life with chickens

Picture, if you will, the things we hold dear in this world, only on a slightly different trajectory. Picture them well-supported by a principle of following natural patterns, of meeting needs the way nature does. Take, for example, keeping chickens.

We like to keep a flock in our garden. Now, they require shelter, safe from predators between dusk and dawn. Rather than killing off predators that perform critical ecological functions, we built a good safe house.

hens preening in the shelter of bamboo.

Their shelter protects from wind and weather with plenty of roosting space, airy but not exposed. We chose heritage breeds, hardy to extremes of heat, cold.
The henhouse floor mimics natural systems, densely layered with deep litter which we scatter dry leaves or sawdust over every day or so. Hot nitrogen-rich droppings compost in place, microbially active, generating warmth. Once a year when we compost the fertile bedding, it’s already partially broken down. The birds like to dig in it. A soft landing from roosts is nice too.

The chicken run is similarly forest-floorish. Hens turn the food scraps, leaves, old hay ‘til a rich compost is generated. They’re safe in the run but spend their days in the garden.

To be safe in the garden they need some measure of protection. Fences keep out the domestic dog, for one. We let them out once human activities send raccoons to bed. Plenty of trees, shrubs persuade the eagles to keep to the open fields next door. Hawks are trouble, so our roosters are on alert, but there are many places to hide. We hope our trio of geese will make any otters think twice, too.

So it’s a protected space, yet not a prison. hens dust-bathe, sunbathe, forage. We try to design the gardens so scratching, turning is productive. Their relationships relax for the space. A hen gives a rooster a run for his money, another strolls in company finding treats in the food forest.

So the chickens are contented, well fed, needing just a handful each of fermented organic grains before they head up to roost. Their eggs reflect this, rich and vivid, and we thrive as they do.

We thrive as they do. May we revive old designs, to regenerate life with a vision of mutual contentment and support.