Chicken Staycation: Day Trip to the Greenhouse

28
165
Happy Chicken Art
Chicken art by Marcia McKinzie

Chicken Staycation: Greener Pastures Make for Happy Chickens

Happy Chicken Staycation Art
One happy chicken by Vashon Island artist Marcia McKinzie (with permission to use)

Winter wetness has been a tough reality for my chickens (and me), especially considering February rainfall broke an all time record in the Puget Sound (Seattle) area. Wet chickens are right up there with wet cats, not a pretty sight; and no matter how much I try to keep things dry, Mother Nature still insinuates herself into their lives on a daily basis from muddy eggs to sodden feathers.

I could see that the girls and sir rooster needed a break, a chicken staycation so to speak. My greenhouse sits just south of my chicken coop and run, always teasing the flock with the promise of warmth, forage, dryness, and light. Heck, I would venture to say, my greenhouse is to chickens as the Mall of America is to a busload of winter-weary Minnesotans. I’ve hesitated letting them in the greenhouse for fear of complete and utter destruction of every living thing within its clear-plastic-covered walls. For those of you unfamiliar with a backyard flock, their sweet appearance belies an innate demeanor; chickens are velociraptors with feathers and beaks. Left to their own devices, a flock can decimate a garden faster than you can say, “Bob’s your uncle.”

In February, my greenhouse is in a sad state anyway, plants limping along, last season’s beauties collapsed on the floor, mourning a party that had to end. And that’s where the chickens come in (literally). They get a day trip to a dry spot and floral shop of edible and scratchable curiosities. In a week or so they will make handiwork of weeds, failing foliage, and crawling critters. I put up a screen for the area housing my current crop of spring blooming bulbs, and then, opened the door, and said, “Let the party and vacation begin.” I had half a mind to join them — to unfold a lawnchair, pour a libation, and set my iPod to ambient ocean waves.

Marcia McKinzie chicken art chicken staycation
What a rested chicken looks like. Artist: Marcia McKinzie

Earlier this winter, I extended my chicken run by letting the flock have access to my overgrown, weedy, all-is-forsaken raspberry patch. Within one week, they weeded it thoroughly, and by the second week, the barnyard banshees tore up and scratched through the top two inches of soil, rototilling the entire patch into soft fluffy mulch. By having mobile electric fences (to keep predators out and chickens in), I can change up the chicken yard boundaries every so often.

I keep the chickens out of the raspberry patch during the growing seasons as they peck at new sprouts, that when fully grown, will produce next year’s berries.  The hens are also capable aerialists when it comes to securing low hanging fruit. Sometimes I let them in for one day just to clean up the fallen berries and a few weeds, while entertaining me with their antics. I lure them out of the patch and back the coop with a chicken’s drug of choice, mealworms.

I shot a video to mark this  auspicious occasion. Who doesn’t love home movies of a friend’s latest vacation?

Feature Presentation: Chicken Staycation

Wishing you were here!

–the ladies and gent of the roost

Update: Happy hens lay pretty eggs.

cafeluna_IMG_6113_egg_squareThe eggs shown above were some of our flock’s first. The blue eggs are from cream crested legbars and the brown eggs from buff orpingtons and the black australorp.

28 COMMENTS

    • Hi Lynn, Buddy is settling in nicely. He is an unapologetic lover of all humans and fellow canines. I’ll have to do a write-up shortly on his progress of taking full ownership of the farm, where I am a mere farmhand. Thanks for asking. I’m smitten and we are best buddies to boot!

  1. This video made me miss having chickens. I loved to watch them turn my compost heaps and clean up around the fall garden. It’s been years since I’ve had them. It’s not quite as interesting without them—BUT—my garden beds around the house are certainly nicer without chickens tossing all the mulch around!!!
    Great video, Tom. I enjoyed it a lot

    • Thanks Sue, and you are so right. In fact today, they found a whole in the fence, thanks to some bad weed whacking, and they escaped to enjoy a moderately sunny day investigating every square inch and garden bed on the farm.

  2. There is simply no end to your ingenuity, Tom! I’m so impressed with all the talents you possess. The chickens look so plump and healthy and content, and the eggs are simply beautiful. They make those dyed Easter eggs look positively garish.

  3. Thanks Sandra, what a lovely thing to read this morning. Most often my projects are borne in finding ways to reduce time and labor for me, especially in the weeding department. The hens love it, and are glad to oblige the task. Now if I could just get them to paint my fence and wash some windows.

    • If you manage to succeed in getting the hens to help with washing the windows, please let me know and I’ll get my own chickens. 🙂

  4. Tom thanks for being such a wonderful and soulful person. It is such a special feeling one receives from reading your adventures.

    From V and the Furry Gang

  5. Thanks for the chicken fix. I had to give up my small flock of girls when we moved to our new house last summer. I don’t miss the mess and the nightly worry, ‘did I close up the coop?’ but I miss the eggs and the antics and comfortable chicken sounds and the sight of their fluffy chicken booty butts.

    • So true Kathy, it seems every critter on two and four legs likes chicken. Half the battle is keeping the diner and the dinner separate and secure. Speaking of mess, time to clean out the coop and drop the poop in the compost bin. Better have a scrambled egg first. 😉

  6. Love those chickens, the sounds are so comforting. Since I am in between chickens I will listen to it on your video from time to time, and maybe meditate too.

  7. Tom,
    I am a chicken lover and this is the most entertaining thing I’ve seen in a long time! It makes me miss my girls so much (long story). I have new chicks on order and can’t wait until they are big enough to be out in the coop. I’m curious why you have a male. We can’t have them here in seattle and that’s ok with me because they are LOUD and I only want eggs. Are you planning on doing some hatching? How does Buddy do around your flock?

    • Hi Karen, first of all, Buddy is wonderfully blase’ around the chickens, though that changes should I be holding one. He then sees them as a fidgety chew toy. So needless to say I don’t handle the chickens in his presence. As for the rooster, he was part of the cream crested legbar deal. We could buy the hens if we took one rooster. The good news is he’s really docile and doesn’t attack or posture around me. I once had a Cuckoo Maran rooster who I should have named Napoleon, aggressive little bugger that his was. So having a calm rooster works for me now, especially as hawk and eagle predation has become very commonplace in chicken yards on the island, and having a rooster is the barnyard equivalent of an early warning system. He makes a racket any time there’s a flyover, whether robin, raven or raptor. We’ll see how my neighbors like his antics in the wee hours of summer when the windows are all open around here.

  8. I wonder if you have ever visited Kauai? In ’92 hurricane Iniki liberated many hens and roosters from pens (is the story I’ve heard) and now they have multiplied greatly and roam freely about the island. I lived there for 5 months a couple years ago and was so amazed at the abundance of these birds, every morning you hear roosters crow and if you go to any business (Costco, Foodland, Post Office) you’ll see half a dozen strutting around the parking lot with no one batting an eye.

    • Hi Forrest, I’ve been to Kauai, but visited before island chickens were liberated by the winds of Iniki, so I did not get to see their antics or legions. There’s no sleeping in on Kauai now, it sounds like. 😉
      Cheers
      Tom

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here