Monday, April 11, 2011

Hens in the Garden

This is our first spring with chickens, we picked up four lovely hens off a nice 4-H family in the fall last year.  They were so fun we took the plunge and ordered the 'Rainbow Egg Layer' bundle from McMurray hatchery in November.  So 30 chickens later our garden is now completely weed free and well fertilized.  Because the minimum order from McMurray was way more than our 10x10 shed/coop could handle my Mom adopted 9 girls to move to her farm leaving us with 20 happy hens and 1 rooster.  I love my girls, they have been free ranging in my garden since early February and managed to clear all my raised beds by March.  Unfortunately they also ate my entire fist seeding, so a fence went up to keep them in the orchard and out of the planting beds.  Once my plants are established I will let a hen or two pick around in the garden to help with weeding and pest removal. 
Did I mention that my garden weeding brigade also makes breakfast and entertains my kids so I can garden?  I recommend a couple hens for every garden, there is a bit of a feed expense in the winter when they can't free range, But the healthy fresh eggs, compost turning, fertilizing and pest removal makes it worth every dime.  I already determined the hens are worth having and I am feeding 21 chickens and only have 4 layers.  Over the next few weeks the younger ones should start laying, then we should be expecting 16-18 eggs per day.  If I just sell a couple dozen eggs at work we will be able to cover the cost of feed.  
Time to scramble up breakfast and get out in to the garden, 70 and partly cloudy today!

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