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I used to think I wanted a hobby farm. Hobby farms are lovely and I enjoy visiting them. But I came to the realization some years ago that I will support local farms without becoming one.
How is it that we have chickens, then?
Chickens are to farming what going to a nature preserve is to hiking the Grand Canyon.
Let me tell you how we do it and you can decide if it’s something that would work for you.
First, we only have up to 4 at a time. When they’re laying, we get one egg per day from each chicken…and we don’t need more eggs than that. As it is, we often have enough to share with our very gracious neighbors.
You see, our chickens wander.
I wanted to let the chickens roam for a couple of reasons. First, the eggs are more nutritious because they’re eating a much more varied and healthy diet. (I always laugh when I see organic eggs at the grocery labeled, “Fed an All Vegetarian Diet.” Chickens are most definitely NOT vegetarian)
And did you know that chickens eat wood ticks? We saw our tick population drastically decrease after getting the chickens. (I hate ticks more than just about anything on earth – spiders that stick to you?! No thank you.)
The second reason I wanted to let them roam is that it’s way easier and less messy!
We let the chickens out of their coop in the morning, give them food and water and gather any eggs. They roam all day, eating, chasing, dust bathing. And then they go back in the coop by themselves when the sun goes down. We shut the door and that’s it!
We have a coop almost exactly like this one and we love it!
It is large enough for 4 chickens. It’s very easy to clean. We use wood chips in the roosting and nesting areas, although some people use hay or straw. I like the wood chips because they absorb liquid and are easy to shovel out with a trowel.
When we’ve had to be away for a weekend, we stock them up with food and water and they are fine to stay inside the coop.
We’ve even left them in the coop for a week at a time when we went on vacation, just having someone come over every couple of days to give them food and water and gather eggs.
Chickens are a treat to watch, too. Ours come from wherever they are when I go on the back deck and holler for them. They know that means mama has treats.
When they run they remind me of little old ladies holding their skirts up.
They’re not exactly pets. Though we name ours – we hold them lightly, knowing that things from the woods like to come eat them. We’ve lost a few hens, and had a few others attacked and survive. (A hawk chased one into our garage once – it was very loud and exciting).
We tried ‘the chicken experiment’ and stuck with it.
If you’ve been wondering if raising chickens is something you can do, my advice is to give it a try. It sounds like something would be way more work than it is. But doing it on a small scale makes the work light, while still reaping the rewards.
Do you have chickens? What tips would you give to someone who’s thinking of giving it a try?