I've been a chicken owner for over nine years, I've been through several breeds, some farming triumphs and naturally as with any farm some tragedies. I love farm fresh eggs, but over the last year or so my egg count had diminished. Partly due to having some older girls, and partly due to having some egg eaters. Moving our homestead this past summer didn't help either. My chickens were at a friends house for two months, and eggs weren't being collected there with all the chaos of moving. My Soil-Mate and farm partner in crime Mama P, was talking about getting new chickens this year. So I jumped on the bandwagon and we ordered 30 chicks. Saturday, I loaded up all my ladies, and sold them off. I felt kinda crazy doing it as they were my pets and I rather enjoyed them. Plus they had just started laying eggs again. But as I've been reading more on Permaculture, I really wanted to start over with a new sustainable type of farm. And that's where selling my chickens comes in to the grand plan I have worked up.
Sunday, I spent the better half of the day cleaning out the chicken coop. I have all that lovely fertilizer sitting in a wheelbarrow just waiting to go in my new garden. More on that later. Then I raked out their pen of all the rocks, and hand tilled the hard soil to leave crooks and crannies for the seeds. If I still had the chickens I'm sure they'd be eating every seed I threw down, and my chicken pasture would be gone.
I found a company that I'm rather excited about. Natures Seed, that has special blends formulated for different types of animals, based on region. Check it out:
Here's the seed I purchased.
And here's my seeded chicken pasture. It's not very large but I'm excited that the new chickens will have forage this year. By the time they've gotten big enough to leave the coop I should have a layer of green goodness growing in their pen.
I've had completely cooped chickens in the past and always felt bad that they didn't have more room to roam. I've also had free range chickens with some disastrous results to their lives and my gardens. Chickens have lots of natural predators. And whom ever said it was a good Idea to have chickens in your garden, has never actually done it. If they had they'd know that chickens love to eat all your veggies and blueberries, and all your hard work is destroyed.
One of the things I dislike most about chickens is not getting eggs in the winter. The second thing I dislike is waiting till almost fall for new chicks to start laying eggs, by then it's almost winter again. So starting over really does have some disadvantages. I tried to lesson these disadvantages by choosing special breeds of chickens. The first Breed I selected is the Golden Comet. Images courtesy of The Cackle Hatchery. Also where I purchased my new birds.
These birds are a hybrid variety that start laying at 16 weeks. So I should be seeing my first eggs in June.
The second breed I selected was the Black Australorp. I didn't do a ton of research on these but Mama P really wanted them, and when I read they lay through the coldest months I was sold.
The last breed I selected was just for fun because they come in all different colors and lay varying shades of blue eggs. I had purchased three Easter Eggers last year but some how or another they either disappeared or became victim to my black Lab Bo. Even at 13 years old he still manages to get a bird every now and then. It sucks, especially since I can't explain to him why hunting pheasant is okay, but hunting chickens is not. I even tried showing him the difference with flash cards, and a PowerPoint presentation. I had a long sit down talk and told him that they were my birds not his. But I haven't gotten through to him. And this is the other reason why my chickens are fenced in. But I digress.
Anyhow, tonight I'll be installing the new clean liner in the coop and adding fresh pine bedding. I use garden fabric because it's fairly inexpensive and I can just roll it up and pull it out when it's time to clean the coop. I'll also be cleaning all my chick feeders and waterers in preperation for my new babies that should be arriving in two days.