Our nine hens turned two years old this summer which is only a fraction of their potential lifespan. Unfortunately, egg production will significantly drop as the hens continue to celebrate birthdays. It is highly likely that these girls will join the donkeys, horses, dogs, goats and pig whose occupations are simply as pets.
In the meantime, my husband Rod, (who is a gifted chicken whisperer), goes out of his way to make his hens' lives more interesting.
The chicken tractor is a mobile coup of sorts that is wheeled to various areas on the property. In a new location the girls dig and scratch in the moist earth for worms and other tasty tidbits that they find. The tractor is equipped with nesting boxes just in case the urge to lay an egg arises while the hens are away from home for the day.
Once summer ebbs, our garden becomes chicken territory once again. The girls are permitted admittance to the weedy jungle that entangles exhausted vegetable plants. Pumpkins and winter squash continue to mature under large protective leaves. But the remnants of bean, pea and cucumber plants rustle softly, waving a weary goodbye. Meanwhile, the chickens get busy annihilating pests. They perform the jubilant scratch dance that unearths delicious insect larvae deposited over the warm weather months. This cleansing will surely benefit our garden crops next summer.
For the third time in two years one of the leghorns we named Francesca, (distinguished by her floppy comb), became listless and stopped eating. She is still recovering in the tackroom. For several weeks it was necessary to force feed her by stuffing tiny chunks of corn laced apples down into her crop. The vigilance has paid off and although Frannie is not quite ready to return to her flock in the coup, she is eating on her own and spending therapeutic time under the sun. We are hopeful that she can join her sisters in the garden some day...very soon.