Well, the next step on the road to farm fresh eggs was achieved today when we moved our hens from the living room out into their new home on the range. At two weeks and 5 days old the decision was made that our furry friends just had to get out of the house. The pack-N-Play which they had called home for so long was now becoming a place to practice acrobatics. They learned that they could fly the other day and would frequent the top of the pack n play. Left to their own devices all was well, but when a toddler or dog would get close wings would fly and chicks would end up out of their pen and on the run. Needless to say, I about fell out of my chair at work when I read an e-mail from my exacerbated wife exclaiming that she had been chasing chicks around the living room for the better part of the afternoon and that they were getting moved as soon as I got home!
The art of the chicken move. Getting these little fellows has been quite an experience. thanks to the good folks at e-fowl.com we were able to place an order for 15 White Plymouth Rocks. Why those you ask? Well rumor (and the Internet) has it that these chickens are pretty good around kids and that they were excellent foragers. So are we "free ranging our chicks?. The answer is no, but they are getting moved on a daily basis. At 2 weeks old they are way too small to be left to their own accord out on the farm. While I have yet to see any predators, besides one hawk, I don't want to risk it. So what I did instead is create a system where their nesting box and fenced in area is moved on a daily basis to fresh grass. The bottom of the pen is wide open so they can frolic to and fro and eat bugs. The chicks aren't herbivores so we still give them a bit of chick feed from the local co-op. Knock on wood we haven't lost a single one yet, we have actually gained one!! I kept counting 16 but my wife called me crazy. Today we had to do a long move and collected them all in a box. Low and behold we had 16 chicks!!
Why put the chicks out on pasture? We are firm believers that God has provided the blueprint if we just read it. If you look at nature you can see countless times that the birds would follow after the migrating herds. They did this to help sanitize the area just vacated by all those herbivores. Anyone who has been thru a cow pasture knows to tread lightly or pay the smelly consequences. What our birds will be doing is going behind and eating the bugs that remain after the cows have left a paddock. This will greatly reduce the amount of flies around the cows (a real problem, as any cattle farmer can attest.) The flies are such a problem in fact that all of these great chemicals have been created to deal with the issue but again the flies adapt. Well it's kinda hard to adapt to a hungry hen coming up and plucking you out of your home. It is quite a joy to hear them cackle as the pen gets moved. they are starting to figure out that the moving is a good thing and cluck with delight at the sight of me or Logan.
This is probably one of the few things that any suburbanite can do. I will post a picture of the chicken coop tomorrow but the fact that it can be moved allows for your grass to get fertilized and your neighbors to not be overrun by chickens. they are confined to a space but still given new food source on a daily basis. For any farmer looking to make a profit, he will see his feed bill cut by 70%. The old school model of a stationary chicken house and a yard devoid of vegetation is just that, old. The new model of confinement chicken raising is just wrong (speaking from experience on that one). So go out to your local hardware store or go on craigslist and get a portable coop (about $200). Also, for the brave gardener, you could run the chickens in between rows to debug, but make sure you don't leave them on any one spot more than a day.