Thursday, April 15, 2010

Living with Chickens

Chickens have been a part of our lives for 7 years, even before we moved to the Ozarks. We lived in a small neighborhood on Bastrop Bayou in southeast Texas, just a few miles off the Gulf Coast.  Our neighborhood was initially a vacation spot for fishermen, but slowly full time residents began to move in. Because it was miles from the city and the residents were laid-back, easy-going people the neighborhood didn’t have rules and regulations. It was here that we bought our first hens. 
I remember the first egg we found. What a celebration. From that time on we were hooked on their fresh taste and bright orange color, full of all that good stuff, a.k.a beta carotene.  There have been a few seasons when we have been in between mature hens and have had to buy eggs from the store, you should have heard us whine and complain.
Seven years later we are still enjoying chickens...

only in a different setting. 
In addition to eggs they eat bugs and keep the vicinity scratched up. I believe this keeps snakes from taking up residence in our yard. 
I have read having them helps keep flies under control if you also have larger animals, as they will scratch through the piles of poo and eat larvae. And boy does Commander leave piles of poo! 
However, they can be quite destructive. In the past I have managed to have an unfenced flower garden by placing chicken wire down over the top of newly planted seeds. This prevents them from taking their dirt baths in the freshly tilled soil. It also deters Toby/Kunta from making a litter box out of the beds. As the plants emerge from the ground they easily grow through the chicken wire and the chickens seem to avoid eating the flower plants. Not so for vegetable plants. They appear to be tasty at all stages of growth. I carelessly forgot to close my garden gate one evening this week and was horrified the next day as I discovered my mistake.
My happy broccoli plants had been stripped to the stalks. So had the cabbages and radishes. I think the peas and spinach may survive the assault. Even so, it was my mistake and the chickens shall stay. I just need to be more careful. 

To  read more about the benefits of free range eggs click here.

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