Monday, March 18, 2013

Working Girls

From a strictly economic point of view, the hens are the most valuable and profitable wage earners on the farm. I did a little figuring and according to my calculations, a hen will produce somewhere between 35 and 40 dozen eggs in her fairly short career here on the hill.  That's not too bad considering each hen weighs about 5 pounds and has a brain smaller than a walnut and demands very little in the way of compensation!

While we, the farmers, work hard enough, I, for one, demand slightly more than chicken feed, garden waste and the occasional table scraps to keep my production level high and maintain some level of job satisfaction!

Usually, hens prefer quiet solitude to lay eggs
But, the hens produce eggs almost tirelessly. Day in…day out…a hen will lay an egg about every 26 hours. Egg production is only affected by number of daylight hours and extreme temperature fluctuation.

Pullets waiting to join the hen flock

The pullets, young female chickens, begin to produce eggs at about 22 weeks of age. We move them from the brooder several weeks prior to the beginning of their egg laying career.  They are confined to the henhouse (with all the necessary food and water) for a couple weeks to acclimate before they are allowed to roam outside with the older layers.  Once they begin to go outside, there is another period of adjustment as the whole "pecking order" gets worked out to the hens' satisfaction. Read this.

In addition to egg production, the hens also contribute somewhat to weed control.  During the winter months, they are housed over garden beds where they eat the weeds and roots and seeds while scratching out bug larvae. This garden work provides the hens with fresh green matter to keep the egg yolks vibrant. The bugs and grubs provide a little extra protein. However, egg production cannot be maintained at a predictably high level if this was the only nutrition the birds received.  To that end, they are fed grain as well.

If you missed the whole saga of the new and improved henhouse made from a "re-purposed horse trailer" really should read these:

Moving, Night

This winter, they are working on the garden where the early broccoli will be grown.  This is what the garden spot looked like when they moved in.

Here it is…after several weeks.

  Amazing difference!

The presence of the hens has the double benefit of weed/pest control as well as added fertilization.  The early spring broccoli crop will benefit greatly from the added nitrogen.

No mobile henhouse THIS winter!

No matter how mobile the henhouse can be…it must become stationary in the winter months.  Without the warmth of summer, the grass goes dormant.  If the chickens were to scratch on it all winter, there would be NO grass at all come spring.

To keep the hens’ winter diet high in green matter, any and all weeds from the hoophouses, as well as spent crops, are tossed into the pen where they are promptly demolished.

Thanks, girls, for working so hard and providing such a great product for...well...chicken scratch!

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