Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hens With Jobs

Here is a picture of the front of the chicken yard. About 10 or 15 years ago I planted some hops to grow over this fence to keep the area cool and hide the chicken wire fence and top. Now the hops grow so thick in the summer the chickens can't see out except for in places I pull the hops away. You can see one little window I've cleared. Each year the plants can grow as much as 15 feet to cover the chicken wire that is over the top of the yard. This works great because in the winter the hops die back to the ground and the chickens get the warm sun.
I really dislike keeping the chickens in a coop. They should be out scratching and picking around the yard. My three little silkies are loose in the yard but I never get any eggs because the Magpie birds we have in the neighborhood eat them all before I have a chance to collect them. In order to get eggs from our new hens they most be confined to the coop. So, like the saying goes, if you can't bring Mohammad to the mountain you bring the mountain to Mohammad.
This week I started a new layer of "stuff" from the barn. I'm almost always cleaning the straw, hay, and sheep poo out of the sheep's side of the barn. So it goes to the chickens to give them something to scratch and pick threw. If it's kept moist it starts to break down.

With all the rain lately the last bunch of stuff I put in here was ready to be cleaned out. Can you believe in a two week period we've had over two inches of rain at our place, and the Reno area gets 7 inches of rain per year on a good year!
The hens have been using their roto-tilling skills to break the organic matter to a fine texture. With the big rains if I dig in the soil the chickens have a new project of finding earth worms and keeping their numbers under control.

At the feed store last week I found a few more pullet chicks that were looking for a home. Sort of left overs, poor gals. There are two Rhode Island Reds, one Buff Orpington and a Wyandotte. There was no place to put them until I discovered an old rabbit cage works great. Scrap hay from around the hay bales on the bottom a bowl for food and a bowl of dirt from the yard so they can hone their scratching skills before they are turned in with the others. By the end of the day the hay and poo have fallen threw the wire bottom and you just start over.

For all the work the chickens have been doing I am blessed with a pile of beautiful compost for our flowers! Not exatly the easy way to get compost but the hens and I are happier about chickens living in a coop.


Sharon said...

The chickens look happy. You've made a really nice yard for them. Are you selling eggs now?

Carolyn said...

I had no idea hops grew that fast and climb. Great idea. I wonder if my sister might try that.

Laura said...

I need some hops too! I love that they grow that fast and die back - perfect solar management.

I'm in the (thought) process of expanding my coop, but don't know yet where I'm going to put it. Now that I have a 40 x 60 garden space, I want the chickens next to it.

Your chickens look very happy!!

Leigh said...

Wow, I realized that hops were a fast growing vine, but I didn't know they would do that! As it is, I'm battling kudzu.

Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons are definitely on my "to-get" list. Of course, they're after the chicken wire, feeders, waterers, nest boxes, etc. Fortunately I already have a place for the coop!

~~Sittin.n.Spinnin said...

I love your arrangment, wish the shed Im planning on using for the chickens was closer to the sheep! That is a very good idea!

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

What a great arrangement; the perfect "green" solution!

Bob Macey said...

Love your blog you have such a good variety of things!

We have a farm near Reno in Northern CA check us out if you need some Hay.