I have always dreamt of living on my own farm with chickens running around the yard. I even once had a vision board with a picture of a hen walking through an old farmhouse kitchen! Now that we have over 70 free-range chickens here at Blue Stallion Farm this dream has come true.
Having that many chickens we needed to build them a space of there own that we now call the chicken garden. In this area there are multiple coops that are fenced in for the chicken’s shelter and safety. During the day they roam free and at night we put them to bed inside their coops, keeping them safe from predators.
Reasons to love chickens…
The chickens lay between 30 and 60 eggs a day, depending on the season. Egg production is dependent on the daylight so with winter’s shorter days, fewer eggs are laid and vice versa in the summertime. Pasture-raised eggs also have less cholesterol and fat and more omega-3 fats, D, E and B-12 vitamins. Natural eggs also contain two important antioxidants for eye health, lutein and zeaxanthin. Not only does my family benefit from having all of these fresh eggs, but we also see it as an opportunity for charity. Shana, Hanna and Misha gather dozens of eggs that our hens produce each week to sell at the Yellow Green Farmer’s Market in Hollywood, FL which is close by. All of the proceeds from the egg sales go to Medical Missions, which is an organization that provides healthcare to children.
Another perk of having chickens is that their manure is also valuable- it is high in nitrogen which makes a great addition to our compost. Because our chickens are free-range, they spend most of the day scratching the ground looking for insects, slugs and worms to eat. This helps take care of unwanted bugs from our garden. They also eat weeds that grow in the grass, so basically the chickens covert pesky bugs and weeds into fertilizer and eggs!
In addition to these great benefits of having chickens is the fact that they are just really cool animals. We love to watch them waddling around and pecking at the ground. They are all beautiful in their own right with their feathered outer coats containing many colors and patterns. Chickens are smarter than they get credit for and we love to hang out with ours. They have become part of our family. We have even formed a special bond with one hen in particular named, Gertrude. She comes when you call her name and walks 100 yards by herself from the coop to the main house to come inside for oatmeal and treats. Gertrude will sit in a basket and go for a ride in the bicycle or even sit on our swing and let the girls gently push her. How is that for personality!?
Chickens and the rhythm of life…
Everyday we open the doors to our coops early in the morning and we don’t secure them until nightfall. At sunset, each hen goes into the coop where it was raised. During the day they are all mixed up and socializing together, but at night they each naturally return to their own flock and designated coops. Secure coops are critical to successfully raising a backyard flock of chickens. They have to have a safe place to sleep at night providing them protection from other pets not raised with birds and natural predators.
Adding chickens to your menagerie means you have to do some regular coop cleaning and poop management. It might not be the ideal chore but it is key for a healthy environment. But if you have ever tasted an egg from a free-range chicken, you know the payback is delicious. You can taste the difference between our eggs and commercial eggs. We’ve even done family taste tests to prove it! The difference can also be seen in the color of the yolk (ours are more rich and golden orange) and height of the yolk (ours stand higher when fried). When cooking with free range eggs, the whites hold together better and are much fresher. It’s tough to tell how old a carton of eggs in the supermarket really is. Nothing beats grabbing an egg from the coop in the morning and frying it up the same day.
Tips for Buying Backyard Birds:
2- If you buy chicks, keep in mind that they won’t start laying eggs until about six months of age. They will have to be kept indoors under brooder lights until fully feathered- about six weeks.
3- Make certain the breed you choose will thrive in your climate. Hardy choices include Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons and Leghorns. For colorful eggs, check out Easter Eggers, Ameraucanas and Araucanas.