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I am by no means a chicken expert, chicken whisperer or chicken guru. Given my former City Girl status, I am not doing things, “the way they’ve always been done.” I like to think that through my research and with my enthusiasm, I breathe new life into the process and shake things up a bit.
I love keeping chickens. I love their eggs, I love their antics, and I love that we are teaching our kids some really important things along the way like responsibility, generosity and gratitude.
We have 14 chickens and they are completely free range, meaning they come and go as they please. They have a cozy little chicken coop (previously used for a different purpose) that they sleep in at night or hang out in any time they want. It’s not as cute as I’d like it to be, but it’s insulated and well-built, so the decorating can come later. Also, we can see it from our kitchen window, which makes it easy to keep an eye on the girls.
There are a few things that make keeping chickens much much easier. I like to think of these as, City Girl Hacks. The first is an automatic door which opens and closes based on the sun. This is genius folks, pure genius. And it actually works! Every.Single.Time.
Chickens are darn early risers and head to bed when the sun goes down and the predators come out. This allows me to know they’re always safe and sound, which is a big concern living in the woods surrounded by raccoons, coyotes, and Lord knows what else. (I try not to think about it.)
Two more City Girl Hacks are an automatic watering system (which we mounted to a small tank) and an automatic feeder. The feeder holds one 40lb bag of feed. It works like a charm, and keeps their food completely clean. Depending on the season, and how many bugs the girls find, we fill it about every 2-4 weeks. The watering system insures they have access to fresh, clean water at all times and eliminates the possibility of contamination.
We know that what the chickens eat has a direct impact on the quality of the eggs they produce. Since we eat their eggs, it directly affects our diet as well. We choose to feed them Scratch and Peck Feeds, Naturally Free Layer Feed. It is very high quality and the chickens love it. If we need it in larger quantities we purchase it from Azure Standard, a more cost-effective option.
Our chickens also have access to grit to aid in digestion, and a very small amount of ground up corn in the winter to help keep them warm. Occasionally, we spread a big ‘ole pile of compost for them to scratch around in. They go nuts!
A lot of the things I’ve learned about keeping chickens have come from a really knowledgeable chicken rancher, named Lisa, of Fresh Eggs Daily. She’s an invaluable resource for anyone raising chickens.
Her blog taught me about putting apple cider vinegar in their water, along with probiotics and garlic in their food.
My favorite thing I’ve learned from her is about adding Coop Confetti™ (a blend of dried herbs) to our chicken’s nesting boxes. If only you could smell it through the screen! It’s heavenly! It makes the whole coop smell like a garden, and that’s quite a feat for a chicken coop. It’s also specially formulated to be beneficial for the chickens too, an added bonus.
I am working on implementing a more holistic approach to chicken keeping, little by little, with resources I’ve found on Lisa’s blog.
Run, don’t walk, to her Etsy store and buy yourself and your hens a little treat. (She doesn’t pay me a dime to say these things, BTW.)
In addition to the logistics of keeping chickens, it is important to talk about the impact that the chickens have on our lives. Our chickens roam about freely and that provides us with plenty of opportunities to interact with them.
Feeding, watering, and collecting eggs helps our son learn responsibility and about caring for something other than himself. He also learns about gratitude for where our food comes from.
While petting a friendly chicken in the yard we talk about things like being gentle with the chickens, and thanking them for making the eggs we eat for breakfast.
We also talk about generosity as we give others eggs during the warmer months when the chickens produce more than we are able to use ourselves.
Caring for animals played an important role in my husband’s childhood, and taught him many valuable life lessons. I am grateful that we have the opportunity to teach our children in a similar way, and I am learning right along with them.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post!
Please join in the fun and comment below:
Do you have any tips or tricks for holistic chicken keeping? What lessons do you teach your children through raising animals? What lessons have you learned yourself?