Way back last October, I introduced you to Sally and Princess Leia, my new rescue chickens. At the time, they were rather short of feathers ,and didn't like us getting anywhere near them.
They immediately set about fertilising our lawn, like Rebecca and Emma and Robin had told me they would, and pretty soon became part of the family, - laying their first eggs within 3 weeks. So how have they fared over the last 7 months?
Well if anyone had told me i'd have fallen in love with some extremely stupid chickens i'd have laughed at them long and loud, but now... after 6 months of fantastic over eating of freshly laid eggs, i'm loving having someone to throw slugs to, (that appreciates them) I enjoy an excuse to go out in the garden every morning, and evening, and the greenhouse gets opened and closed when it should be.
Over the winter, they were allowed the run of the garden whenever we were in the house, and soon regained all their feathers.
but by spring, I was tired of them eating my uncovered lettuces and chasing them back to the patch of ground elder that I wanted gone, so we built them a large run across the bottom of the garden.
- Unfortunately we soon discovered that they liked jumping up onto the gate, and out into the garden, - so we've had to employ all kinds of discouragement to stop them escaping, - the most effective being some netting over the areas where they can jump up and out. They are only let out of their pen when we are around the house, so that they don't run the risk of meeting Mr (or Mrs) Fox, and we make sure that as well as their food, they get the pick of the excess green crops and weeds from the garden.
My lettuces are practically slug free - yes that could be down to a dry spring, or it could be that every time I see a slug, I get to give it to an appreciative audience, and the population of molluscs is kept to a minimum.
My compost has an addition every week of some very rich chicken manure (and newspaper), and seems to be doing very well on it.
Now I know that we are lucky that they have been laying 12 eggs a week between them, and that at some point they will become just pet chickens rather than a healthy addition to my food list each week (although William seems to be quite happy to eat them when the time comes!) but i'm hoping that is in some part due to the fact that they are happy in our garden, that we don't stress them, that they get to have a run about, - if not quite free range, then at least with plenty of room, a bit of sun and shade, and regular food and water.
They don't like their picture being taken any more, and can move fast when food might be on offer, but they no longer cower when we go to pick them up, and are quite happy to be picked up and moved about by us, (even a loving 6 year old)
i've talked to lots of people over the last 9 months about keeping chickens (it's a real conversation piece at dinner!) - I havn't told them that it's easy, - it does take time every morning and evening to make sure that they are fed watered and in the right place. - They do poop all over the place if allowed to, - yes even in their food and water bowls.
The Eggs do make up for it in a lot of ways, - so I don't have to feel totally guilty when I ask friends to look after them when we're away. Would I consider a garden without chickens at the moment, - No way!, they are pets, the eggs are very good additions to my menu each week, and they are great pest eaters, so at the moment, the chickens stay.