Don’t let their calm look fool you, these ladies are cray-cray. Since we’ve moved pens and pastures regularly over the last two weeks, all the chickens are a bit mixed up. We have quite the integrated flock now, 23 of these young egg layers, 9 big red hens (meat birds), 25 young red birds, 40-something young white birds and one old hen who is escaping the “affections” of the roosters – boy toy, she is not. Anyhow, no one quite knows where to go at bedtime, and the pen swapping rivals any 70’s disco era Saturday Night Fever. So Mark and I get to play chicken sorters each night after dark, finding, counting, moving and tucking in about 100 chickens. And that’s not counting our 100 new chicks, who are safely tucked into the brooder, only about 5 days out of the egg. Hopefully by tonight, the outdoor birds will get a clue and at least go to bed inside, not perched on the raised bed of my potato patch or the 7 foot wire fence of the goat pen in the rain.
We moved the birds to a new, larger pasture area a few days ago and they are exploring all the new grass, dirt and bugs. We will move their bed every few days to keep things fresh, possibly moving them into a chicken tractor for their last week or two, when they spend more time resting than exploring. For now, they are all over the place, enjoying their new digs.
These little meaties are getting bigger by the hour. They are active and healthy, scratching and pecking and running all over. One week to go till the “big day” for half of them, then one week later for the rest. Another batch is almost done with their time in the brooder, feathers are growing and it will be time for them to discover the grass and sunshine.
Our little meaties are two weeks old now and have moved out of the brooder box in the garage and into their transitional housing, while they attend group therapy and submit to daily drug testing. Just kidding. Their outside transitional house is a large dog kennel that we have adapted with small gauge wire to prevent escapees, dog kennels and heat lamps for warmth and the cool drip watering system Mark set up. They are on dirt and grass with some shavings for extra warmth and they can be let out under supervision, for they are prime hawk pickings right now. And hawks aren’t paying market price for organically-fed chicken, so hawks can go pick on mice, if you ask me. No one’s planning their summer barbecue around mickey.
It’s so cute to watch the chicks forage around tasting fresh greens for the first time, scratching in the dirt looking for goodies. The chirping and wing flapping and running these little ones do is beyond adorable. And the natural diet and sunshine they are enjoying are building not only a delicious dinner in a couple months, but a more nutritious one too. Want to know more? Check out these links:
Make lemonade…err, compost! Here’s two years worth of rabbit and chicken and goat droppings and bedding clean out as well as tons of scraps from our kitchen that didn’t go to the animals. It will serve as a nutrient rich top-dressing for our garden this year, which will in turn provide scraps and peelings for future compost. And the wheel in the sky keeps on turning….I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow…. Oh wait, I’ll be right there with a shovel and sore shoulders. Silly me.
We are trying our hand at “hugelkultur” which is a new concept for me but one that makes a lot of sense. Basically, you build a garden bed out of logs, covered with a small amount of actual soil. As the wood naturally breaks down, it gives off moisture and warms the soil, so it reduces watering and extends the growing season. Traditionally, it’s done in a big mound above ground, but we decided to do it in this giant repurposed horse trough.
I will be planting my spring garden this weekend on St Paddy’s Day for good luck. Planning on leafy greens, peas and potatoes in another area. Looking forward to some home grown goodness!
Our first batch of chicks for the year arrived today, a mix of white meat birds, red meat birds (slower growing) and brown egg layers. I picked them up from the post office, where they had arrived from Missouri! We dipped each one’s beak in sugar water before putting them in the brooder. They are eating and drinking and staying warm
under 500 watts. Hear that noise? That’s my smart meter beaming massive money from my house to PG&E. Oh wait, that’s actually the sound of 85 chickies chirping.