The past few weeks have been extremely busy and I’ve fallen behind in weekly posting about the girls . Sound familiar?
During week 4 we installed fencing in order that the girls could begin roaming inside and outside at their pleasure. We decided on an electrical mesh fencing which we can move around as pasture rotation requires. The electrical fencing is also beneficial for predator control.
The weather refused to cooperate with our plans and it rained, and rained, and rained! Finally the sun came out and we were able to open the existing side doors on the chicken house.
The beginning of the girl’s great expedition to the outside world started off like a person testing the water with their feet before jumping in. They would wait for the bravest amongst them to go out first and then follow behind in small groups and then quickly dash back inside. It was quite amusing to watch and I found myself sitting outside in their pasture area for hours just watching. Of course they were much braver when anyone was sitting there and would venture further afield in their explorations.
Chickens have a natural instinct to perch on things which are up higher than ground level. We built inside perches for the girls so that they have plenty of perching space.
They love to sit and roost on the perches while soaking up sunshine or taking a nap. The perches also serve as a jungle gym for those who want to run, climb, jump, or fly away and the girls remind of children out on a playground at recess time.
Week 5 we installed “pop holes” on the sides of the chicken house which allow more outdoor access in addition to the existing side doors.It was almost terrifying to see a saw being used to cut holes into the side of the chicken house. That good old re-training of mindset had to be conjured up because while raising industrial chickens the mandate was to enclose any openings to the outside. In other words we were told to retrofit to solid side walls on the chicken house including the curtain area.
During week 6 we took off the dark out curtains on the sides of the chicken house and replaced them with clear curtains. The difference since putting on the clear curtains is so pleasant and the only time a flashlight is needed to see is at nighttime. Sunshine and light fills the building during the day and the girls love it.The girls are growing but not so fast as what we are used to. While raising industrial chickens we would be thinking about the chickens being moved of the farm for slaughter within the next week. Those chickens would weigh 5 to 5 ½ pounds. Our girls are not genetically engineered to put weight on fast and the feed we give them is free of any additives which promotes fast growth. At the most, the girls weigh about 1 ½ pounds.
Having seen both sides of the fence, so to speak, raising industrial chickens and raising pasture based chickens on a much smaller scale; I have to honestly say that the latter of the two is my preference. So far, this new adventure in raising chickens has brought joy and fun back to our farm. It’s no longer a dreaded daily chore to go to the chicken house and care for the chickens or spend time inside of the chicken house.
There is still much more to do in transitioning the farm and evolving into the egg business. Although the girls won’t start laying eggs until 20 – 22 weeks of age we now need to think about installing nest boxes, building an egg washing and packing room and a cooler for storage. Marketing of the eggs is also on the list.