Friday, January 21, 2011

Put Your Chickens to Work for You!

(reposted from January 2010)

I've mentioned a few times that I think bored chickens are unhealthy chickens.

Bored chickens fight with one another, pull feathers out and pick pick pick at each other.

Usually the answer to this is to just let them out of the coop and they will run around chasing and eating bugs.

Butttt.....I have a few flower beds and for some darn reason, that is where they all flock to! Next thing I know, they're ripping leaves with their sharp claws and my nice plants are getting shredded. I don't mean they totally destroy my flowerbed, but they do more damage than I like to see!

The other place my chickens seem to end up is on the stairs, trying to come up to the porch!! I do NOT want chickens on my porch, thank you. Chicken crap on the lawn is one thing, chicken crap on the porch is not allowed!

An easy answer to this is T-post and chicken wire or field fencing, which I prefer. It's sturdier so I don't seem to need as many T-posts when using it.

We just set up temporary fencing wherever we need it and put the girls in there. Using a wooden fencepost already in place or the wall of a building as a starting point for your fencing will reduce the number of T-posts you'd need.

Early afternoon, after they've laid their eggs, I'll let them out of their coop and into the area I want them to work on. Well before dark, I open up the fencing and they all run back home.

(Have you noticed that chickens like to go home before dusk? They want to be all safe and sound in the henhouse before it gets too dark.)

Here they are helping me to get all the weeds out of the berry bed....

An easy way to get a bunch of chickens into an area where you have temporary fencing is to grab a container with chicken scratch or food in it.

Shake it and they'll come hauling butt, believe me!

That's my son in the pic leading the girls to the grazing area.

Working over some composted manure in what is now the third strawberry bed.


As you harvest areas of your veggie garden, you can run fencing and put the girls in there to work for you.

Here, we have put a load of
Uncomposted horse manure in there. The girls then spent their afternoons breaking up the manure and eating any little seeds they found.

They have powerful feet, and they will break up all that manure till it's light and fluffy.


Another example of temporary fencing strung up between the pig run (on the left) and the permanent chicken run (on the right).

Here, they are working on a big pile of manure.
I just pounded in T-posts and strung the wire right around the big piles we have down by the barn.



When you've got several chickens working this hard, they are Enjoying themselves! They Love It!

And you will get the benefits! Lots of fluffy airy composted manure that you can add to your veggie and flower beds.

(Another benefit you get from having Happy Chickens!)

That tiny egg is from a chicken who was just starting to lay.

The huge egg is likely from a chicken who has been thru a molt. After they molt, they may lay fewer eggs, but they should all be larger than they were before the molt.

By the way, for new readers, we don't have horses ourselves. We have friends in the Valley with an overabundance of horse biscuits. Since we have a huge need for lots of manure, we're welcome to take as much as we like.
There's a trailer at their place that they fill when they clean up twice a day. Once it's full, they give us a call.

We pick it up and bring some nice cold homemade beer along with us to say thanks!

So, if you're thinking of getting some chickens, start thinking of some easy ways that you can keep your chickens busy working, to offset some of the work you'd have to do! Better they do your work for you!!

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Tim and Kari O'Brien said...

Hi Annie,
Chickens are so much fun. We have some too. They LOVE walnuts! We have an abundance of walnuts and the pigs and chickens along with the humans around here enjoy them. Isn't it great to watch chickens run? Have fun with your girls!!

Linda Foley said...

Great post! I loved my chickens and am really looking forward to getting some again.

Cenya said...

I LOVE your chickens. And I dearly miss mine. Hoping I can get some more after my son's chicken-killing dog goes away.
I read all of your new posts religiously. It takes me back to the farm.
Thank You.

Aunt Krissy said...

Thanks for posting about chickens. I like to hear all about them so that come spring, when I get mine I will have all this tried and true info that will be a big help to me.

Frustrated Farmer Rick said...

Annie I have been meaning to try this for our garden. That is part of the reason to expand the garden this year so I can bring it closer to the coop. If I was more learned I would have put them next to one another as the work even better together. Greens for the girls and poo for the veggies plus all that weeding and debugging as well.
Great post

Annie said...

Chickens are most awesome! I really like having them....easy to care for, and lots of benefits!

Tim and Kari O'Brien said...

Hi Annie,
Are you getting many eggs at this time of year? We have never tried the extended lights, but this is the first year we are getting no eggs from the girls through the winter. How about you?

Annie said...

Kari, right now we have 10 hens and 1 rooster and are getting 7 - 8eggs a day.

We have a low level heat lamp in the coop. Chickens want 14 hours of daylight in order to lay eggs, so calculate accordingly and using a timer is the easiest way.

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