Monday, October 22, 2012

chickens


Chickens free to a good home. Ad on Craigslist this weekend. Not too far from the farm, numbers and chicken variety seems uncertain. Clipped beaks mean earlier life might be suspected: are they refugees from a factory farm, worn out and worthless? If their beaks have been cut off to prevent pecking each other will they still be able to snap off a blade of grass and eat it?

Over the years we have been given chickens. Families start out with a couple of chicks, grow them out, then they are thrilled to get eggs, amazed at what is produced in the back yard.

Then the birds go into a molt: their feathers break off as new feathers grow in. The birds that were beautiful, glossy and full feathered look bedraggled, flat and a bit beaten down. The eggs stop. And the family wants vacation. Hiring someone to watch, water, feed, let hens in and out of the barn for zero eggs seems silly. Winter approaches and getting water to them in the cold seems truly awful.

Our laying hens are typically housed in a different pen than the broilers. A higher topside with a roost, as these girls love to jump up at night, but the roost needs to be high enough they can walk under it all day scratching. Bell drinker and nest boxes. Still easy to move, and for the winter time a different drinker and maybe a clear cover to protect from rain, wind and snow while allowing for maximum light. Hens prefer as much light as possible. They don't lay eggs much in December or January.

But there is already an egg this morning. In the pen these "not laying we are going on vacation and need them gone today" girls now occupy. Turned out yesterday onto the grass they have been happily scratching and eating as best they can.

And whatever plans for work today existed get shelved. A new layer pen is needed, most parts are on farm, just assembly and then the hens get relocated again, into their permanent home.

And we hope they feather out. Get pretty again. We are pulling for you girls.

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