This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 24th, 2009 at 10:19am and is filed under Local, ranch life, Meat, Agriculture, Farming, Food Production. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
We’ve had chickens at our ranch going on three years now. I think I’m only beginning to appreciate their value to us. We got them initially to help control the grasshoppers and flies around our ranch cabin. We thought we’d get a few “yard eggs” and maybe have some extra to sell. Now, we’re planning to expand our flock by 100 hens, and have chickens follow our herd as we rotate them through the fields. The main economic benefit is still likely to be from the pest control, but egg demand is sky-rocketing, too.
At the moment, I only live at the ranch on weekends and school holidays, so I’m stuck in a suburban neighborhood during the week. I miss my chickens when I’m in town. Every time I throw food into the garbage or even put it into the compost barrel, I think about them. Our chickens eat virtually everything we don’t. Between the dog and the chickens, not much goes to waste at the ranch.
The chickens have become my boys’ main chore out at the ranch. They take pride in gathering the eggs each day, feeding them and helping keep the nest boxes freshly stocked with hay. Our latest batch of hens are Ameraucaunas, which tend to like to lay their eggs in places other than their nest boxes. So every day is like an Easter Egg hunt, especially since this breed lays green-blue eggs of varying hues.
And the taste of the eggs is out of this world! The deep golden yolks have a better nutritional profile as well.
The hens have also become an integral part of our gardening. Besides keeping insects down, we have learned that if we turn the soil a few weeks before we plant, the chickens will do a great job nipping all the little weeds that sprout and our garden is much more weed-free. They love the grubs we turn over too. I’ve got one black hen that comes running every time I head to the garden, in the hope she’ll get grubs or discarded greens. The flip side is that we’ve established a running battle with the flock to keep then out of the garden once it’s planted, but I’ve gotten pretty handy with a roll of chicken wire and some pliers.
NPR’s Morning Edition this morning reported the economy has more people looking to raising a few backyard chickens and more cities passing ordinances allowing small urban flocks.