Keeping Chickens--Summer of the Birds
Living on a working hobby farm has it's advantages. Take chickens--they provide you with a number of wonderful blessings. Chickens provide: fresh eggs (typically lower in cholesterol and higher in nutrients then the regular store bought alternatives), insect control, meat, and entertainment. Before this year, I was scared to death of chickens. Anything that can fly into my face and flap it's wings was to be avoided. Now, living with chickens on property, I wouldn't have it otherwise.
I have a small flock of layers. Currently there are 12 hens and 2 roosters. My birds free range, meaning they have access to my front yard and can go wherever they want in it free to catch and eat as many natural things as possible. Typically they lean toward bugs--keeping the notourious tick virtually non-exsistent on property. Occasionally, they will take a seed, berry, or even a small piece of corn or two. They are highly entertaining, and quite a lot of fun. My birds do have a coop which they stay at night. We are not unknown for predators, although the neighbor's dog tends to wreak more havoc then any wild animals.
Each morning my ladies leave me perfect eggs. These range in color from white, to blue-green, to dark chestnut brown. My speckled Sussex lays tiny little beige eggs, while my Rhode Island Red leaves JUMBO brown eggs. My white leghorns hide their white store-sized eggs in the hay, and the Americauna hens drop their pink or blue-green eggs in the coop. I am never without eggs. It's not unusual to collect 10-12 eggs per day. This saves tremendous money since I used to by cage-free organic eggs at the supermarket for $4 a dozen. Now, all I have to do is walk to the coop for these little treasures.
Even their droppings are beneficial. Since my birds aren't given any antibiotics or fed antibiotic rich feeds, their droppings are pretty much as organic as they get. Also, since they roam the front yard, they leave little white "gifts" all over. Because the droppings are all natural they break down in a matter of one to two days thus enriching the soil. Since having chickens, my grass is more lush, my vegetables bigger, and my flowers more vibrant.
Keeping chickens is relatively easy. They just need fresh water, a coop for shelter from rain and predators, a couple nesting boxes (which can be virtually anything with a little shavings), and a fenced area to roam. Why not give them a try if you are zoned? You'd be surprised by the amazing benefits you will reap!
Hens in garden
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