When I lived out at Owls' Knob full time, I dreamed about having chickens. But keeping chickens in the wilderness is very difficult. For one thing, mammals come from miles around to eat your birds and snakes gather to feast upon the eggs. But even with an impenetrable chicken coop, there is the issue of constant care. It is hard to make sure that you are home every night by dusk to put the hens up when you live 60 miles from anywhere. Without neighbors it is impossible to ask someone to drop by your house and help since it is not on the way to anywhere. However, in town the wildlife is not as desperate or plentiful. It is also easier to be home at dusk and I have quite a few neighbors who would be happy to drop by and put up the hens in exchange for some eggs.
So yesterday we got chickens. Last week John built a chicken tractor. It has an extremely well fortified chicken hutch above and a large scratching pen below. He made it out of pallet wood and wood from an old falling down shed. Though it was built on a budget out of scratch, it turned out to be a very nice and strong home.
Yesterday the sun was shinning and the light breeze was warm. It was a perfect day for a trip to my uncle's farm. We walked out into the pasture to visit the lambs, sheep, cows, and honey bees. On the way back we ate ripe persimmons. Then we had a picnic and Zane helped his aunt feed the Koi fish. Finally I walked down to the chicken house and picked out four beautiful hens. We packed up the hens in some feed sacks and brought them home to their new coop.
Since we got them home, we have been trying to make them as comfortable as possible. I fed them plenty of chickweed, barley, and corn. John and I took turns coaxing them up and down the ramp that led them in and out of their cozy nesting boxes. The hens were hesitant at first and we found that the ramp needed better traction, so John nailed stairs steps to it. When the sun started sinking low the hens all found their way into their nesting boxes.
Today, when we put up the hens, we found the first egg. I had not expected for the hens to lay so quickly after such a traumatic relocation. But low and behold, they have already begun to settle into their new home and lay eggs. To celebrate the first egg, we ate omelets as a bedtime snack.
I am excited to have hens. Watching them roost, scratch, and peck is entertaining. More importantly I love farm fresh eggs. The garden and now the chickens brings our family one step closer towards being sustainable. It is a step towards a lifestyle that I have always wanted to live. A sustainable life. I want to teach my boys where food comes from and how to feed yourself. What lesson could be more valuable?