Thursday, July 26, 2012

six months of chickens: the good, the bad and the ugly

our chickens turn six months old in a couple days.  happy birthday chickens!

at the beginning of february, they looked like this:

now they look like this:

'DSC_0020' photo (c) 2007, Sue Talbert Photography - license:

[this isn't a pic of our actual chickens but they look pretty much the same as this]

i have been doing a little bit of reflecting on our chicken experience thus far, and i want to share what it has been like.

::the good::

so far, i am *loving* having chickens.  they are entertaining little critters, poking around in the back yard and following each other around.  they are rarely in different parts of the yard and almost always stick together.  i love looking out the back window and seeing them peck around in the grass.

they started laying eggs about a month ago which is so exciting!  they are finally paying their rent, haha! right now we are getting 2-3 small to medium sized eggs per day.  the eggs will get larger as the chickens mature.  the yolks are a dark yellow, almost and orange (the darker color indiactes that they are higher in vitamins, especially vitamins a and d.  here is a great article about the significant nutritional differences between pastured eggs and caged eggs).  when you crack them open in a bowl next to a store-bought egg, the difference is obvious.  making meals with eggs from our own chicken eggs makes me so happy :)

we tell everyone that they are in the chicken 1% in america.

::the bad::

we've never had a super healthy lawn in the back yard, and now that its summer and the grass is mostly dead, the chickens have been doing a number on it :/  also, i haven't been able to plant flowers in my back yard gardens because they are constantly scratching up the dirt for their dirt baths.  because of these reasons, i recently had to build a fenced in run area for them (i still let them out 2-3 times per week to roam the yard).  my heart is breaking!  i miss seeing them peck around the grass.  after it starts raining again and our grass is growing again, i will let them out more, probably every day or so.  but for now, especially since we are renters and want to respect our landlord's property, they will stay in their run (which is actually a pretty big area.  i would guess its about 25' x 5'. they certainly aren't crowded. its just not as much space as the whole yard).  right now we are having issues with them breaking out, but hopefully i will have their fence fully secured soon.

we've also been having some problems with their nests.  for a while, one wasn't laying in the nests (but i think that is resolved now).  we are also having a problems that an unusually high number of eggs are getting cracked, even though i check the nesting boxes several times per day, so there shouldn't be that much time for them to break.  another issue is that the chickens keep knocking over the boxes i have inside the nesting area, so i need to figure out a way to secure the area better.  none of these are huge problems, just little obstacles to get around along the way.

::the ugly::

one thing i was not anticipating when we got them was all the chicken poo they would produce and the flies it attracts.  unfortunately, since its summer, flies are at their peak right now anyways (and i've noticed lots of flies in other people's gardens/yards, so i know its not completely the fault of our chickens).

the chicken poo wouldn't be too bad if it wasn't for the fact that i host a bootcamp for other moms twice a week in our back yard, so i always have to make sure it gets cleaned up before they come over (the babies play in the grass, hence the need for it to be clean).  another issue is that the chickens (before the fence went up) would sit at the back door (i guess they really like us or something) and leave many piles right on our back door step (thanks, ladies!).

i frequently clean up the poo (by spraying it with the hose) to keep the flies away and i also got a fly trap.  man, that thing smells!! our chicken coop doesn't smell at all, but that thing reeks!  you can smell it from like 10 feet away.  it smells like rotten eggs, because it actually does have rotten eggs in it (that attracts the flies).  there are always flies in it, but there are still tons more flies in the yard.  which also mean more flies in our house :/

over all, i am learning why chickens are a farm animal and not a city animal.  if we lived on a farm, flies and poo wouldn't really bother me.  plus, we would have plenty of space to let them roam and them scratching in my gardens wouldn't be as much of an issue.  but out of respect for our landlords, neighbors and friends who come over, it takes extra effort to make sure our back yard looks nice (though i will never live up to the super high yard standards of southern california).

so there you have it: the good, the bad and the ugly of our chicken experience so far.

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