About 15 years ago my oldest son joined 4H. He wanted to have chickens for his project, so a chicken house was constructed and 30 chicks arrived; 25 girls and 5 boys. The chickens roamed around the yard for the first several months but they poop wherever they get the urge, so a pen was constructed, one wing clipped, and the girls and boys were confined to their own corner.
The chickens grew up, laid eggs, and were auctioned off at the end of the season to raise money for the future chick-chain projects.
Last year I decided I would like to have chickens again. With so many gardens to tend I though they might be a useful addition to the farm menagerie. I bought 6 Red Star chicks last summer, built them a tractor that's way to heavy for me to move without the tractor, and they started laying big beautiful brown eggs in November.
They do a wonderful job cleaning up a garden bed once a crop is finished. The spring crops are starting to fade out and the chickens have been very busy eating lettuce and spinach to make way for more crops. A more user-friendly portable pen was constructed a few months ago so the chicken mom can move her small flock around easier.
The contraption on the left is the first tractor which has their roost and nest boxes upstairs and open pen downstairs. The pen on the right is just pvc pipe covered with chicken wire and a tarp so they have some shade. They love to go for walks in the mornings. Chickens have a surprisingly large vocabulary. When I go to greet them in the mornings they say "wok, wok, wok" which I know in chicken is "walk, walk, walk" (they don't do "L's" too well). When one lays an egg their joyful screams echo from the mountain behind the pen "Buck, buck, buck-et". Right before they do the bucket scream though they sit and almost hum while they're actually laying the egg. It sounds painful to me. I think the bucket song is a song of happiness that the egg-laying thing is over for the day. The other day when I was working in the gardens near the pen I heard one of the chickens making a noise I'd never heard before; sort of a growling-chirping noise. I looked up and one of the other hens was pecking her on the back. There were 2 roosters with them for a while until they wore the feathers off the girls' backs so the roosters are "cock-a-doodle-gone". Now I see why the feathers haven't grown back on that one hen.
The biggest problem with a portable pen is you have to remember to move them ever so often and you have to remember to put them up at night. One night I was getting ready to go to bed and something reminded me that the chickens were still out. I found a flashlight, traipsed down to their pen, woke them up and took them back to their pen. I actually think they were fussing at me.
In April, 21 chicks arrived on the farm. There were 5 Cherry-Eggers, 5 Barred Rock, 5 Buff Orpington, and 6 Amerecauna. All were chosen for their disposition and eggs. I built a chicken house for them and recently got their chicken yard fenced in so they can run around and catch bugs. They're really fun to watch. It's kind of like watching a lava lamp or an aquarium; you have to make yourself get back to work!
Inside the coop they fight for the top roost pole at night.
I guess I'll have to extend the top pole the length of the house so everyone can have "pole position".
The Amerecaunas are kind of like calico cats. They all look different but they've all got a thick neck and no comb on their heads.
The CSA members are eagerly awaiting fresh eggs sometime in the middle of the summer. The 3 Red Star chickens will eventually be integrated into the new flock, but for now they are my garden slaves.......