I count on my chickens in so many ways: eggs, bug control, food, and companionship, to name a few. Just recently they took on the role of janitorial staff as well. For me, each day begins the same, heading to the barn for morning chores. Grain is given to the goats and cows; water cleaned and added; chicken food is checked; and the hay is filled. The morning stall clean out would follow, but this changed in recent months. See, we built a barn this past summer and for the first time, all our animals are housed in one building. This is when we discovered the chickens had a hidden talent of their own.
Each morning the flock waits impatiently at their little door, waiting to be released into the main portion of the barn. There is a frenzy of chickens as soon as the door opens! Every chicken for themselves as they run or fly to their preferred locations. Each looking for the perfect pile of manure: “eww” is all I can say. Well, at least that’s how I use to view it. They can make a pile of manure disappear in under a minute. Wow! They don’t just make the manure disappear; the feed bill for the chickens has dropped significantly. The chickens recycle so much grain from the cows and goats that they require far less chicken feed.
What about the risks? Well to be totally honest, there are a few to worry about. We take extra precautions against parasite overload by keeping the large animals de-wormed and checked routinely. The largest risk I have seen thus far is injuries to the chickens. The chickens forget to be safe over their excitement for the work. I’m starting to think little hard hats would not only be adorable but would reduce the risk of head injuries. Just how could I keep those on?
Ok, I’m going off track, but it is cute to think about them running around with little hard hats on. All kidding aside, we sadly had two chicken deaths at the very beginning of this journey. It took us totally off guard. They both drowned in the fifty-five-gallon livestock tote within two days of each other. We quickly removed the large tote and replaced it with five-gallon buckets for their safety. I also had one Welsummer manage to get up under Fin, our 6-month-old Jersey Steer; she got trampled. She required a splint and wrap for a broken leg, and was released back in with the flock after four weeks in the hospital coop; a slight limp remains.
Stall cleanouts have gone from daily to weekly, with deep cleans going from weekly to every other week. The chickens are also great at looking around the feeders and finding any dropped grain; this has cut down on feed waste drastically. Personally, I believe the chickens have not only improved the sanitation of the barn but also the quality of their own nutrition. Egg production has been at an all-time high and the overall flock is extremely content. Chickens amaze me; they continually find new ways to incorporate themselves into farm life.