The chickens: I cannot say enough about what joy, usefulness and entertainment – as well as food! – that our chickens give us. They offer an enormous return for the low cost/effort they require. With 7 laying chickens we were getting between 4-6 eggs a day for the first two years. Now that our older girls are slowing down production to 2-3 per day, the younger 5 girls born this spring will start laying by August to help keep up with the demand.
Jason and I eat a very low carb, high fat diet that has helped with our myriad of health and weight issues (side note: since starting our high fat diet last spring we’ve lost 60 lbs between the two of us, my weekly migraines have disappeared, and Jason’s fatty liver numbers and his high cholesterol levels have returned to normal range. I cannot say enough good things about the benefits of the Ketogenic Diet), so eggs are an essential part of our day. We each consume 1-3 eggs a day and we also supply friends in the neighborhood with eggs each week, which helps pay for the chickens’ feed and scratch.
The chickens create amazing fertilizer with their waste, they eat unwanted garden pests, keep weeds down, scratch and churn the garden beds in the off season, turn our compost pile, and entertain us to no end with their silly antics and big personalities.
We ended up with two roosters in our newest batch of girls and they have both been such gentle, wonderful companions for the girls. It was a fantastic surprise that they’re all getting along together (so far!).
A complete resource, incase you are considering keeping your own backyard flock, is backyardchickens.com. It is a wealth of knowledge and has a very active and helpful forum of people to connect with.
The Hobbit Coop:
After returning home from a 7 week stint in Iceland, and having listened to 3 of the Game of Thrones books while I circumnavigated the actual land of fire & ice, I was enchanted and determined to bring a tiny bit of the magic home with me. So, I began designing a partially-Earth-bearmed coop that would stay a wee bit cooler in the summer and a wee bit warmer in the winter than a standard stick-built coop, that would match the style of our old brick home, and bring some fun to what could potentially be a stinky, boring chicken box. After living in a car for nearly two months I had an itchin’ to let loose and build something permanent and substantial so I went completely overboard on the project (and here it sits, still unfinished, with the itch having been scratched sufficiently 3/4 way through, haha!). This project was my first real foray into the world of building and fixing. I have been hooked ever since.
The plans for the exterior finishing touches are river rocks in mortar around the doors and windows and then finish the remaining upper portion of the front facade with cob stucco, matching brick and cob stucco on the back, gray retaining wall bricks on the North side, and then a curving retaining wall on the South side that will hold all the soil I use to build up onto the Southern of the roof. I plan to plant clover, wheat, grass and California poppies on the resulting hillside. It will be dry and only watered when I water the chickens so only drought resilient plants will do.
Once the coop is finished I’ll extend the chicken run in a more permanent manner all the way up to 1st St. to give everyone lots of room to roam and less weeds for me to pull while still being able to leave the trees and bushes for natural cover. The girls will fertilize the trees and the trees will give the girls ample shade and safety.