So which one really did come first? Without our chickens we wouldn't have eggs.
|Relaxing in a cool spot under the Lilacs|
Our chickens are true free range chickens. Rather than living in a large aviary type cage that is moved every couple of days to a new patch of grass, they have the run of the farm. Our chickens are free to go out in the pastures, gardens (though some areas must be fenced off to keep them from damaging the crops), yard around the house, and paddocks. This is possible because of our livestock guardian dog, Murphy. She protects them from predators both on the ground and in the air. They eat grass, herbs, bugs, worms, mice, and anything else they can catch. Chickens are opportunistic eaters and will scavenge, kill, graze, and eat treats. Additionally, we feed them all of our table scraps and cull food from the garden and supplement their diets with a certified organic chicken feed that contains corn, rye, wheat, and minerals which we purchase from Soaring Eagle Farm, a local certified organic farm.
In the spring of 2003, we got a clutch of 25 pullets from a local hatchery. When we decided to get chickens, we had 3 priorities. We wanted a gentle bird, as our chickens were destined to also be our pets. We wanted a large breed bird that laid eggs, and we decided that we wanted to have a breed which was listed with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC). The breed the hatchery carried that fit all of our requirements was the Buff Orpington. Buff Orpingtons were listed as critical by the ABLC at that time. Buff Orpingtons lay brown eggs.
|Buff Orpington Pullets|
Our flock of Chickens is now (autumn 2008) 70 strong. We have an assortment of Buff Orpingtons, Easter Eggers, Welsumers, Cucko Marons, Light Brhamas, Polish and Iowa Blues. We also have 3 Guineas. Guineas are very noisy, but their specialty is hunting and eating ticks so they earn their keep. Our varried breeds of chicken offer us an assortment of differet colored eggs. The Easter Eggers lay tinted (blue and green), Welsumers lay dark red-brown, Cuckos lay chocolate brown, Light Brahmas lay cream, Polish lay white, and the Buffs and Iowas lay light brown eggs. To learn about all of the different breeds check FeatherSite.
|Miss Mommy with 3 baby chicks.|
Chickens are generally very easy to care for, they catch bugs, wasps, and mice, (just to mention a few of their favorite prey), are the best at turning table scraps into compost, and they give us eggs to boot. I was initially concerned about how I would feel, taking the eggs away from them and eating them, but soon realized that the chickens really have very little interest at all in their eggs. For the most part, they lay them and leave them. And if we do have a hen that wants to sit on her eggs we let her. Our chickens spend the night in their coop/run and then get turned out during the day to run around the farm. It is such a delight to see hens merrily running about the yard or relaxing in the shade of the lilacs.
Now a word about farm fresh eggs. I was totally unprepared for the difference between farm fresh eggs and store bought eggs. I didn't figure there would be much difference because we had been buying the very best (and most expensive) eggs from organically fed free range hens. I was wrong. The Farm fresh eggs are incredible. The yolks are actually orange!