by Meredith ChilsonThe last day of the year. The sun never really shines through the overcast skies, the snow keeps piling up, and evening comes in the afternoon. It’s the time of year that I dig out my notebooks, reflect on the past few months, and make plans for the next twelve.
My journals contain a little of everything—garden notes and diagrams, drawings of bird’s nests, comments on weather and egg production, dates for hummingbird and rose-breasted grosbeak spring arrival, comparisons of feed, seed packages, and, every year, a few ending remarks about what worked well and what changes I would like to make…including, but not limited to, house repair, gardening, personal growth and chickens.
My “chicken plans” for 2012 were based on strengthening my small flock. A year ago, my flock consisted of 17 laying hens –all at least 2 years old (some nearly 4)—and all going through a long molt. I was getting only two or three eggs a week. I intended to order a dozen brown egg layer spring chicks from a hatchery (something new for me), and to cull the non-laying hens from the flock.
January 1, 2012: 17 hens.
|A dozen chicks arrived in May!|
I ordered chicks from the hatchery.
I could not cull any hens. They all have names.
(We did lose one chick and five hens, for various reasons, this year.)
End of year count: 23 laying hens.
Because I changed my mind about dispensing with older hens, my plans for 2013 revolve around these two things:
1. The changes that appear to be necessary in order to keep more chickens, and
2. Keeping more chickens. (!)
First of all, back in August when I realized I couldn’t dispense with any of my older girls, I had to make some other modifications, too. The two-room coop was opened up to accommodate the larger flock and I added several more roosts.
|There’s room for nest boxes on this back wall!|
For the coming year, I’d like to add several more nest boxes. There’s a spot in the back part of the coop that’s just right, and I think the girls would like the privacy of the back coop for egg laying.
|Hanging around the nest boxes.|
I’d like to add curtains to the existing nest boxes, too. These days several of them are used for sleeping or “resting” quarters (there are two hens in particular that just sit in the boxes all day and gossip—they lay their eggs in one of the three boxes that all the girls lay in, and then they sit, in side-by-side next boxes.) I like the cozy look of nest box curtains, and I’ve read that they tend to keep hens more focused on the egg laying task, as well as keeping the boxes from being used at night.
Another difficulty I’ve encountered with a larger flock is the amount of food they eat and the resulting –ah—well, the results. What goes in must come out. Already this winter, I’ve been busy making sure there are layer pellets enough to last through a several day “snow-in”, and adding daily fresh, dry litter to the floor. I do let them into their yard as often as possible, but they really don’t like snow; most of them stand on a bale of straw and look out the door. So, plans for 2013 include researching ways to either expand the coop, add on to the yard, or even considering a way to tackle supervised foraging. We’ll get through the winter and I hope to have a solid plan in place by fence building time.
Keeping more chickens? I always think about this! I have thought I might add some meat birds—we have put the occasional rooster into the soup pot. I’ve even heard that meat birds are not at all the same as laying hens—not nearly the personality. Hmmm…maybe…
That’s the nice thing about making plans this time of year. I try to take what worked from before—and what didn’t—dreams, plans, possibilities and incorporate them into How I Would Like Things To Be In A Perfect World. In January the possibilities are endless, the slate is fresh, the notebook pages are clean, the pencils are sharp.
I will accomplish some of these plans, and I’ll share my successes and failures with you. I’ll change some of the ideas and forget about others….and at the end of the year; I’ll go back over it all and take stock again before the next year begins.
What were your accomplishments in 2012? What are your plans for the New Year?