail will often lay upwards of 300 a year. I also found them to lay more in the winter unlike chickens that slow down in the winter some.

Start Laying Fast Too

One of the biggest draws for me with quail is that from hatch to first egg is around 6 weeks! Compart that to chickens which don’t lay their first egg until their 6th month! This is a really big deal because you need to feed them during this lead up period and you’re spending money and time with no eggs in return. So quail are great if you want to get eggs sooner rather than later.

Quail Are Quiet

One thing that I really love about my quail is how quiet they are. While chickens are pretty quiet, except for a rooster, quail make almost no noise at all, even when startled. This is really good for raising quail in a city or in a small backyard. When I set mine up, most people didn’t know they were there even when they walked right by them. They barley make any chirping noises and that chirp doesn’t carry far at all.

Quail Are Easy To Raise

I’m still amazed at how hands-off quail really are, they are super easy to raise. When I raised my chickens, I thought they were easy, I setup my feeders and waterers and on busy days at work, I didn’t have to worry. With Quail I worried even less. They don’t eat or drink a ton, they’re cold hardy, and they can be raised on wire mesh so the dropping falls out, literally cleaning the cage on its own.

Quail Don’t Take A Lot Of Space

How many square feet per bird? You only need 1 square foot of cage per bird. When I first heard this I was very skeptical because one of the reasons I raise my own food is to make sure it’s done humanely. Well now that I’ve worked with quail, a square foot really is a lot of room for a quail. They’re small birds and they like to huddle together and are pretty sedentary animals.

You Can Raise Quail On Wire Mesh

Like my above point, when I heard about raising quail on ¼ inch wire hardware cloth I was worried that their feet might get cut up. I talked to a lot of people who’ve done it before and they all raised on wire too. When I built my quail cage hutch I did it with the hardware metal cloth with ¼ inch gaps, I’m glad I did. Over time I checked their feet and observed their behavior. I even put a piece of wood in there with some bedding to see if they preferred it, they actually avoided the wood.

How To Take Care Of Baby Quail

how to take care of baby quail

I raised my quail from both hatchlings and from eggs. The guy I bought my first round from threw in a dozen eggs for free so I tried it out. Quail are pretty much like chicks, you want to make sure they’re fed, watered and warm. You can read my post about how to set up a brooder for chickens, it’s mostly the same for quail.

What To Feed Baby Quail

Quail feed comes in crumbles called Game Bird Chow, which is a high protein between 19%-30%, for baby quail food you want at least 25% to let them grow. You want to get “crumbles” not pellets. The main producer of this is Purina and is available at any farm supply store. I picked up mine at Tractor Supply and just got the highest protein content I could find for the first 8 weeks. A 50lb bag ran about $20 and lasted a very long time.

How Much Water Does A Baby Quail Need

Only a few ounces of water per baby quail is needed, but you want to refresh it regularly to keep it clean. The one thing you need to make sure is that they don’t fall asleep in the water because they can drown in it. Baby quail are ridiculously cute and I remember them falling asleep mid stride only to lay down right where they were, so I did a shallow dish and put some smooth river rocks in it so they couldn’t lay in the water directly, but still access the water.

How To Keep Quail Warm

You want to keep your quail at around 95 degrees Fahrenheit. When you setup your brooder (indoors) make sure it’s just big enough so that the baby quail can get away from the heat. The trick here is to point the heat lamp/bulb to one corner, then watch what the baby quail do. If they all pile in the hot corner, they’re not warm enough. If they all pile in the opposite corner, they’re too warm. If they move around without clumping up at either extreme, you’re pretty good. Move the lamp closer or further to adjust heat intensity.

How Long To Keep Baby Quail In The Brooder Before Going Outside

You want to keep the baby quail in an indoor brooder for about 5 weeks and I’d time things so when you put them outside it’s during the warm part of the year. Spring or summer is ideal, if you’re in the winter months, consider keeping them inside a bit longer.

 

What Type Of Quail Should You Get? – Quail Breeds

what breed of quail to get

There are a lot of different types of quail you can consider for meat, eggs and hunting. In general you’ll be limited to what you can find locally, but also consider online sources that you can purchase. My advice is to go what you find locally because you know they’ll do well in your local climate

Coturnix Quail

Coturnix Quail

  • Good For: Eggs & Meat
  • Size: 7 inches, 3 ounces
  • Can they fly: minimally

This is one of the most popular breeds of quail and the one I choose to raise. They’re good as egg layers and as meat birds, making them super versatile. They are also reasonably cold hardy and easy to take care of. They don’t really fly as much as they fall gracefully.

 

Bobwhite Quail

Bobwhite Quail

  • Good For: Eggs, Meat, & Hunting
  • Size: 9 inches, 6 ounces
  • Can they fly: Yes, they fly well

These are another common breed that people like because it can be used for meat, eggs with the addition of flying for hunting. They are about twice the size of a Coturnix so you get more meat from them if you decide to butcher them. Since they fly pretty well, you want to make sure you have netting to prevent them from flying away.

 

Button Quail

Button Quail

  • Good For: Pets
  • Size: 4 inches, 2 ounces
  • Can they fly: Yes, they fly well

Button quail are mainly for pets or if you want some variety. They’re very small and their eggs are about half the size of other quail breeds making them less practical. I’d suggest only getting this as a novelty or pet. They do also fly very well, so netting is required.

 

Japanese Quail

Japanese Quail

  • Good For: meat and eggs
  • Size: 5 inches, 3 ounces
  • Can they fly: Somewhat

These are also somewhat common among breeders. They are good for meat and eggs, but not really for hunting if you’re interested in that. They don’t fly very well, just enough to get out of harms way if a predator is around.

 

 

How To Raise Adult Quail

adult quail

Once you’re out of your brooder which you should be doing indoors, it’s time to move them outside during a warmer part of the year. I mostly kept feeding them the same food and just switched to a normal quail waterer.

The process is mostly the same as raising chickens, so read this post about my tips to raising chickens here. https://thetinylife.com/tips-for-getting-started-keeping-chickens/

How To Build A Quail Cage

quail cages

I built a quail hutch that was 2×4 feet and 2 feet tall with a small door. I put it on legs so it would be an easy working height for me. I made mine so that all sides, including the floor, were made of ¼ inch hardware cloth. Once I was done building it, I set it up so a compost pile was underneath the cage, letting the droppings fall into the pile below.

There isn’t any real special method to this, I’d just make sure you allow for 1 foot per bird and think about ease of cleaning. Here is a video of my quail cage hutch

How To Cook Quail – Quail Recipes

how to cook quail

If you’re looking to quail for meat, they taste pretty much like the dark meat in chicken. The easiest way I find is to grill them. How many quail per person? Typically, 2-3 quail per person gives you enough meat for a meal. You can either leave whole, removing the innards or you can “spatchcock” them flat.

Grilled Quail Recipe

  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 1 tbl garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh pepper
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano
  • 1 tbl Cajun seasoning

Marinate quail over night in plastic bag. Preheat grill to at least 400 degrees. Cook 3-4 minutes a side or until internal temperature is 165 degrees.

 

Quail FAQs

What is a baby quail called?

A baby quail is called a chick.

How long before baby quail can fly?

A baby quail will start to fly as soon as 3 weeks depending on breed.

When re baby quail born?

Baby quail can be born at most any time, but often is more likely in warmer months.

What do baby quail eat?

Baby quail are feed a high protein feed called “game chow” in crumbles form.

Do quails fly?

Yes, some breed can fly. Some will not be able to fly at all or flutter around.

How long to boil quail eggs?

It takes about 2 minutes to hard boil a quail egg.

How long do quail live?

A typical quail will live 2-3 years

How long does it take a quail egg to hatch?

A quail egg can take up to 8 weeks to hatch.

How often do quail lay eggs?

Quail will lay eggs most days, roughly 1 per day, around 300 per year.

 


Quail are a great way to have livestock in the city or another way to grown your own food easily. They produce a lot of eggs quickly, they are raised in a square foot per bird, are able to be kept on wire without harm (so dropping simply pass through the mesh) to minimize cleaning.

Oh did I mention they’re really cute?

Your Turn!

  • Have you ever raised quail or considered it?
  • What tips do you have about raising baby quail?

DIY Chicken Nesting Boxes Ideas For Chicken Tractors – Quick, Easy And Cheap Options

DIY Chicken Nesting Boxes Ideas For Chicken Tractors – Quick, Easy And Cheap Options

DIY chicken nesting boxes ideasNesting boxes in a chicken tractor can be a tricky thing. When I was building my own chicken tractor for my first flock of chickens, I ended up trying a lot of things. Some things worked and others didn’t. The absence of a floor is a challenge because the tractor is open to the ground. There is no surface to put anything on and the ground is not an option because the coop has to be moved each day.

I needed a DIY nesting box idea that was easy to make, cheap, easy to clean, and something my ladies liked to cozy up in to lay their eggs.

Chicken Nesting Box Considerations

things to consider with your nesting boxes

Before we get into my experiments, let’s talk about the purpose and function of your box. A nesting box is simply a container of some sort, located in your coop, where – you hope – the chickens will lay their eggs. This does two things: the hens are more likely to lay eggs because they’re less stressed and the eggs are easier to find.

Typically, you want this place to be out of the main area of the coop, a little more private, a little cozier, lined with hay/straw. You’ll save a lot of cleaning If you can avoid having these boxes under or near the roosting bars because chickens poop a lot when they sleep.

Some people have finicky chickens that are little prima donnas – my silkies were kind of like that – but in general, I don’t have time for that! If you stick with your typical chicken breeds, you’ll find good layers without the drama. For me, my ladies never had issues laying eggs anywhere I put some dry hay. There were days I was like “screw it” and I literally just put a gob of hay on the ground and called it good.

Nesting Box Size

nesting box size

You want a box that is 12” x 12” x 12”. It can be bigger; it could be a little smaller depending on your breed. Honestly, it doesn’t matter that much. When I first started, I was so concerned about finding the “right” answer to this. After years of keeping chickens, I’ve come to learn they’re not picky, so don’t fuss over this too much.

What Do You Put In A Nesting Box

what to put into a nesting box

Hay. It’s that simple – any old hay that’s dry and free from mold will work. The most important thing is that it’s dry. If you have hay that’s soaking wet you could run into issues with illnesses in your flock, but dry-ish hay keeps this at bay.

Again, when I started, I wanted to make sure I did things right. So, I bought a round bale from a farmer. One round bale is about 5 feet cubed and that gave me a ton of hay. In a pinch, I’ve used dried leaves from the yard, but I find hay easier to use and is readily available.

How much hay do you put in a nesting box?

how much hay to put in your nesting box

I put enough hay to cover the bottom of my nesting box about 2-3 inches thick when fluffed up. I only changed it when it got significantly soiled or wet, otherwise, I let it ride. If the hay was older, I’d reach in and fluff it up some, if it didn’t fluff up because it was so broken down, then I’d change it.

How often do you clean the nesting box?

how often should you clean your chicken coop and nesting box

My general rule of thumb was to clean the nesting box once a month when I changed the hay. All my boxes were plastic to facilitate easy cleaning. I’d use a Clorox wipe to quickly wipe it down and sanitize the inside. If the boxes were really dirty, I’d clean it right away. If the hay got wet, I’d clear it out right away, make sure it fully dried, then covered the bottom with fresh hay.

How to Prevent disease in your chick coop?

how to prevent disease with your chickens

Every two-ish years I’d replace the nesting boxes just as a matter of course, grime builds up and things break down. Doing this kept things fresh, germs at bay and since I chose cheap options for my nesting box, it wasn’t a big deal.

The one exception to the above rule of thumb is when I found a dead chicken, which thankfully happened rarely. Over the years I had two chickens die, one from a dog attack and the other just dropped dead. If I knew it was killed by an animal bite, I didn’t worry because I knew the cause of death.

If the chicken just died without an apparent cause, my thoughts would wander to a possible disease, though it’s not super uncommon that their little heart just gave out. Out of an abundance of caution, I removed the chickens from the coop and looked them over. Next, I removed all the bedding, raked out the run and let it l dry out really well. Then, I scrubbed down every inch of the coop and replaced all the bedding.

How Many Nesting Boxes Do You Need?

How many nesting boxes do you need for chickens

You’ll want one nesting box for every 4-5 laying hens. This will allow them to have enough space so they will not be crowded. This also prevents e piling two chickens into one nesting box; although they still may do that if they are feeling chummy.

What Should The Nesting Box Be Made Of?

what nesting box materials can you use to line a nesting box for chickens

This is one thing that doesn’t get asked enough. I try to have as much of my flat surfaces in my coop be made of durable and easy to clean materials, such as plastics, laminate, metal, etc. It’s also great if your nesting box is made of something that is cheap, because after cleaning things for a while, the grime just doesn’t want to come clean. If your container is cheap, you can just toss the old and swap out with a new one.

I’ve tried several things, which I’ll get into now.

Nesting Box Ideas And How They Worked For Me

chicken nesting box ideas

Traditional Wood / Metal nesting box

I’ve built these before out of plywood and looked at buying them from places like FarmTek or Tractor Supply. I think a lot of people try these when they first start because they’ve decided in their mind it’s what a nesting box “should be”. For your average backyard chicken hobbyist, I find them to take more time to build than they are worth. The store-bought metal boxes are expensive and make me feel guilty when tossing them out because the funk won’t disappear even after cleaning them a million times.

They’re great to look at and could be justified (or required) if you’re running a commercial operation but there are many other workable options that are easier to build, just as easy to clean, and cheap to replace. I’d skip this option unless you really want to build them.

5 Gallon Bucket Nesting Boxes

five gallon bucket nesting box idea

nesting box 5 gallon bucket nesting box lid perchThese were my first nesting boxes I ever made. I bought a few buckets with lids, cut an opening into the lid, then made a bracket to hold them in the coop. A bucket with a lid costs less than $5 new from a big box store and you can find them everywhere. If you are on a tight budget you could try to get free buckets from the bakery at the grocery store. By and large, these worked very well with only one main drawback.

Cleaning out the buckets is a breeze; the plastic is slick and super durable. I can wipe these out quickly and every now and then wipe down with vinegar or a bleach solution to sanitize. If you can, choose a darker color so any grime stains don’t show, the white ones get a little dingy looking after a while even though they’re clean.

The one major downside I found was that they were hard to mount. The bucket will be on its side so you need to mount a round object. To add to the complexity, they’re often tapered making it trickier to make a bracket.

how to make a 5 gallon bucket nesting box

The best way I’ve found is to cut the lid opening, then lay the leftover piece of plastic on the bottom of the bucket as reinforcement. After that, screw right through into a solid wall. You can use some washers to make sure the screws don’t tear through. The trouble with my coop is I didn’t have enough wall space to mount them all so the chickens could get into them easily. Otherwise, this would be my preferred method.

Milk Crate Nesting Boxes

using a milk crate for a nesting box

black snake in milk crate nesting boxI tried these when I first went from a permanent coop to a chicken tractor for the first time. I used to two screw hooks drive into the wall that held the milk crate. It was off the ground by a few inches so that when I moved the coop they didn’t get hung up. They worked really well in general and I had the crates laying around.

Here is the only photo I have of them, when a black snake climbed into the box and starting eating eggs.

The one downside to these was the latticework because it collected grime and dust. Unlike the smooth simple surface of a bucket, it took more effort than it was worth to clean all those little nooks. I soon abandoned this nesting box to make sure I kept things sanitized.

Cement Mixing Tray Nesting Bin

cement mixing tray nesting box for chickens

hens and rooster in chicken tractorThis ended up being what I settled on for my nesting box solution, though if I had more wall space, I’d stick with 5-gallon buckets. I was walking around one of the big box hardware stores when I found these tubs, they’re a smooth plastic tub that’s all black, roughly 2 feet by 3 feet.

I liked that they are black and would hide any dinginess. The slick plastic was very easy to clean and the tub was pretty sturdy because it is intended for mixing concrete. It also was just enough space for up to 15-20 chickens in one tub, meaning I only had to go to one spot for all my eggs. It also had a thick rounded edge all around the container, which let my ladies hop up on the lip comfortably without any danger of cutting up their feet.

The tub was filled with hay and placed on the ground directly. Then when I pushed the tractor, the tub was so slick and light that it was pushed along without any problems.

Chicken Nesting Box Tips and General Advice

chicken nesting box tips

To sum things us, I wanted to finish with a few points that I wish I was told more directly when I first started. Chickens are the perfect homestead animal because they’re easy to take care of, they are fun to watch, and they make a lot of protein each day. They don’t require a lot of effort, they are very forgiving, and they give back so much.

Ryan’s Tips

  • Chickens aren’t that picky, so don’t over think things
  • Set yourself up for success by choosing the right breed
  • Make the nesting box easily accessible
  • Choose nesting boxes that easy to clean and cheap to replace
  • Make sure the hay stays dry and clean
  • Keep your nesting boxes out from under roosting bars

Hopefully that helps you wrap your head around making a nice home for your hens. You’ll enjoy keeping chickens and all the eggs-ellent benefits that come from the newest members of your homestead family.

Your Turn!

  • What tips do you have for raising chickens?
  • What do you use for your nesting boxes?

Getting Started With Chickens

Chickens are, as I like to put it, the gateway animal.  You start out with chickens and then all a sudden you have your eye on a few goals, a couple pigs and maybe even a mini Dexter cow.  I have had chickens several times through out my life and always loved having them around. Even years ago when I got my first chickens I made a lot of success very quickly and the entire process was a lot of fun.

starting with chickens

The nice thing about keeping chickens is they are quite easy to take care of, requires a few minutes a day to tend, in a pinch can be left for a long weekend and if you travel you can teach someone to take care of them quickly.  Of course as with any animal, owning chickens you need to take it seriously and make sure you understand that their welfare is your responsibility, so make sure to consider it carefully.

Know Your Local Laws

The first thing you need to do before you do anything is make sure that keeping chickens is allowed.  You’ll need to check with the local authorities, see if you have any rules in your home owners association or deed restrictions and then also consider your neighbors.

golden comet chicken In my city I’m allowed to have up to 50 birds per acre, the coop must be offset from any property line by 15 feet and obtain a permit for $10 a year.  Your city or town may be different, so make sure you do your homework!

Learn All You Can

Obviously if you’re reading this post, you want to learn about starting a chicken farm and it may even be because you’re thinking about getting chickens of your own (go for it!).  Use this post as a jumping off point to learn as much as you can about the various aspects of chickens.  You’re going to make mistakes and that is okay, we are learning, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re doing your best to care for these animals.

Get Setup Ahead Of Time

Once you’ve researched your local laws you want to get setup with some basic infrastructure.  You’re going to need a few things so you can be ready for your chickens.  You should consider the following

Brooder

If you’re going to raise chickens from freshly hatched babies (chicks) you will need what is called a brooder.  A brooder is like a nursery for the chicks where we protect them a little bit more, give them some added heat and let them grow a bit before you let them out into the real world.  I typically do this in a large Rubbermaid tub with a heat lamp and some bedding.

We have a whole post on how to set up a brooder and raise chicks. Below is a video I have of some baby quail I raised a few years ago from eggs. Their setup was a bit simpler, but you get the idea.

Build A Coop

A coop is just what we call the house we keep our chickens in at night.  During the day we will let them free range (go were ever they want) or let them into a run (a fenced area that provides some protection).  The coop needs to be about 2 square feet for each chicken you have.  Much more than 2-3 feet per bird assuming they have more room to range during the day doesn’t do much because they all like to pile on a roost and cuddle up with each other anyway.

chicken on roost in coopA roost is just a bar that chickens like to sit on, usually about a foot or so off the floor of the coop or ground.  I’ve had chickens that all piled onto a single bar leaving several empty and then I’ve had others that didn’t use them at all.  I usually add them because it seems like most chickens like to roost because it makes them feel a little safer.  The top most roost is often taken up by the alpha hen and the rooster if you have one, but some flocks don’t get too tied up in pecking order.

You want to make sure that there is at least some ventilation, but make sure it hardware cloth over it so predators can’t get in. The rule of thumb is around 1 square foot of ventilation per 10 square feet of coop.

The last parts of a coop are your nesting boxes for the chickens to lay their eggs in (usually one box per 3-4 birds) and some sort of bedding to catch droppings from.  Chickens put out a lot of droppings and they tend to concentrate under the roost bars.  However you plan to handle droppings, make it bomb proof because it can get messy quickly and if you build your coop to easily clean out, you can make your life a lot easier.  More on coops coming soon.

Chicken Tractors And Chicken Runs

Many people who want to get into raising chickens want to try a mobile chicken tractor, which is basically a coop with no bottom that you move to fresh grass every few days.  I’ve done both a fixed coop and chicken tractors and I think chicken tractors are my favorite because it cuts down on the cleaning (no floors, the chickens just poop on the grass) and it reduces the amount of feed I need to buy.

Here is my old chicken tractor:

chicken tractor

There are a few things you need to consider if you decide to go the chicken tractor.  Whatever coop you design it should be able to be moved easily by the smallest person in your household, it makes it difficult if only some of the people can actually move it each day.

Finally make sure you have enough room, if you have more than a few chickens you’ll need to move that coop most days so that the chickens do remove all the vegetation in that one spot to the point that it can’t bounce back.  You want the grass to get roughed up a bit, but no more.  This will let the grass bounce back and grow stronger.  Having enough space is easier in the summer months because things grow so quickly, but in the winter you may find that a spot where the chickens were takes 30-60 days to heal.

Life And Death On The Farmstead

With any animals it’s great to have animals around your yard, it can bring a lot of good energy, fun and happiness.  The other side of the coin is that with life comes the end of if.  Sometimes chickens get sick, sometimes a predator circumvents our fences, or they might just grow old and die.

hens and a rooster

For good caretakers these days are few and far between, but it is a reality of this lifestyle.  When I bought my first chicks I ended up with several roosters despite me trying to avoid it.  As they grew they began to struggle for dominance as the alpha rooster.  It was at that point I had tried giving them away, but couldn’t find anyone that would take them even for free.  As they fought I knew the only outcome was that there would be only one alpha and the rest would suffer injuries or death from the skirmishes that were taking place.

It was then I realized they would end up being pecked to death by the alpha rooster.  I wasn’t comfortable with a prolonged and painful death, so I made the decision to process them for meat.  It was a difficult and somber affair as I did the deed, and while I was resolved in my mind, it didn’t make it any easier as I placed them in the kill cone and nicked their artery with a knife.

Just understand that it’s mostly good, but there are a few bad days too.

Self Sufficiency

Not only is keeping chickens pretty easy and a lot of fun, but the eggs and potentially meat are a solid first step into self sufficiency.  If you think about it, we grow a lot of things in out garden and while they are loaded with nutrients, vitamins and minerals, they are often very low in calories or protein.  It’s great to eat healthy, but if we want to make our way to self sufficiency, we need to figure a way to cover our caloric and protein needs too and eggs help in that goal.

nutrition in a farm eggAs you can see an egg has some good calories and a fair bit of protein and you get an egg per chicken each day in many cases.  Compare that to a tomato which can take 90 days to grow and only has 22 calories.

Having a few eggs a day for breakfast or a quiche for lunch or dinner is a great way to start making up some of the calories that we need, which means we don’t have to rely on the grocery store as much.  Eggs can even be a way to make a few bucks to cover the cost of feed and if you ever need a chicken sitter, them keeping the eggs is often compensation enough.

Letting Chickens Work For You

my chickens in my gardenNot only are chickens a great source of food, but they can be helpful in reducing your work load.  Chickens by their nature scratch at the dirt, root for bugs and grubs, and till up the first inch of soil.  We can utilizing their natural tendencies to get things done in our gardens. Setting chickens loose on compost piles will be like letting a child loose in a candy shop.  They’ll turn the compost, peck out any grubs and bugs (breaking the pest life cycle) and add their manure to the pile all in one fell swoop.

I’ll often move my chickens to my garden area before I begin to prep the garden for a new season.  Since my garden area is fenced in for deer, I set them up there for a month and let them take everything to bare dirt.  If there are any perennial plants or plants I want to keep, I’ll just fence them off so the chickens can get to them.  After a few weeks the ground is often removed of weeds, bugs and a fair bit of manure has been scratched into the soil.

Chickens are a really great first step into bringing animals into the mix on your land and they have a lot of upsides.   So if you are thinking about chickens, check out some of the other post here on the site and let us know in the comments what your plans are!

Your Turn!

  • What seems like the biggest challenge for you when it comes to chickens?
  • What are your chicken plans?

 

How To Build A Chicken Coop

When you’re starting out with chickens you need to have a place to lock them up at night.  Building a chicken coop will be one of the first thing you need to do before you order your chicks or pick up some pullets (young hens).  I love how chickens just naturally gravitate to their little home when the sun starts to go down, roosting inside all on their own.

how to build a chicken coop for your chickens

The coop is an important part of your plan to keep your birds safe from predators that lurk in the night.  So we want it to be a sturdy structure that keeps the bad things out, the chickens in, provides a place for them to nest and lay their eggs.  First a few bits of terminology so you can get caught up to speed if you’re new.

  • Roost: a bar that chickens sit on and sleep on at night
  • Run: the fenced in area that chickens walk around during the day
  • Nesting Box: a separate area where hens sit to lay eggs in
  • Hardware Cloth: metal mesh that has very small openings
  • Bedding: saw dust, wood chips, hay or saw

So those are some of the basic terminology, now let’s get into some of the details.

The Coop

my chickens in my gardenYou can build the coop out of whatever building materials you have on hand or repurpose shelters to suit your needs.  When I built my coop I just went and bought a few sheets of plywood, created a box and sealed the entire inside.  Whatever you build it out of, the coop needs to be about 2 square feet of floor space for each chicken you have.  Much more than 2-3 feet per bird assuming they have more room to range during the day doesn’t do much because they all like to pile on a roost and cuddle up with each other anyway.

Height wise I usually build the coop so that I can easily clean it and room for at least 2 feet above the upper most roost.  If I have a lot of chickens I’ll make sure whatever it is, I can stand up straight if I need to go inside.

For the floors of my coop the biggest piece of advice is to make the inside as easy to clean as possible, really think ahead on this part.   I design mine so all the corners inside are not 90 degrees and no little nooks.  To do this I build my coop, then lay in a 2×2 cut at an angle so when I lay it in with glue all my corners are 45 degrees, which is much easier to clean.

Once I have my coop inside done I always sealed with a super heavy polyurethane. I coat every surface several times, making sure to soak it into the corners.  I put several layers on all surfaces then let it dry.  Next I focus on adding more layers to floor and the first foot of the walls.  You want a super thick layer of poly covering every inch of your floor and sealing every crevice and seam.

I let the whole thing dry and off gas for at least a few weeks.  If you build your coop before you even order your chicks, you’ll have a lot of time for all the fumes to escape by the time the chicks are grown up and ready to be put in the coop.

Roost Bars

chicken on roost in coopA roost is just a bar that chickens like to sit on, usually about a foot or so off the floor of the coop or ground.  I’ve had chickens that all piled onto a single bar leaving several empty and then I’ve had others that didn’t use them at all.  I usually add them because it seems like most chickens like to roost because it makes them feel a little safer.  The top most roost is often taken up by the alpha hen and the rooster if you have one, but some flocks don’t get too tied up in pecking order.

The roost bars can be branches cut from your woods or a 2×4.  You want your roost to be about 2 inches wide and not metal if you can help it.  You want a flat level surface around 2 inches wide because chickens like to sleep flat footed.  They can grip if they need to though.

Ventilation

Many first time coop builders forget that coops need to breath, even if you live in very cold climates.  This is because their droppings put off a lot of moisture and ammonia, so you want a way for that to vent well.  You want to make sure that there is at least some ventilation, but make sure it hardware cloth over it so predators can’t get in. The rule of thumb is around 1 square foot of ventilation per 10 square feet of floor space in the coop.

Nesting Boxes

You want one nesting box for every 3-4 hens you have.  All a nesting box needs to be is a small more enclosed area roughly 1 cubic foot in size with some hay on the bottom.  I’ve done everything from milk crates to 5 gallon buckets on their side.  Just make sure you can easily get into the nesting box to grab the eggs as they are laid and they you can clean them easily.

Make sure you can see well into your nesting boxes because sometimes you find things other than hens in them.  Here is a black snake that snuck into my nesting box.  The joke was on him though, that egg was a plastic egg that we were using to teach the hens to use the nesting box.

snake in nesting box

A Chicken Door

This door only has to be about a single square foot, maybe a foot and a half tall so that a single chicken can come and go into the coop.  The door should be able to be closed up tight at night with a lock that raccoons or other critters can open.  Some people build in a sliding door that operates on a motor with a special sensor that closes when the sun goes down.

golden comet chicken

When I did my permanent coop I had it so the chicken door opened directly into a fenced in chicken run.  The run was covered too and the whole thing tied into the coop itself so that I didn’t have to be there each night to lock the door.  Even if you have your coop in a protected run like I did, its still good to have a door because sometimes you want to shut them up in coop for you to clean things or if a predator is spotted.

A Light

Many people put lights for some heat in the colder months.  Unless you are in a very cold part of the world, I wouldn’t suggest this.  Experience has shown me that if you put a light in a coop and then one night it gets broken or burns out, you’ll end up loosing all your chickens.  I live in North Carolina and for many parts of the US I wouldn’t worry about it.  For colder parts of the US, I’d just build a bigger coop so you can keep them inside for a week if you have to when it’s super cold.  Chickens are pretty hearty.

lights in a coop

The last parts of a coop are your nesting boxes for the chickens to lay their eggs in (usually one box per 3-4 birds) and some sort of bedding to catch droppings from.  Chickens put out a lot of droppings and they tend to concentrate under the roost bars.  However you plan to handle droppings, make it bomb proof because it can get messy quickly and if you build your coop to easily clean out, you can make your life a lot easier.

Chicken Tractors

Many people who want to get into chickens want to try a mobile chicken tractor, which is basically a coop with no bottom that you move to fresh grass every few days.  I’ve done both a fixed coop and chicken tractors and I think chicken tractors are my favorite because it cuts down on the cleaning (no floors, the chickens just poop on the grass) and it reduces the amount of feed I need to buy.

Here is my old chicken tractor:

chicken tractor

There are a few things you need to consider if you decide to go the chicken tractor.  Whatever coop you design it should be able to be moved easily by the smallest person in your household, it makes it difficult if only some of the people can actually move it each day.  As you can see above there are wheels on this tractor, I later switched them to larger wheels because some of the bumps and lumps in the grass would catch the edge of the coop or the wheels.

Consider where you’re going to store feed and how you’ll get water to them.  Where is the closet storage spot?  Where is the closet spigot and will your hose reach to the far corner of the yard?hens and a rooster

Finally make sure you have enough room, if you have more than a few chickens you’ll need to move that coop most days so that the chickens do remove all the vegetation in that one spot to the point that it can’t bounce back.  You want the grass to get roughed up a bit, but no more.  This will let the grass bounce back and grow stronger.  Having enough space is easier in the summer months because things grow so quickly, but in the winter you may find that a spot where the chickens were takes 30-60 days to heal.

Waters

There are three main types of water devices for chickens: Bell, nipple and standard waterer/fountain.  Larger operations tend to use the bell style, I don’t have much experience with those.  The older style of waterer or fountains work pretty well, but I’ve found they get dirty pretty easily.  That leaves my favorite type of waterer which is the nipple style.

chicken waterers

These are just a little valve with a shinny metal tab sticking out that the chickens peck at to get water.  Sometimes you need to show your chickens how to use them, I just take one or two of them and hold it right in front of the nipple.  Basically chickens see something shinny, peck at it and get wet.  Eventually they figure it out and the rest of the flock follows suit.

The nipples are cheap and can be installed into a 5 gallon bucket or into a run of pvc pipe.  This means I can do long runs of these that are tied into a water system so I can set it up for several days of water without any extra work.  An important side note is that you can’t uses these on chicks.

Feeders

There are several types of these, I still haven’t found a favorite type, so let me know what has worked for you in the comments.  I am looking for something that will feed the chickens easily for a few days automatically.  Right now the best option is a vertical PVC pipe about 6″ wide with a opening cut at the bottom.

So that’s some of the key things you need to work into your design when you build your own coop.  Let me know what you plan to do for yours in the comments!

Your Turn!

  • What kind of coop do you hope to build?
  • What tricks have you learned?