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In February of 2009, my husband and I bought our first home located on a few acres in Johnson, Vermont. We live here with our dog, Ollie, two cats: Elvis and Atticus, six Nigerian Dwarf goats: May, Chutney, Poppy, Juniper, Willow, and Jokers Wild, and about fifteen laying hens. And to top it all off we welcomed our daughter, Isabel, into the world on January 11th, 2011.

We're slowly updating our 1850's farmhouse while steadily working towards a healthy, meaningful, self-sufficient life together.

This blog details our endeavors along with our successes and failures- all in good fun. Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you again soon!

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May and I enjoying some sunshine
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Chicken crazy

Lovingly Posted by Melissa Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I was chatting with a co-worker the other day about her chickens and it got me reminiscing about when our girls were chicks.  They arrived on June 3rd and I was amazed that 16 little chicks could fit in such a small box.  We were too late to order from a local store so we purchased them from Cackle Hatchery and had them shipped to us overnight as soon as they hatched.  We didn't lose a single chick, instead we ended up giving three to one of Kyle's sisters because we really didn't want a dozen laying hens.  We knew we'd never be able to eat all those eggs when they were in full swing.

But, as fate would have it, no one else we knew wanted any of our girls.  So we resigned ourselves to having about a dozen eggs a week during the summer.  By the time our wedding came around these girls were too big for the massive box that we were keeping them in.  They had a decent amount of space, but they just couldn't be bothered to stay in it when it was so easy to just hop out.  Many times I went into our guest room to find a few chickens either roosting on the edge of the box or out of the box completely.  So we took a weekend to construct a "chicken tractor" for them where they could be moved outside permanently (it is pictured here before we put in their housing).


This set up worked for a few weeks.  We would move the tractor about twice a week, just long enough for them to eat down the tall grass but not long enough for them to destroy it all together.  Its amazing how green some of those spots of grass were a week or two after we moved the chickens off of it.  In one spot there was a perfect rectangle of longer, darker grass where we kept the chickens for a full week.  But before we knew it there just wasn't enough room for them.  We would have loved to let the girls run free around our yard but our dogs would, most certainly, find them too irresistable.  We didn't want to risk it.  So we fenced in about an acre of land behind our old barn.  The land here was never used, it was always overgrown and covered in snails and other delicious bugs.  We ended up having to brush-hog it all down so the chickens could move around but they had plenty of grass and ant hills to enjoy as a result.

We only lost one chicken this summer.  Kyle called me as I was on my way home and said he couldn't find any of the chickens except for one partially eaten one- a beautiful cream colored Easter-Egger.  We were frustrated and heart-broken to think that after all our work we'd lost them all to some predator during the middle of the day.  After half an hour of searching we found them, scattered, hiding beneath anything they could find.  It took some convincing to get them back to the barn and once there they hardly left it.  We walked the fence line and didn't find anything that indicated a breach.  Ever since then, the girls have been wary of anything overhead but they venture out into the open spaces now.

It seemed like every time I thought 'they must be done growing now' I would look at some pictures that were taken a week before and see a drastic difference.  Our girls had gone from fairly docile birds to massive, demanding chickens.  We love them, though.  Even Kyle, who never imagined himself as a person who would own chickens (or ANY farm animals for that matter) started really enjoying them.  They are good entertainment and the noises they make when they are eating or foraging just brings such a smile to our faces.  It is such a pleasing sound.


Our girls have just started laying eggs- so far only two (maybe three) chickens out of the twelve.  This time of year really isn't the typical high-production time for chickens, what with the lack of daylight, so we'll be lucky if we get many at all until spring.  But we look at our girls and think of how great it would be to get more.  Yeah.  More.  When we first started out we thought we would just want six or so.  But now we look at our twelve and imagine what it would be like to have double that.   Of course, in a couple years our current gals will start slowing down their egg production and we'll end up culling them all at some point so we'll need replacements standing in the wings.

I know it sounds crass.  But this is the way it is for homesteaders.  These chickens are not pets.  They are part of our lives, though.  We nurture them and they will, in turn, nurture us.  I'm not saying it will be easy.  In fact, it could very well be one of the most difficult things we'll ever do, but this is life.  In the spring we'll be ordering another round of chicks, some turkeys, and maybe some geese to add to our growing farm.  We'll never need all of the number of eggs we'll collect, but friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers are more than willing to buy them or trade for them.  So it seems this could be a good start for income from the farm.  So it begins.

3 comments

  1. Donna Mae Says:
  2. they were so cute when they were PEEPS! I can't wait til you get more...:)
    Hey I thought of something else we can trade too! firewood...:) And squash and cucumbers and pickles...right now..water....LOL

     
  3. Chicken running too never gets old. When mine see me coming they run to edge of the fence makes me laugh every time!

     
  4. Melissa Says:
  5. Yes! They are hilarious when they run towards you! Ours follow us everywhere- and ever since they started laying we have LOTS of 'curious' chickens. :)

    Trading sounds good! We're looking into maybe a 'masonary stove' for next year...supposed to heat better than a wood stove.