The obvious first choice for fresh eggs and poultry on a small homestead is chickens, and they are popular, easy to care for, and fun to watch, but they are not alone in the choices for great homestead birds. There are several other fantastic fowl species to consider that will provide more variety and lots of enjoyable antics. This article will highlight three of the more common, yet often overlooked homestead birds that offer excellent eggs, delicious meat, and great bug control. Some are even excellent “watch dogs” for your property.
Ducks: Water Features and Wild Fun
These delightful creatures do not get their fair shake as a homestead bird. They provide delicious dark meat that is juicy and full of flavor. Besides the meat, many species of duck are also great egg layers, and their eggs are just as delicious as chicken eggs and can be used in almost any of the same recipes.
Ducks do have one small requirement that chickens do not, which is why so many people shy away from owning them—a pond. However, that is a misleading concept for many. You do not have to have a big sprawling lake for your backyard ducks. In fact, a small child’s wading pool will suffice in giving them the joy of sitting in a “pond” of water.
That’s not to say a deeper, bigger pond isn’t more fun for both them and you. If you have the room to put in a pond that is several feet across and a couple feet deep, you’ll get a show you will want to watch for hours as they swim about and dive under looking for treats (real or imaginary), and there’s nothing cuter than a little family of baby ducks swimming along after momma in a pond that has beautiful landscaping all around it. None of that is absolutely necessary, however, in order to keep your ducks happy.
On the plus side, ducks tend to be much sturdier than chickens and subject to fewer diseases. On the downside, they are a bit more of a struggle to butcher than a chicken. The same plucking is required, but there are those aggravating down feathers that simply are impervious to a hot water bath. There are tricks to getting the down off, and once you master the skill, you will be delighted by the delicious dinners ducks can provide your family with.
Geese: Watchdog and Provider
Geese are large birds with a lot of personality. There are many species that make great homestead additions and will give you eggs and meat like no other. Their territorial instincts make them great protectors of the property as well. While they are not typically capable of causing serious injury, a goose on the chase is an intimidating creature. Mostly, however, they learn to really love their owners and will waddle around after them providing a display of affection and impressive beauty. Some of the larger geese can weigh in at up to twenty-five pounds, but they eat a lot less than chickens per pound. They are also great weeders and will rid your yard of nasty pests of the bug variety too.
Geese kept just for eggs and companionship can live for up to twenty years and will produce eggs and young for much of that time. They are extremely hardy and have few diseases. Much of the reason for the hardiness of ducks and geese is that they are a wilder species that has not been bred into the many domestic varieties you find in chickens.
Like ducks, geese also love water and will delight you with many hours of swimming and diving antics if given access to a pond or even small pool. However, unlike ducks, a swimming area is not necessary for geese to be happy. All they really need is good food and fresh drinking water to live a happy and long life.
Guineas: Exotic Beauty and Delicious Produce
If you want a truly unique addition to your homestead flock, consider the colorful and exotic-looking guinea. With an appearance resembling a peacock without the long tail plumes and head cockles, the guinea is a small, colorful addition. Guineas have a delightful habit that often provides their owners with hours of amusement—they love to roost in trees or high rafters in a barn or shed.
Guineas also have an unusual vocalization that will startle friends and alert you to any strangers on the property. The guinea’s biggest attraction is their fantastic pest control properties. They will gleefully take care of any garden bug problems you might have and look great doing it. Guineas are also wonderful egg producers and great parents. They mate for life and are fiercely devoted to their partners. Guineas also learn to distinguish their human caretakers from strangers and become attached to their owners.
Like with chickens, any homestead bird additions should only be considered after checking with your local zoning board. However, if you are zoned in an area that allows chickens, you are most likely safe to consider any of the wonderful homestead bird additions to broaden your flock and liven up your lives.
©2011 Off the Grid News