As Jim and I took a small break last week between tasks at the ‘Farm’, we began to think of where we were last year at this time with our dream. We sat up under the garden pergola and scanned the property and laughed about the day we spent hours researching how to raise day old chicks. We had read about diseases, brooders, breeds, feed, etc…. until we felt comfortable that we could become suitable ‘parents’ to day old chickens.
In fact, I am pretty sure we could have written the book ‘What To Expect When You Are Expecting…..Chicks”.
Just like new parents do, we brought them home to their well-prepared brooder and sat and watched them. Yes, sat and watched them sleep, wake up for a few minutes to eat and drink, and sleep some more. We then introduced the girls to our black lab dog, Jazzy. Now Jazzy is a ‘single child’ and hasn’t had to share love, affection, or snacks with anyone else. She was very interested in the new arrival and wanted to be a part of the ‘watching’. Of course, as nature progressed – and the girls got bigger – Jazzy also wanted to see what it would be like to try to put one in her mouth – so at that point – the dog and chicken show ceased!
So the day finally came. We had finished building their coop and hauled it out the farm as the first “building” on the property. We secured it with a wire mesh bottom – a brick floor, and a coop run that included burying a portion of the fence in concrete to make sure the raccoons and other predators couldn’t get to them. And we watched them grow – and grow – and grow. And every day we would check those boxes waiting and waiting for that first egg. And then it came – week 16 – a single tiny egg in the box! I’d be lying if i didn’t say we jumped up and down.
We had done it – We had raised our girls to be egg layers. Within another week – they started coming daily – and the chickens were established as our first succesful farm project.
The chickens have been one of the most rewarding and fun projects so far in the short time since we began the “farm”.
They not only provide us with an incredible bounty of eggs – but do an incredible job of keeping ticks, mosquitos and bugs of all sorts and kinds at bay. They help control our weeds and give us great “material” to use in our compost pile.
We love sharing what we have learned with others, and how easy it can be to have and care for chickens in your back yard. It’s somewhat funny – but it always seems that two questions come up more than any others when asked about our chickens.
1) Where is your rooster? and, 2) How did you train them to lay their eggs in those boxes?
Well, as many of you know – you don’t need a rooster to have eggs – in fact – in many cases – such as ours – the hens are much more tame and comfortable not having “Big Daddy” around It also makes it a lot easier when not having to worry about the fertility of your eggs. It’s pretty simple – no rooster – no checking for chicks!
As for that training part about laying in their boxes…I must confess we have a little fun now and then making up a tale about the intensive training process to get them to lay in the boxes – i.e. – placing music in the box, or special treats – or my favorite – the special “chicken” shock collars we use to train them …. only to break into laughter and let the perplexed faces know that it’s simply nature taking place – and chickens prefer to lay their eggs in those little boxes nests all on their own. And please, no worries – we treat the chickens like family. So even if there is such a thing for chickens as shock collars – we don’t use them!
So far – the chicken experiment has gone better than we could have ever expected. We have yet to lose a single chicken in spite of many raccoon and coyote visitors to the outside of the coop. Then, of course, the hawk who came awfully close to snatching one late last fall put a little scare into us all as well. In the last 365 days – our nine little hens have given us an average of 56 eggs a week since about the 17th week of their lives – that’s about 2000 eggs – or 175 dozen eggs! Not bad production for the ladies at all! We have had plenty of eggs for family, friends and our own hungry kids. We now sell a few dozen eggs each week to friends who want those great tasting farm fresh eggs – which has turned out to be more than enough to cover our feed and fresh straw costs for the coop (which run about $20 per month on average).
So Happy First Birthday Girls! Thank you for a great first year on the farm – and here’s to another great one this year!