When we decided we wanted to embark on the farm-y/homestead lifestyle, we didn’t actually have the intention of “farming”. If anything, we wanted a few chickens for fresh eggs, guineas for tick control, and maybe a horse or two (someday). We already lived in the country with ample space to meet the needs of having such animals, it was really just a matter of taking the leap of faith.
We took the leap of faith very spur of the moment, literal hours before the world shut down in 2020.
We fumbled our way through establishing the infrastructure, learning what to feed, how to feed, how to provide medicine if needed, daily practices that keep your animals happy, so on and so forth.
For your sake, I hope to provide a few steps to ease your transition if you are thinking of starting to live this lifestyle as well. I aim to ease any anxiety you may have about “is this even possible for my family” as well as give you a good starting point.
I get questions on Instagram all the time about how we do it and where to start. So, start here.
1. Identify your “why”.
Whether you want a hobby farm, a homestead, or a profitable way of living, it is very important to understand where your heart is and what your intention is with this lifestyle. If all you want is to enjoy a few chickens roaming on your little plot of land, then it would not be ideal to purchase 30 laying hens and a rooster leaving you overwhelmed with care, food costs, and eggs that you don’t know what to do with.
For us, we wanted to reduce the demand on mainstream markets and improve our self-sustainability. Let’s be honest, 2020 was looking like a major poop show and great time to learn a skill or two.
2. Make a list of what animals interest you and could be accommodated where you live.
For some, animals outside of dogs or cats interest them none. And that is perfectly okay! Maybe you’re someone who is more interested in the garden aspect of having a farm/homestead/hobby. I have tips for your too, friend! However, first you should identify if you want animals and then do. your. research. on those animals. Chickens are, in my opinion, the lowest maintenance farm animal you can have. Not to mention, they benefit your family daily with egg production, pest elimination, and (in our case) ticks.
3. Survey your land for infrastructure.
Give some thought to where you want your garden, chicken coop, chicken tractor, or fenced in pen for your animals. I would not recommend putting the cart before the horse. Like we did. That’s why I’m writing this post! We bought 12 chickens, on a whim, and then had to impulse buy all of our brooder materials which they stayed in while we rushed to build a coop over the following 6-10 weeks.
I remember standing in the isle googling “what do chickens need”, “what do baby chicks need”, “what to feed baby chicks” and just grabbing as we went.
I didn’t have a clue where I wanted a chicken coop or if I wanted a stationary coop vs. tractor. All I knew was we had space that looked like it could be accommodating under the right circumstances so we rolled with the punches.
4. Establish your infrastructure.
Whether you need to consider budgeting costs for supplies, spend time building/buying your infrastructure, or simply time to gather supplies–DO THAT before bringing home any living being. Your life will be much less stressful.
The same goes for gardening. Plow your plot, build your raised beds, or start your pots BEFORE crunch time to plant things in the ground.
One of the hardest things about this last gardening season was we were trying to finish establishing all of our infrastructure for the 5,000 sq. ft. canning garden all while it was time to be adding compost and transplanting seedlings. This left us unprepared and almost burnt out with the work load.
5. START SMALL
I cannot emphasize this tip enough. With regards to level of experience, it is important to avoid “biting off more than you can chew”! One of the best decisions we could have ever made when starting this journey was starting small.
We started with 12 chickens. That was it. It was enough to get our feet wet, understand the workload, get in a routine of feeding them or letting them out each morning (rain or shine), being home at a decent hour to put them back in the coop, and budgeting for resources such as feed.
I truly believe it’s because we weren’t initially overwhelmed that we were always excited and eager to continue to grow our flock and animal options.
After a year of learning the ropes, we now have about 24 chickens and an established “customer” base of people who love farm fresh eggs all while supplying our needs as well.
6. Engage in local support groups.
Google is nice and all, but having someone or a group of people you can call in an emergency for advice can be the difference between good and bad outcomes for your situation.
7. Go for it.
Stop over-thinking it. Stop making excuses. Dive head first. If you are passionate about it and put in the time and effort, you may find that it fits so well with all of your goals and desires. You may fumble around aimlessly at first, regardless of my advice. Though eventually the dust will settle and you will realize it was maybe the best decision you’ve ever made.
There hasn’t been a day where we’ve regretting embarking on this journey. I’m not even sure there’s been a day where we’ve felt so overwhelmed and in over our heads. So far, it’s been healing and so enjoyable.