I love chickens! Ever since I brought home some day old chicks from the local feed store I've been smitten with all things "chicken". My Girls were hand raised pets who just happened to lay delicious eggs, and perform weed and bug control. I never ate any of my hardworking Girls, all of whom had names and personalities.
I nurtured my wee fluff balls in a wash tub using a heat lamp to keep them warm. I wiped their tiny fannies daily for about a week with a damp Q-tip until they could poop without "pasting up". I watched them chase each other around the inner circumference of the wash tub playing "whose got the ribbon" - the coveted red ribbon passing from one eager little beak to another as they snatched, grabbed, and ran. They all grew up to became beloved pets that followed me around the gardens on my daily round of chores.
Chickens, like many birds, love bright and shiny things. I've been pecked in the ears, wrists and fingers by chickens enchanted by a shiny bit of jewelry. Also, toenails have proven very interesting especially if painted with bright red polish.
Chickens are truly the clowns of the garden. I've wiled away hours contentedly watching them scratch and peck, chase grasshoppers, pluck low-hanging fruit then dart away to enjoy their prize unchallenged by flock mates. They've followed me into the house when I wasn't looking, peered in doors and windows to see where I'd gone, and just generally enjoyed hanging around keeping me company.
The Little Red Hen squeezes under the side gate so she can hang out with me while I do chores.
I never kept a rooster so don't have first hand experience with "the boys". But hens I delight in having around for their clownish ways, delicious eggs, and companionship.
Even if chickens didn't lay lovely eggs, I'd still want them around. They enliven a garden, are good for a giggle or more per day, greet the day and their owner with good-natured cluckings, and are just so nice to have around.
However, if you desire a perfectly manicured garden chickens could be a problem. They'll dig holes in their search for tasty bugs and make dust bath depressions. On the other hand chickens are great pest control. They eat all kinds of bugs...although they don't seem to like squash bugs much but will scarf up earwigs.
Chickens will eat some domestic plants but few herbs or natives. A nightly roam on the lawn (unsprayed and organic) didn't harm the grass. Yet, if they're permanently ensconced on a small lawn they will eventually create a patch of bare dirt.
Chickens eat most types of grassy weeds - fox tails, cheat grass, and more. They'll consume with delight kosha and dandelions but all of these must be in the young stages as chickens cannot negotiate a large amount of fully mature weeds to any great degree. Many weed seedlings are simply dug up when they scratch and peck.
My chickens were a valued commodity for pest and weed control as well as cultivating-by-scratching and fertilizing as they wandered and deposited nitrogen-rich feces on the lawns and in the gardens. When I cleaned out the chicken coop I'd toss the poop-rich straw onto the compost pile. The following Spring I'd add this nicely composted mix to my Spring garden. Sometimes I'd just spread Winter's coop-poop gleanings onto the raised beds to be leached by snowfall into the soil.
Before I moved from the Cottage I found a good home for my flock of seven Girls. I miss having chickens but I've lots to do and discover settling into my new home hundreds of miles away from my rural Cottage. Still, I've discovered that local regulations will allow for a small flock of chickens. Perhaps next Spring I'll visit the local feed store and procure a few, wee fluffs for fun and eggs.
Many municipalities will allow small flocks of chickens although there may be restrictions regarding noisy roosters. If having a few chickens around appeals check with your local planning and zoning committee to see if you can have a few chickens to share your garden with.
For now, I have fond memories of Poopsie, Ms. Magoo, Broody Girl, Charlotte, Peek-a-boo, Sugar Bean and Sugar Baby, The Little Red Hen, Jessamine, Opaline and many more...
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