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In 2016, my homesteading journey began like many others, with a trip to the local Tractor Supply Co. and a small box of six chicks. This was not my first experience with chickens, but my first as the responsible “adult owner”. This also began my families first year in 4-H showing a Rhode Island Red and a utility breed hen, from these first six chicks. It was the same fair season, that I also acquired our first rabbit and two goats.
The six chicks we brought home in 2016 grew up to be five hens and one rooster. This small flock was comprised of two sex linked Rhode Island Red and Rhode Island Whites, one utility or mixed breed that somewhat resembled a Brahma, one Rhode Island White, and two full Rhode Island Reds (of which one was the rooster.) We didn’t know this much and didn’t even bother to check the breeds at the time of purchase, we just wanted to bring home some adorable chicks and enjoy the experience.
Today, I have fourteen hens and two roosters. My daughter, Emily has shown four hens and a rooster at the local fair. And after a successful year of winning Best Overall Grand Champion with a beautiful Barred Rock, she is eager to show again in the coming year.
In addition to the Barred Rocks, we have also acquired a Black Star Australorp and three Silver Laced Wyandottes. We are studying each breed with our 4-H involvement and learning about the health and care of chickens in general. We do not breed or raise meat chickens, ours are all egg layers and they lay beautiful, large, brown eggs.
We do raise meat rabbits, however. Also in 2016, Emily convinced my husband to bring home a fair rabbit. Deci is a large Rex, a common breed of rabbits. The Rex are well known for their fur. They are the softest of all the breeds and don’t require grooming like some other rabbit breeds. Because they are a large breed, they are also commonly used for meat. At the time my daughter picked her, we knew very little about rabbits and purchased her based on her cuteness factor.
It was an easy decision to include Deci in Emily’s list of 4-H projects. However, we didn’t realize that we had missed an opportunity to earn money with 4-H projects. It was while Emily was showing Deci with the other rabbits that we overheard other 4-H members bragging that their rabbits earned them well over $400 for three (>10 lb) market or “meat” rabbits.
The decision to show market animals is much more difficult to make than picking pets based on cuteness. My husband, Josh and I discussed all the different outcomes before we discussed it with our kids. Emily and her younger brother, Owen both agreed to show in the end. While there is a great deal of money that can be made, it is not easy work and even worse is knowing that your time spent with these animals has an expiration date.
My favorite animals that are part of our small homestead are my goats. I have two Nigerian Dwarf does. Along with the other animals we acquired after just one season at our local fair, I purchased these twin sisters from a small goat farm located just 40 miles from my own. Their names are Biscuit and Honey, and they are my main motivation for heading outside in any weather condition, at any time of day or night.
Nigerian Dwarf goats are shorter than most goat breeds. They are comparable to Pygmy goats, but are still registered as dairy goats with the American Dairy Goat Association. This basically means when showing them, they are in competition with normal sized breeds with much larger utters with much higher milk production. They hardly stand any chance at all of winning. However, that means little in my county because the other 4-H members mostly own and show Nigerians. as well.
We intend to grow our goat herd this season. As we head into 2019, we look forward to both Biscuit and Honey having kids of their own, for the first time. Also, Owen has put in a request to add at least one Nubian. Because larger goats breed in the fall and have babies in the spring, we expect to acquire our Nubian kid in the next few months.
Chickens, rabbits, and goats make up the livestock that can be found here at Fifth Talent Farm and Upholstery. Also as part of this homesteading journey, I decided to grow my sewing skills and branch out into upholstery. Most of the projects I’ve attempted began with my desire to improve the look of my home or just to keep an old chair from meeting it’s end at the local dump. Either way, it’s been good for me and the environment.
I hope you enjoyed this post and choose to follow my future posts. Thank you and happy reading.