GAYS MILLS - By the time you read this, I will have become a fledgling member of a cult that is gaining a strong foothold across the country. I am now a part of the backyard chicken hobby/pastime movement. Just got the chickens early this week.
My friend Rachel was moving and offered to give me her small flock of laying hens. She has four Buff Orpingtons that are about a year-and-a-half old. These are supposedly a good breed for backyard poultry people. They are friendly, productive, good foragers, and hardy in cold climates. And they are attractive chickens, light yellow or buff in color and full bodied. They are my favorite breed of chickens.
Chickens are well-suited to large scale operations and most of the eggs and chickens you buy today are produced under the dreaded factory farm conditions. Huge buildings, automated feeding and cleaning equipment, cramped conditions and so on are very efficient at turning out the huge quantities of poultry products that are so popular for consumers. My first and only experience with chickens was as a 4-H club member in seventh grade. I had 24 White Leghorns and they were kept in cramped cages. I still feel a little guilty about that.
These Buff Orpingtons have been free-ranged their whole lives and they will be here too. They will be kept in a coop at night, but spend their days exploring and wandering around their new home. I hope they won’t find it necessary to “cross the road,” busy Highway 131. Chickens are curious and entertaining if allowed to “act naturally.” They spend a lot of time scratching around and looking for bugs. I’ve heard they are helpful in controlling ticks around a place, which would be a big comfort.
Chicken coops were generally very humble buildings on farmsteads, when more people commonly kept small flocks on family farms. I’ve spent several days building a coop for these chickens. It is turning out humble alright, but should serve its purpose very well. Truth be told, the coop isn’t done yet, but it is chicken-ready or at least chicken-adequate for the time being. It will have to be winterized in the next few weeks.
I chose to repurpose a large wooden swing and play set into a coop for these chickens. It was a heavy-duty affair made largely of cedar lumber. It’s been a fun project and I’m sure it’s unique to Crawford County and possibly the state. It’s sports several 4-pane windows, some portholes made from glass pot lids, and a skylight for Pete’s sake. Home-sawed lumber, used corrugated tin for the roof, and some PVC panels salvaged from the recent flood make for an inexpensive and eclectic look.
I bought some eggs last week and thought: Are these the last eggs I will need to buy for a while?