We are an urban homestead based on natural, holistic and sustainable principles. Our livestock includes chickens & honey bees and we cultivate fruits, vegetables and kitchen herbs.
They will turn 2 years old this coming April 2016. Our chickens have been quite a hoot. We received them as day old chicks in the mail – hand picked breeds from My Pet Chicken.com. Seven different breeds would give us the chance to experience a good cross section of laying hens available – each one selected should do well in our arid, high mountain home of Albuquerque (hot dry summers with cold some what snowy winters). Unfortunately, 3 of our selections did not make our chosen hatch date – not a problem as there were several local feed stores with peeping chicks galore for us to make up our goal of seven. Besides our chicken coop that our family built together, we also constructed our brooder together as well. We had read several books and scoured numerous YouTube videos ; we were ready for chicks !
Here is a run down of the 7 Heavenly Hens +1 which comprise our first flock:
The +1 is due to the thought that we believed, after only one week of having the chicks, that one of our original 7 chicks was a cockerel – which was not something we wanted. So we picked up an extra chick, the cuckoo maran. The chick we original thought was a cockerel ended up not being one, hence, 8 instead of 7 .
We love the eggs we get from these birds – we have become egg snobs as we swear by the taste and quality of our farm fresh eggs. And only now during winter , as they have stopped laying with the shorter days and lack of sunlight , do we really miss their eggs. Longer days cannot arrive soon enough. We don’t look at these hens as production / income generating egg layers for our family so we don’t add artificial lighting now during the winter months – we also feel the natural cycle of the seasons and allowing their bodies to focus on replacing feathers as they molt during this time is better for them.
Feed and water are always available for the flock – DIY projects converted 5 gallon buckets into containers that they use in their secure run. These are filled every couple of weeks and minimize waste and spilling.
Our thought for letting them free range when not confined to their spacious run, is to let them out into their paddock which is surrounded by ag fencing. We also allow them out beyond their open-air paddock into the eco-lawn area where they truly love to forage on the grasses, insects and other plants of the main green space. The only area they are not allowed into is the potager which is where we grow herbs, flowers and vegetables in raised beds.
Besides the eggs they provide, the other major benefit for having chickens here at 7HH-G is that their poop (and there’s lots of that ) is a constant source of nitrogen for our compost bins. Both bins are located in the chicken paddock very close to the coop. So when their poop board is sifted clean every day or so, it goes right into the compost bins. Also their hen-house shavings or straw goes into the compost bins when they are cleaned out in the spring and winter. And earlier this year, we switched to a deep litter method for their secure run and that gets cleaned out and put into the compost bin as well.
We’ve been very happy with these breeds of chickens – can’t complain about anyone in particular. Some are shy , some are friendly and some are just plain old chickens. Scrambled, the smallest hen, happens to be the most charismatic one and is also at the top of the pecking order. One other friendly one is Hennifer , the BPR. She’s curious and gets along with all of her flock-mates.
We will most likely add some more hens to the flock next year – space in the coop and run would allow for 3 more to be introduced. They will probably be the breeds we missed out the first time around; a Golden Laced Wyandotte and a Welsummer. And we would include a Buff Orpington.
Our urban chickens are an integral part of our urban farm; they provide farm fresh eggs and supply a constant source of nitrogen for our compost bins. They feed on insects and keep our Fleur de Lawn mowed – they earn their keep every day and provide cheap entertainment for our family. We would highly recommend keeping backyard chickens to anyone interested in them.
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