Fernwood’s Chickens

Picture 041Chickens have been part of this small farm since we first cleared the land. Answering to that time aged riddle, which came first, at least on this plot of ground, (and before an extensive list of almost everything else) it was the chicken……and yes, then the eggs. Our flock has grown and dwindled over the years, for different reasons. We have raised as many as 25 layers and are currently holding down the fort with a flock of 15. Some years, due to fox, weasels, old age ( the chickens, not us), or some other natural cause, we have been reduced to a flock as small as 5-6 birds. Picture 043 I don’t think we’ll ever be without a hen house and it’s inhabitants and 15 birds is a good number for us. Of course, every so often we must rotate out the old with the new, when our old girls stop laying and egg production drops off. I would like to tell you that by being efficient farmers, these old layers are put into the soup pot. Well, not exactly. We do raise chickens for meat, usally between 75-100 birds a year of a specific meat breed that we like called Freedom Rangers. But when it comes to “doing in ” our old layers, I balk. I am not going to write long explainations about why I find it difficult to kill the old layers, I just do. So, where do our old layers go? The hen house here is only so big and we bring younger chicks in to keep egg production up. There wouldn’t be room for everybody. Picture 051
Well, fortunately we have a wonderful, kind, chicken loving friend, who cares less about egg production ( don’t get me wrong, she loves and appreciates fresh eggs) and has a stellar chicken coop that any senior chicken would be happy to retire to. It’s the Taj Mahal of chicken coops, really. I wouldn’t mind retiring there myself…it’s that nice. Our old girls roam grassy pasture and bed down in luxury at my friend’s place. They spend a very comfortable retirement being oogled at and clucked to. Thank you, Sally.
Chickens are truly every where around these parts of Maine. Years ago, when people moved away from farming and raising their own gardens, you would occasionally come across “EGGS FOR SALE” signs. With a resurgence of farmers and growers in the area, they’re harder to find now since almost every household raises a few birds, and eggs are gatherd right outside their own door. Chickens can be big conversation amongst neighbors. What breed do you have? Are you getting many eggs right now? Do you put a light in your chicken coop? ( chickens need 14 ours of daylight to lay eggs). Do you have extra fertile eggs for sale? Do you have a rooster? Do you want a rooster?…..and so on. Our own flock is made up of several breeds. We love Buff Orpingtons. They tend to be our favorite and are a nice, docile, heavy breed of chicken and excellent layers. Barred Rock, Araucanas, and Wyandottes round out the flock. And of course, there’s Mr. Bo Jangles, our rooster, who is not only handsome to look at but one of the nicest roosters we’ve ever kept. Some roosters, because of their attitude, have a better chance of ending up in the soup pot. Don’t worry, Mr. Bo Jangles place amongst his girls, is quite secure.Picture 046
More than likely, chickens will always be a part of the landscape here at Fernwood. Many customers drift over from the nursery to the hen house and stand to watch the ” chicken activity”. Chickens are busy creatures, always rooting around for some soil delicacy or taking a feather bath in a dusty hollow. They’re fun to watch. They’re probably the most viewed critter of the farm.
Picture 061Twice a day we collect eggs from the nest boxes. Right now , we average 6-7 a day. For all those who haven’t eaten fresh eggs, there’s nothing like it. The yolks are much darker and the taste is more wholesome. Really. There is a difference. The manure we muck out of the coop gets piled and stored to later be used in the gardens. Chicken manure is quite high in nitrogen, so we let it sit for a spell before working it into the soil.
Chickens earn there keep here on the farm. I cannot imagine a day that we don’t have a flock scratching around the farmyard or the early morning rooster call reminding us to start the day.

2 comments on “Fernwood’s Chickens

  1. Great photos! I’ll take three scrambled with a slice of sourdough (in 6 weeks). How long do “old gals” live? Is there a hospice at Sally’s?

    • Oh good….we are starting a new batch of sausage this week to go along with your order for scrambled. I am quite certain there is every level of hospice care over at Sally’s and if all chickens new that to be their resting place, they would stop laying a lot sooner!

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