Of all the things we do on the “farm” – the one that seems to receive the most attention from everyone are our chickens.
The chickens were the first ever true residents of the farm – heading out in the early Spring of 2011 at the tender age of 8 weeks to their newly built home we call “The Coop”. We built The Coop on the cheap from recycled shipping crates and pallets. We then added some protective measures like welded fence wire to the bottom to keep out raccoons – and cemented in fence wire to their attached outdoor fence run to keep the raccoons, coyote and other prey from digging under and getting to them. We had heard so many horror stories from other friends and farmers who keep chickens – so we took a little extra care in securing the coop. So far - we have been fortunate enough to keep all of ours accounted for.
We have nine chickens (all hens) in all, led by Big Mamma – our 10 pound + hen who is to say the least a little “weight challenged”. She happily shares “The Coop” with the other 8: Amelia, Comet, Curious George, Co-Pilot, Digger, Foghorn, Goldie and Sherwin Williams (named for her love of pecking at paint).
They produce on average about 8 to 9 eggs every single day. We certainly don’t raise them as a revenue source – however the 5 to 6 dozen we get each week is more than enough to keep us in fresh farm eggs. So we sell the extra’s for $2/dozen to an ever growing list of farm fresh egg lovers. It’s been a win-win for us – as it covers all of our feed and straw costs – and there is usually enough money left over for a pizza or two. It’s amazing how quick a simple posting on Facebook can clear out our holding fridge of extra eggs.
When we first started out at the farm – we gave the chickens the run of the place during the day. However, as landscaping and the garden grew -so did their ability to destroy the mulch and beds. So earlier this year, we opted to enclose a 250 foot area with temporary chicken wire fencing that lets them roam during the day, and keeps our garden and landscape plants safe from their curiosity. We move the fencing every 3 or 4 weeks to give them a new area to explore. As the garden comes to a close later this summer – we will move the temporary fencing around it and let them go to town. They do wonders with the garden area- consuming hundreds if not thousands of bugs, weeds and weed seeds – all the while leaving “natural” fertilizer behind to help improve the soil for next year.
We will be performing a little remodeling on “The Coop” in the coming months – all in the name of creating a match to the barn. We will be adding a 30″ high corrugated knee wall to the coop, and a miniature version of one of our pergolas to their “back porch” area that will give them some extra shade -all done of course to match the barn
Chickens really are so very simple to keep and care for. They require very little effort – and if you give them a safe home, water, feed and a little space to roam – they provide countless benefits to your home and garden. Not even counting the incredible eggs they produce, they keep insect and bug populations at bay, and provide a great source of natural fertilizer for our garden and compost pile.
We plan on adding another 6 to 9 chicks to the flock next Spring – and hope in the coming years to keep our flock at right around 15 hens. After raising them and having fresh eggs – I don’t think we can ever really imagine a time in our future that we won’t have chickens.
-Mary and Jim