To get a good idea of the quality of product you are getting from any farm or homestead, it usually helps to know what the animals are doing on the farm. Our chickens and ducks have really interesting lives and behaviors. Obviously we’ve named a few with distinct characteristics, but in general they all get to follow the same routine each day.
Rise and Shine
Our chickens start out the day way before we could ever get out there. On a full moon, the roosters actually don’t really sleep much. They crow pretty much the whole time from their roost in the stables.
Somewhere around twenty minutes before sunrise, a couple of our more vocal buff orpington hens start hollering loud enough, that if we didn’t sleep with a fan on, you could definitely hear them inside the house.
At about 7:45, Rebecca goes down and let's them out into the main run. We lock them up in the stables at night for their protection. Sometimes not even the electric fence will keep out predators. They typically fly out off their roosts with some loud cackling and lots of dust.
Their next order of business to to search all the newly opened coops for excess feed from the night before. The ducks are exceptionally bad about having leftovers.
The juveniles are handled and hand fed before they are let out. This helps with their temperament. Rebecca makes sure they get some fruit or vegetables of some sort. Then they are let out into their totally enclosed yard with a healthy mixture of bugs, cultivated greens, and tall wild weeds. It works as sort of a jungle for them to explore as well as healthy snack for them to forage on.
The chickens spend the early part of day laying eggs and foraging out in the pasture. They have roughly two acres to run around inside the electric netting but they typically stay close. The ducks on the other hand stroll all around.
The hens always want the same nest box even when there are free ones open. It's not uncommon to have a line of two or three hems waiting on a box. Sometimes they squeeze themselves in while another is in there and a squawk/whine of displeasure comes from the hen not willing to move and give up her spot.
We use milk crates with a side cut out of them. They love to have them full of hay so that they can make a nice round bowl shaped nest out of it.
Their pens are mucked out each week and replaced with fresh yard clippings.so it's not uncommon to see a hen laying on her side basking in the fresh grass.
The roosters are typically chasing hens, digging up grub, or maintaining their place in the pecking order. Our boys all have a decent temperament and typically don't chase humans. They really want nothing more than any scraps you may bring their way. The only one with anything to prove is Señor Poofy Head, a black Crevecoeur.
Dirt baths are essential, fun to watch, and one thing a chicken seems to enjoy most about its day. The hens all find their little space of loose dirt or sand, fluff out their feathers and start slinging the dirt around. Some of them end up upside down kicking or even falling asleep basking in the filth.
Time to Go In
As the sun starts to sit the chickens start pacing. They know that sun down is feeding time as well as a chance to get a good place on the roost. Our various generations of chickens have different thoughts about this. Our older chickens definitely wait for the “hand out”. They are the first ones back in the pen waiting for us to bring in the feed. You would think that they wouldn’t be “starving” when it’s feeding time, but they surely act like it.
Our younger generations all hang back and don’t eat all the food they are given in one scarfing action. They save some for the morning. Not any longer than that though because our older generation goes systematically from pen to pen cleaning up any leftovers that the other animals have left.
We gather eggs while they are cleaning up and getting up on the roost, get them fresh rain water from our barrels, and add straw to the nest boxes. Shortly after we get out, broody hens and lower ranked chickens come in and pick up what they can from what was left over with the feed. In the end, they all get up on their roosts, quietly cooing and clucking, and finish another hard day as a chicken on the McGreen Acres Farm.