homestead

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Best Dual-Purpose Chicken Breeds

When we committed to raising chicks for our homestead, we decided we wanted birds that could not only produce eggs, but supply meat as needed. Many chicken breeds are egg-cellent for laying (yep, I went there) and others are great for meat, but which breeds should you rely on if you want the best of both worlds? Here are four of our top-picks for best dual-purpose birds for the homestead:

1. Australorp

Laying around 250 eggs a year, the Australorp is a reliable laying breed that holds its own against the most prolific of layers. Roosters grow to approximately 8.5 pounds while hens generally reach 6.5 pounds, and because they grow reasonably quickly, they are an ideal choice for meat as well.

2. Rhode Island Red

The Rhode Island Red has developed a great reputation as a homestead bird. Though there is speculation as to how many eggs to expect per year, you’ll find that they generally fall somewhere between 200 and 300 eggs. Similar to the Australorp, Rhode Island Red males weigh in at about 8.5 pounds and females will top out at around 6.5.

3. Plymouth Rock

Coming in at third on our list is the popular Plymouth Rock which can lay around 200-250 eggs annually. In addition to being a great layer, hens will reach a reasonable weight of approximately 7.5 pounds. Better yet, roosters can grow to a healthy 9.5 pounds. The Plymouth Rock is a classic dual-purpose breed. 

4. Orpington

While Orpingtons are more modest layers compared to our other dual-purpose favorites, their yearly egg production isn’t mediocre by any means. They lay between 175 and 200 eggs per year, and a few dozen eggs is a small price to pay when you consider that a female Orpington can reach an impressive 8 pounds. If that’s not convincing enough, an adult rooster can weigh in at 10 pounds. 

There are several other breeds out there worth considering, but these are four of the best dual-purpose chickens and also the breeds that we chose for our own homestead. If you have any other questions or thoughts, please let us know in the comment section below.

Want to know more about these and other chicken breeds? Check out this handy reference guide from The Livestock Conservancy:

 https://livestockconservancy.org/images/uploads/docs/pickachicken.pdf

What is Homesteading?

While the definition of homesteading has changed over the years, homesteading today is, at its core, a lifestyle of self-sufficiency. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines self-sufficiency as the quality or state of being self-sufficient. More specifically, to be self-sufficient is defined as [being] able to maintain oneself or itself without outside aid.

Homesteading is encompassed by a variety of skills which enable a family to live with limited assistance from the outside world. That being said, there is not one proper way to commit to homesteading. While the resulting goal is generally the same, you’ll find that many people who claim this lifestyle have differing ideas of what it means to them. Their objectives could entail one or more of the following:

  1. Growing vegetables and fruits
  2. Raising animals for meat, dairy, eggs, etc.
  3. Preserving food by canning, dehydrating, curing, smoking, etc.
  4. Producing electricity by means of solar, wind or water
  5. Building shelters
  6. Collecting rain water
  7. Hunting and foraging
  8. Making clothing or supplies
  9. Storing food or other necessities
  10. …And much more!

Why commit to this lifestyle?

1. Emergency Preparedness

What would you do if these displays were empty?

Life in society as we know it today might not be sustainable under certain conditions. Many families would lack proper knowledge of how to care for themselves outside of the current model of living. Unexpected events can leave us without access to things and places we are accustomed to having at our disposal. Even if you aren’t facing a societal crisis, a personal emergency can come up at any time. Having extra supplies and food on hand can make all the difference.

Here are some scenarios to consider:

  • Natural Disasters
  • Unemployment
  • Power Outage
  • Medical Emergency
  • Vehicle Trouble
  • Violent Crime
  • Terrorist Attacks

In an ideal world you would never be forced to experience such a thing, but our world and our lives are imperfect and the best you can do is to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

2. Financial Security

What if you didn’t have to worry about affording groceries each week?

Admittedly, you aren’t going to start saving money overnight. In fact, the initial cost of starting up a homestead can seem burdensome at the time, but you need to consider the rewards that you reap after you sow the seeds. Ultimately, you will reduce your need to spend outside of the home to maintain your lifestyle. The tasks that you decide you are capable and willing to undertake will determine how much you rely on external sources. If you have a surplus of certain items, such as produce or eggs, you can also generate income. The more you are willing to commit to, the more control you have over your situation, which will likely allow you to feel more ease and less stress about your financial situation. 

3. Health

Food plays a significant role in your overall health.

Generally speaking, if you are in control of your food, you are in control of your health. There are exceptions to that rule, but healthy dietary habits can be a crucial step in paving the way to a healthy life. One important thing to consider is what is in the food you are eating. What better way to stay familiar with your food than to grow or raise it yourself? By growing your own food you can avoid:

  • Questionable herbicides and pesticides
  • Added hormones and antibiotics
  • Foods stripped of nutrients with artificial vitamins added
  • Excessive amounts of sodium and sugar 
  • Dangerous bacteria exposure

Additionally, you get the health benefits of being outdoors, such as the production of vitamin D. A 2010 Harvard Health Letter highlights the reasons why time outdoors can be good for the human body.

You may or may not be convinced that homesteading is the right choice for you. Maybe you do have an interest in such a lifestyle but don’t know where or how to start. Just remember that progress is progress, no matter how small (definitely not a “Horton Hears a Who” reference).