If you have been following my blog for a while now you may remember in this post from last spring I mentioned that we were adding to our flock with hopes that they would continue to provide us with fresh eggs through the winter. At that time we bought 12 chicks – 8 buff orpingtons and 4 black astralorps. When they were just a few days old one of the black astralorps became sick and died. We lost a second astralorp during the summer to some kind of predator, likely a hawk that carried it away, and we lost one of our young buffs due to an injury that wouldn’t heal. Thus we ended up adding 9 new layers to our flock.
I am happy to report that our plan has been a huge success. From December 1st through today our flock has provided an average of 7 eggs per day. Way more than my husband and I use.
Our current chicken count is 24. Here is the lineup –
- 1 rooster and 23 hens
- 2 of the hens will be 6 years old this coming spring (probably no longer laying)
- 2 of the hens will be 4 years old this coming spring (probably laying few if any eggs)
- 7 of the hens will be either 2 or 3 years old this spring ( we have had so many buff orpingtons it is hard to keep track of which ones we have lost) (should still be laying but maybe not as many as they once did).
- 3 hens that will be two years old this coming spring (should be laying regularly)
- 9 hens that will I year old this spring and just began laying late this past summer (laying regularly)
Having excess eggs has allowed us to continue to share them with family and friends. A couple days ago when we dropped some off for a neighbor he told us “these are the best eggs.” My husband replied “because we have happy chickens”.
We keep happy chickens by allowing them to free range. They have plenty of room to spread out and peck and scratch and do what chickens love to do. Yes, there are risks involved and some times we lose chickens to predators, but thus far the rewards have far outweighed the risks.
During the winter months it becomes more of a challenge to keep “happy chickens”. While we allow them access to the outdoors every day, when temperatures are bitter cold or there is snow on the ground the chickens seek protection from the elements.
This year my husband made them an additional sheltered area. He pulled our trailer near the chicken yard where it would be stored for the winter. After he blocked up the wheels to keep them off the ground, he covered it with a large tarp. The tarp drapes over both sides all the way to the ground. He placed bricks on the tarp, both on the ground and on the trailer, to keep it from blowing in the wind.
Underneath the trailer he spread straw and hay for the chickens to nestle in or scratch and peck through. He also places their food dish under the trailer each day.
Thus far we have had an unseasonably warm winter and snow has been scarce, but on the days that we have had cold winds or snow, the chickens have taken advantage of this shelter rather than stay in the coop all day.
Do these look like happy chickens? 🙂