I have come to learn there are a few trade-offs that come along with chicken ownership.
- Chickens provide our family with eggs and hours of entertainment just watching their antics as they roam the homestead.
- Trade-Off: You can no longer expect to have anything pretty in your yard, i.e. flowers, shrubs, berries, ANYTHING. The chickens will find it, devour it, and scratch it into oblivion.
- Our rooster provides protection for our hens and fertilized eggs in order for us to maintain a sustainable form of raising chickens.
- Trade-Off: They will crow in the most untimely parts of the day, i.e. before the kids are awake, while they try to nap and pretty much anywhere in between.
This being taken into consideration I have decided to keep the chickens in the run most of the time. This is for a few reasons, 1. to address the issues mentioned above and 2. to provide protection from predators. I do let them free range for a few hours in the evening. By doing this the chickens forage closer to their coop thus staying out of my flower beds and off of the porches. I maintain my sanity and they still get some time outside to chase bugs, play on the hay, and pick through the compost.
Because the chickens are spending more time in the run I saw a need to make a few upgrades in order to keep them from getting bored and picking on one another, so here are a few additions we were able to do with very little time and for FREE.
Add a Dust Bath
Chickens need to dust bathe in order to keep mites at bay and to keep skin and feathers looking healthy. I found this old tire on the side of the road and thought it would make a perfect dust bath for our ladies. We added sand, wood ash and DE, vua-la a dust bath.
Add a Roost
We used a wood pallet and leaned it up against the side of our run for the chickens to roost on. You could also build a roosting tree.
A Pile of Hay
Chickens love to scratch and one of our girls’ favorites is to scratch through a pile of hay. I just scrape some of the hay leftovers from our horse or steer and throw it into a pile in their run along with some sunflowers seeds or scratch. Quick, easy and the chickens really enjoy it.
DIY Flock Block
I use this recipe from Jill Winger at The Prairie Homestead, written by a guest, Colleen author of Five Little Homesteaders blog.
I don’t know if the chickens enjoy treats more when they are hanging or if it’s me enjoying watching them in some sort of chicken tether ball game. Some easy treats to hang include, lettuce, cabbage, and apples.
A Pile of Limbs
Our chickens, especially the pullets, seem to enjoy hiding in a pile of limbs and looking for any bugs that may venture through it.
Add a Chicken Swing
This is a luxury I have not yet added to our run, but seems to be very popular among chicken enthusiasts. I plan to add a swing soon, mainly to see if our chickens actually would use it. This may move me into crazy chicken lady status, but I guess I’ll just embrace it.
A Compost Corner
Our compost it located next to our run, but I think if you have the space your chickens would love to have a compost pile in their run. Our girls will spend hours rummaging through compost. This helps to turn the compost, plus they will add to it by pooping there, and cut down on your feed bill. Chickens can eat up to 1/3 lb. of compost in a day.
This is an upgrade that will need to happen on the outside of your run, but will no doubt add some beauty, and to top it off will also produce a tasty treat for your chickens at the end of the flower’s growing season.
Add Lookout Points
This can be in the form of tree stumps, wood pallets, you name it, but your chickens will enjoying getting a taller view of their outside world.
That’s a wrap. Thanks for tuning in to life here at the King Ranch Homestead. I would love to hear your feedback. What are some homesteading topics you would like me to discuss?