Making Hay
Week of July 15th, 2007 | The weather was sunny and temperate.

Inside the chicken tractor.

Inside the chicken tractor.

It was my turn to do the chicken chores. I do not mind this chore because it is easy and not very time consuming. With an egg basket, bucket of grain and canteen of water on deck, I drove off on the golf cart to the summer chicken coop.

The summer chicken home is on wheels, and every day we move it to a new pasture. Our farm is set up in a specific grazing rotation. First the cows go into a pasture and eat all the lush, mature grass; then the heifers come through and eat what is left over; and then the chickens and horses come through to eat what is even then left over after that. The chickens eat flies and grass on the pasture. Eating grass is very important for chickens because it feeds them vitamins, which makes their eggs more nutritious. In the winter the chickens stay in a barn that is not mobile and is much closer to the base of the farm. Their winter home is also much warmer to protect them from the cold of winter.

Organic Chicken tractor

As I drove into the pasture where the chickens were, the horses were quick to greet me. They are always after the chicken grain! So I need to be very quick to get to the chicken coop before it is all gone. It was still light, so most of the chickens were still grazing and roaming outside. On the back of the chicken wagon there is a ladder leading up to a small door where the chickens can get in and out of the coop. First I fill the grain bins so the horses don't eat it all. Then I dump out their water and give them fresh water. And then I collect the eggs. They lay their eggs in nest boxes along the side of the coop. The eggs are mostly brown, but some are blue and green because there is a certain breed called the Araucana that lays blue and green eggs.

This year we are going to hatch baby chicks. So there are two nest boxes where we don't collect the eggs, because the mother hens are keeping the eggs warm. It will take three weeks for the eggs to hatch. The mother hens stay on the eggs all the time, except once a day they come out for food and water.

Every time I finish the chores I always think of the give and take relationship that farmers have with animals. How we both depend on each other to live. We feed and care for the chickens and they provide us with eggs. We feed and care for the cows and they provide us with milk. When you come to think about it, it is a really beautiful relationship. But then there is also more than that; the time when you really feel you have drawn a connection with an animal. It is a very comforting feeling.

Your farm friend,
Julia

Farm Fact: The White Leghorn is the most common chicken on earth.

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