Changing Breeds to Suite Your Own Homestead.

Commercial production hatcheries from which we order are far removed from a working homestead. They are supporting a broad area with people who want a few chickens for eggs or meat and do not want to be lost in the details. They supply commercial operations. Your local nursery sells plants that meet a wide five state area because that is who their suppliers source to. Neither the hatchery or the nursery sell you necessarily something that works best in your garden. It’s why my head has started to shake back and forth with confusion at why we are not doing our own breeding. That includes me.

As I zero in on what I need to create a permaculture homestead to a measure, I realize commercial operations can’t meet our needs. They produce chickens that meet commercial operations and require heavy input of commercial feeds, and medication. You can add the need to order more chicks unless you incubate eggs from your flock since many breeds have broodiness bred out of them in favor of higher production rates. Foraging genes ceased to be needed by most except those of us with true free range birds.

In a short number of years Kirk and will enter a season of our lives where our income will be fixed. Our country and most others have a debt driven economy that history tells us can’t be sustained for long. The realization that we too aren’t in a good position to sustain ourselves has left me thinking deeply how to change.

So I have begun to ask myself:

  • What are our barest essential needs?

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We raised Nubians for 10 years before switching back to Saanens. It was like we came home. Saanens just suite us and Saanens bred and raised by one particular family specifically. Good conformation; sweet, calm personalities; winter hardy; and produce lots of milk is what we are after. 2 does and a buck is all we need. Without going into detail, we’ve learned in our situation bottle feeding for two months is best. Two excellent does with a buck and selling the offspring, unless we get an exceptional doeling born, is our need with rotating through of bucks. To create a breeding program of the quality I’d desire would require artificial insemination or a larger herd with multiple does and bucks. Plus more knowledge than I presently possess.  Distance to this friend who does such a good job is too far to take the does to her to be bred. So this is the best solution I can come up with.

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Chickens are a different story. We need large chickens that have a calm sweet personality, gain weight quickly and are large in stature, don’t wander far, lay early and long, forage well, good conformation, broody and good mothers, and are winter hardy. No one commercial breed we’ve found fits all our requirements so we’ve decided to create our own chicken breed, for our very own permaculture. Wouldn’t that be awesome if all around the country there were chickens bred to meet their specific local? We are slowly getting meeting our needs. Just like my grandfather did many years ago with his beans. He bred then selected the offspring that best fit his criteria and did so over and over until he had what he desired.

Your needs may not be mine for you may need a chicken that roosts in the trees at night. There are those that do. Here they’d freeze to death. Or maybe chickens aren’t for you and ducks would work better.

If someone is raising heritage breeds just to keep them going then they are doing a disservice in my opinion. There needs to be a need for their traits and someone who knows how to bring the best gene traits out and sustain them for the future. Soft hearts alone won’t do it.

Since heritage breeds are after all a conglomerate of other breeds created to meet the needs of an area and in particular a particular person, then should it not behoove us to follow suite?

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We love Painted Mountain corn which has genetics that go back to 70 different corn species. How grateful I am that someone did not stick to the same oh same oh in order to just keep it going. Instead I have a hardy corn for corn meal that I can depend on in a climate that makes corn growing a huge challenge.

Even the same breed has variances. One gentleman got different results from three different sources of Jacob’s Cattle beans. Select what works best for you and perpetuate that, improve on it. Just as we have found in the knife business that one man will swear a larger knife makes a better skinner, another will swear a smaller size works best. We seek ideas from each other but as each of us is different and our resources and land we reside on is different, so should our solutions be.

As our debt driven society falters, where will you be? Can you sustain your lifestyle? If there is less medicine, less feed from commercial sources, and little to no chick sources what will you do? If seeds aren’t readily available, what will you do?

I’ve begun to question:

  • How can we do more with what we have?

Time, energy, and money is short so how can I do things far better than I am now. This self-sufficiency is costing us too much money.  Shouldn’t we too be producing and creating food that is more self-sustaining and better meets our own needs? Isn’t there more we can do with what we have? I’ve spent too much money in an attempt to become self-sustaining. It is time to face facts. We are spending money, not saving it. To get out of debt requires us to change direction a bit. I’ve given it a great deal of thought and study. My ideas might surprise you, I’m surprised I hadn’t thought of it before.

What are your thoughts?

8 thoughts on “Changing Breeds to Suite Your Own Homestead.

  1. Do you plan on doing a post about how you select and breed your perfect chicken? I would like to have chickens in the future (hopefully my town will be changing the law to allow them soon) but I don’t know much about the various breeds, especially for a cold climate…

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    1. Sure, I’d be glad to expound on my rather clumsy program and a little on how one can do it in a more professional manner. In fact I’ve got three separate programs that have sprung to mind as I write this reply. Thanks for the spur for a new blog post. I imagine a three programs for the larger flock, the small one like mine, and a even smaller one that suites the city. And yes another blog for what I look for in a cold weather bird.

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  2. Valerie

    I often wonder how to make us more self sustaining. Unfortunately I don’t already know enough about breeding animals or plants to produce the best for our situation. I don’t know if we have enough time to learn it all. And I worry that resources will be short when we need them. Depending on how the future plays out, will we be able to source animals to keep from inbreeding too much. If we have a couple of bad years growing food, will we be able to source new seed for future growing. We are pretty isolated where we are and depending on what scenario plays out, I don’t know if we will be able to reach other people to source what we may need. We are doing the best we can to plan for as much as possible. We realize we can’t plan for everything. But we are trying.

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    1. I want to thank you for your prayers. This life is not easy but it is quite an education. I have learned that my greatest lack is time at the moment and we are spending too much money on self-sufficiency. So I’m taking a whole new look at the problem. I’ve got some exciting ideas that I’ve gleamed over the holidays from a couple books I felt impressed to buy and will share my thoughts and findings. I will also share my plans on breeding and what I’ve discovered over the years with a few experiments. I love it when you steer me in directions of needs. This happens to also be my need so as I expound on the subject I will share. Thanks again for writing.

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      1. Valerie

        Would love to see a post on your favorite/most useful books. I have some but am always looking to see what books others have found useful.

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