We never thought that keeping chickens would be as easy as it really is and how attached you can become to your first batch. One day last July we stopped at our local FarmPlus store and they happened to have four Comet sexlink chickens in a cage outside the door. Our grandson was fascinated with them. At about sixteen weeks old they were very active but made no move to peck him when he put his hand in the cage to pet them. They had their beaks clipped so at best they could only bump your hand. At six years old, our grandson is into just about everything and instantly wanted the chickens. We asked the price and were told since they were the last four they had, we could buy them for six dollars each. After a little discussion, the chickens were placed in a box, loaded in the car and home we went.
Arriving home where our other two grandchildren were waiting for us, they could not wait to see what was in the big box their little brother had brought home. Since we had made absolutely no preparations for the chickens, that afternoon was a busy one. We had a large wire animal cage for dogs so with a good scrubbing this was to be their temporary home for a few days. We have a large garden fenced with metal wire so a run was ready made. The kids put out a big bowl of water and picked some greens. The chickens loved the attention and were more than happy to eat out of the kids hands. The two youngest kids have little chairs that they dragged into the garden and each day they cart fresh water and leftover kitchen scraps along with their little brown egg basket to the garden and sit and talk to the chickens each day. The chickens love to have their backs rubbed and will squat right down at the slightest touch.
As the chickens reached about twentyfour weeks old the eggs started coming. The thrill in the kids eyes when they finally made the connection between the chicken and the eggs was wonderful to see. The kids have learned that chickens love bugs and worms, radish tops and seeds, strawberry tops and cooked potato skins. They help their Mom grind up some raw oats and whatever greens are left from the day before meals, celery stalks, lettuce, old egg shells, leftover scrambled eggs and whatever else they can find except meat. We feed our chickens no meat at all.
The biggest problem we have now is what to do with all the eggs. We get four eggs almost every day. That’s twentyeight eggs a week. How many eggs does your family use a week? The neighbors love us. Very often they get a gift of a dozen free range XXL brown chicken eggs.
The chickens also provide a great source of manure for our compost piles and garden. Last Fall some manure along with the coop straw was placed on top of each of the garden beds to over winter. We will now turn over this aged manure into the beds as soon as the frost is gone from the ground. The really fresh manure is placed in four foot square compost beds along with some straw, topsoil and kitchen scraps. Tea bags and coffee grounds are great additions to your compost pile. These compost piles will be ready by Fall to refresh old beds or start more new beds.
On a farm, when the chickens stop laying they are relegated to the soup pot. Alas. I think that Bella, Queenie, Lady Gaga and Parm have other ideas. They are plotting to live out their days being petted and making chicken manure. The kids have learned some great lessons in caring for animals along with the responsibility of seeing they are watered and fed every day without fail. I guess our four “girls” have earned their retirement.