Chickens… With Benefits

To say I’m passionate about chickens, conjures up images of sharing my lunch and giving each a suitable name. Heck, I can’t even tell them apart! They are all brown. They all look the same. I do what I need to do to feel like a good keeper of My Girls, and in turn, they are happy and they each produce an egg a day… and other benefits.

Though we have 10 acres and are referred to as a farm, this is more akin to backyard chickens than farmingWe… well Bob reminds me…  I  have 10 chickens. We raised 25 chicks and split the batch with Bob’s sister. We started with 13, that had the ‘free run’ of the yard, so to speak, but you can see where this is going. Once a very brazen coyote who had clearly now had the taste for chicken, came right onto the lawn to pursue the rest, the chickens were sent straight to the run. Permanently.

Well that and the chicken poop on the porch was getting old.

I miss them in the yard. (I had to actually grieve the loss of the visiting flock and for awhile couldn’t look them in the eye.) They did a great job of prepping the beds and the garden this Spring. They loosen the dirt and dig up weeds as they forage and eat unwanted bugs off the base of the fruit trees. They create dirt baths in the sun, loosening the soil, and don’t seem interested in the real plants. As long as you’re not too particular, they really are helpful.

Isa Browns are super sociable, so as we redid some areas of the yard, they were right beside us, I mean under the shovel before it was fully lifted, grabbing the worms that we unearthed. We really got a kick out of doing the Spring prep together. We often found them perching and preening on our Adirondacks, where we had our morning coffee.

Again, that got old.

Back to the run… it’s not to be confused with the coop which requires weekly cleaning. That’s gross. They roost, sleep and poop in there. I recently made manure tea but that’s another story.  The run is open air, covered and fenced and about, I dunno… 10 x 20? I’d been putting off cleaning the run because, well, it fits in the cleaning category, frankly. The fact that I’m allergic to dust, mold and grass doesn’t help in the purging of such things. Also, it’s short, I’m not.

It helps that the girls are so thorough in their foraging (I use the term loosely, as we hand feed them at least 2 boxes of beautiful produce scraps from the local grocer, daily. I mean I’ve been to worse salad bars!) And did you know that 10 chickens will demolish 2 large boxes of produce in a day!  In fact, they’ll make short order of all the kale, lettuce, cabbage leaves in a few hours. It’s really quite astonishing. And contrary to Pintrest and other reliable sources, mine do eat citrus and onions, but I suspect it doesn’t help the flavour of the yoke. We keep those to a minimum. They don’t care for celery, especially the heart, but who does?  So smart.

Apparently, chickens get bored and that’s why they get themselves into trouble- pecking and outing each other from the group (more material there) so they say it’s important to set up an entertaining environment. I have my doubts, I mean, have you seen the size of their heads/ brains? Anyway, I go along. Bob built varying heights of roosts, and hay bales and since the cabbage worms got my kale, I pulled out kale plants and hung them on the fence for them to reach for both kale and worm. Very much a win/ win for them and me, not the worms. Fallen apples, pears and plums go in this cylinder thing I made out of fencing and they have to work it. It’s all very… enriching, I’m sure.

Think this chicken keeping appeases the maternal, the life-long learning quota and the sharing aspects of me. And besides, they provide endless writing fodder…. More on that to come.

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