It is possible to keep some animals before you've gotten all your building projects completed. After all, it could take years. But remember to keep permanency in mind, by practising some limitations too.
Black Pekin pullets - 2008
I personally didn't need to keep as many heritage breeds as I did, in the first few years. It was a wonderful experience, and I learned a lot about different breed traits. However (ironically) in the end, I realised I just wanted a healthy chicken, which could provide eggs.
Now I just keep layers of mixed variety. ISA Browns, to be specific, but we plan to keep a rooster and breed our own, Gully Grove variety. Which will simply comprise of whatever rooster we can get for free. We recently acquired one, which is part ISA Brown and part Leghorn. He's a lovely fellow. We'll keep one coop, several layers and one rooster at a time.
Bantam Orpingtons (blue rooster, black pullets) - 2009
I recommend this is how you should start with chickens on property, if you need to practice economic restraint. Attempt to find whatever chickens are available for as little cost as possible (free in some cases) in your area. As long as you can acquire a rooster, then you can incubate the subsequent eggs. That's if you don't have a broody hen, to incubate the eggs and do the rearing for you.
This simple set-up means you don't have to keep buying new hens, for reliable egg supply. You can breed your own - year in, year out. It's a wonderful way to introduce yourself (and any children) to keeping chickens too.
Limiting yourself from the beginning, ensures what you start with, has a better chance of succeeding. Or, if you discover you don't like keeping chickens, you haven't spent a great deal of money, to learn that lesson.
Lavender Araucana rooster - 2009
The question of whether to build a permanent chicken coop, or mobile chicken tractor, can only be answered by what your land (and you) can provide. There were reasons we went with permanent coops, rather than the tractors, and everyone's reasons will vary.
I would however, recommend a permanent coop, if you don't have the time to move a mobile tractor around. After all, that is the key part of their design to keep chickens healthy, happy and productive. Or if, like us, you don't have enough flat land to run them on, a permanent coop is better suited.
Newly constructed chicken tractor - 2008
Chicken tractors are more economical on building supplies, plus they allow chickens to be moved to fresh food. Which can ultimately, reduce the cost of feed you have to purchase. If you're just starting out and can use mobile tractors, it makes more financial sense to do so.
If a permanent coop suits your situation better however, you can reduce costs of building one, by searching for second hand materials, online, or at garage sales. You can even reuse wooden shipping pallets. These are often given away for free, by businesses who would otherwise have to pay to have them carted away. Heck, I even reused an old cot, in my first permanent chicken coop.
Recycled, wooden babies cot - 2008
Of all the livestock you can keep, chickens are probably the easiest. But they're also the most prone to predators. So whatever accommodations you make, ensure they are offered as much protection as possible.
I have no experience with keeping larger livestock, such as goats, sheep, pigs or cattle. Simply because most of our energies and resources, have been spent, creating flat land. If you have the land though, and can dedicate some resources to keeping larger livestock - the same practice of limitations apply.
Gold Lace Wyandotte pullet - 2009
Start by setting up a few animals, successfully, at first. Be conservative with building accommodations, but also make sure it's secure. Any design, which can incorporate free feed options, should be considered too. Even with a permanent coop, we have found pigeon peas to be an excellent, no hassle, free feed, for our chickens. So we incorporate them around our chicken coops and gardens. If you don't have the climate for pigeon peas, try growing easy greens instead.
Free feed can also be found, by giving chickens: garden weeds, fruit 'n veg past their prime, including the offcuts and their seeds. Even your leftover dinner scraps will do. Clean a roasting tray of fat, by using a piece of bread instead of kitchen towels, and give it to your chickens. They will love it. Ours do.
Barnevelder pullet - 2009
By placing most of your effort on being conservative with your resources though, it will be an easier venture to manage over the life of it. Being enthusiastic about keeping livestock is great. Just avoid creating such an enormous chore, it starts taking away most of your time and resources. Especially, as you will be busy setting up, other aspects of your property.
So with that in mind, keep the numbers of animals, in check too. Make sure its only what you can afford to keep, and what you can realistically manage. Otherwise it could become a wasted venture, in the end. Only succeeding at delaying you, from reaching the goal of permanency.
Black Australorp Rooster - 2012
Don't be surprised if (like us) you have to reassess what you're doing, and change things to suit your circumstances. You haven't failed at keeping animals. The compass is set to keeping the land viable, under your tenure, is all. Only you can give yourself, the flexibility to achieve that.
While I've enjoyed sharing some photos of my old Heritage Breeds, in this post, don't be tempted to think, I got my money's worth. Not as it turned out. Because as gorgeous as all those birds were (I loved each and every one) at the end of the day, it was easier to just go with whatever bird was affordable, and preferably (in the case of roosters) free. Because it's only over time and compounded effort, the real cost is accounted for.
ISA Brown x Leghorn cockerel - 2016
17 weeks old (free)
My hat goes off, to anyone who does dedicate their time to breeding heritage chickens, however. There's nothing wrong with that vocation, if you're set up for it. We had a lot more work, it turned out, setting up our property from scratch, than I initially anticipated. Which is why I eventually went with, whatever was the most cost effective approach.
There is no, good - bad equation to keeping chickens. Heritage Breeds. Cross Breeds. Or any other livestock, for that matter. Just remember to put what works for the land (and your efforts, setting up) first. Because that is what will keep the wheels of your entire venture, running, well into the future.
For one final bit of inspiration, I wanted to share a short 3 minute video, demonstrating a chicken coop, being made from pallets. It showcases what is possible with cheap (often free) materials. Or you can visit their website for more detailed information. All freely shared.