Working Chickens

We keep two flocks of chickens here.  One group is totally free-range.  They go where ever they want.  Mostly they want to go in the woods.  They seem to enjoy scratching around in the leaves and I’m happy to let them to do it, but they aren’t doing much good for the farm there. Of course once a year we thoroughly clean their coop, spread the litter over gardens, then till it in.  That does the farm a great deal of good.

We keep the other flock inside poultry net fencing, which we move around depending on where we want the chickens to forage. We put them in gardens that are done for the year and they till the soil, eat the bugs and deposit fertilizer for next years gardens. This group is definitely earning its keep.

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These chickens are good representatives of the symbiosis we try to create here.  We give them feed and shelter, they give us eggs and garden work.  They are an important part of the reason we don’t need to use any chemical inputs of this farm.

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12 comments on “Working Chickens

  1. Joanna says:

    We have a similar system, only we have arks we move around. The free range hens are actually doing some very useful work in the woods, clearing the land of ticks. So you have to consider them a pest eradication service too 🙂

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    • Bill says:

      Their work in the woods produces delicious eggs too. I think they prefer the woods in part because they’re safe from hawks there.

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      • Joanna says:

        Ours maybe safe from the hawks, but they are certainly not safe from Mr. Fox. We have lost three cockerels that way this year. I agree those eggs do taste rather nice. Did you see the difference in colour in the egg from the ones with access to the forest in my blog? If we didn’t lose so many to foxes, or have so few eggs that we actually find, we would have them all free range.

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  2. valbjerke says:

    Yep – the great circle of life :). All of our livestock contribute to the garden beds, the fields etc. Dried cow dung also gets burned in the wood stove in the barn (and dried pig manure bricks when I have time to make them) – saves going through so much firewood.

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    • Bill says:

      I think farm animals are essential to sustainability. All our animals help fertilize our fields too. We don’t use the manure as fuel, but none of it goes to waste.

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  3. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, working animals on full blown homesteads do have advantages. Chickens are relentless in their scratching and searching for bugs. My bug control consists of wild turkeys that come and scratch through the mulch. They don’t seem to bother the growing plants but leave behind evidence that they have scratched through the mulch around the plants. At Terra Nova Gardens there’s a very high steep wooded bank behind the garden that has tall trees growing there. It’s their roosting place in the neighborhood. The draw for them to hang around in my garden is the natural spring watering hole. My picnic table resides about 20 feet from the spring and many times the flock of turkeys will come and drink while I’m sitting at the picnic table. As long as I don’t make any sudden moves they are quite content to let me be there. Last spring and early summer it was great watching the newly hatched poults follow along behind the lead turkey. I say lead turkey because turkeys must be community minded. Always there’s one hen turkey in the front leading the way and one in the rear encouraging them to stay close in the line. Even when grown turkeys are foraging, there’s always one look out that’s diligently watching for danger. It’s quite fascinating to me to watch how wild life interacts with in their group and with the rest of nature.

    Have a great Black Friday. No shopping here.

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    • Bill says:

      I’ve never seen wild turkeys in the gardens here, but they do enjoy hanging out in our pastures. And their was one bold rascal who liked to sneak into the chicken coop to steal feed. Our dog knows who belongs around here and who doesn’t, so she’d chase him off whenever she spotted him.

      Yesterday it occurred to me that earthworms are one of the treats the chickens probably enjoy in our gardens. I’d rather they leave them alone, but I’m sure they can’t get them all.

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  4. C.C. says:

    Did you see the PBS News report on the family turkey farm in Connecticut? Part of Paul Soloman’s Making Sense economic reporting. I thought it was important for Paul to expand into this territory of family farms – comparing the humane approach to factory farming and showing the amount of hard work involved, but didn’t catch an important angle: the number of such operations in the whole country. One of the owners, the man, was shown saying he acknowledged that the whole world couldn’t be fed this way, that factory farming was needed to be able to feed the huge population of the world.
    However, as I chew it all over, I wish the perspective I know – which is like your all’s here on Practicing Resurrection – would have been brought out more: the benefits to the land and the savings to farmers, as you point to the contributions of your working flock.
    I know that a big ag conglomerate is major contributor to the Newshour – wonder if that’s why the story didn’t include a full embellishing of the benefits of family farming.

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    • Bill says:

      Big Ag is aggressively trying to counter the bad publicity it’s gotten lately. Among other things they’re sponsoring so-called Mommy bloggers to promote their products and they’re releasing a documentary on farming (the name of which escapes me right now). The strategy is interesting. They aren’t attacking organic and sustainable farmers directly. Instead they’re lumping us in with chemical/industrial farmers and arguing that we all have a role to play. Ours, in their eyes, is to supply food to the few people who don’t understand or appreciate the wonders of industrial agriculture. Theirs, of course, is to “feed the world.”

      Never mind that nearly all commodity crops are used to make animal feed or bio-fuels. They’re not feeding anyone.

      And it’s hard to believe anyone would take seriously the contention that we’re going to starve unless we raise chickens, turkeys and pigs in high-intensity confinement inside giant buildings. As if until they invented this system there wasn’t enough turkey meat on the planet.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. avwalters says:

    No chickens here just yet. But we do have a large flock of wild turkeys. We’d watch them all summer, moving from field to field. Every night they’d come to a pine grove next to our building site to roost up high in the trees.

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    • Bill says:

      We have plenty of wild turkeys here too. During my childhood I knew there were some around, but I never laid eyes on one. Now, all these years later, they’re common and we see them all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

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