Many people affectionately call their laying hens “the girls”. You may think that’s odd, but these little walking egg machines have a mind of their own and their own personality. Some are shy and keep to themselves, others are affectionate and want all the attention. While you also might have a bully or two in the bunch. Regardless of their character, chickens are all gluten’s and love food.
Our barn is home to cats, chickens, pigs and the cows if it’s cold or rainy. So it’s a general rule that everyone gets along in the barn, especially when it’s time to eat! Chickens eat almost anything. I always keep a bowl of scraps by my sink which fills up rather quickly with 3 little kids. When I make my way to the barn the chickens and cats always greet me with a cluck or meow. On the menu for tonight was left over chili, apple slices, orange peels, and a few odd bread pieces. Yum!
This ole girl is the oldest of the bunch and she is usually the boss. Comes with age I guess.
One thing I’ve come to learn about chickens, probably more than any other barnyard animal, it’s extremely hard to MAKE them do what you want. There’s probably lots of people out there that raise laying hens that have them walk in a line and follow them while they sing but I haven’t figured that out yet. Raising chickens goes way back in my family, probably further than I even know. The stories I hear the most come from my mom and how her grandpa always loved his hens. In fact the old hen house where his chickens were is still in great condition and was used for a chicken house when I was living at home.
So I knew when I got married and we had our own place, I wanted fresh eggs! While it’s not necessarily hard to raise chickens, you just come to notice they are ornery, stubborn little boogers. The first thing (I thought) I needed was a nesting box for my lovely girls. So my mom brought over the antique nesting box that her grandpa used! It’s so pretty with such great patina on it I almost didn’t want to use it, but I figured great-grandpa would be proud!
Do you see this wonderful piece of living history? You can still see the beautiful turquoise hiding! It’s got the little foot piece still attached for easy access, and each little hole is nice and cozy. I positioned it perfectly to get lots of sun in as well as keeping it well protected. I prepared it well with soft bedding in each hole not knowing who would want to lay their egg where. Boy was I in for a surprise!
The days went by with no eggs, I couldn’t understand it. I checked my hens, they were all healthy, and after a quick check from their fluffy rump I could tell they were laying eggs. I thought maybe something was snatching them before I could gather them!
So one day I decided to go down when I thought they might be laying. Many hens make loud noises to tell the world they are awesome and just laid an egg for the day, and I can’t say I blame them, it’s pretty cool. On my walk to the barn I hear the loud clucking/screaming and I change my walk into a jog excited to find an egg!
When I get down there I see one of the hens squawking loudly and coming out of a horse stall from the other end of the barn. Weird I thought, what is she doing down there?! I round the corner of the door to the horse stall and this is what I see.
Just an old horse stall, the rain has washed away the floor and it hasn’t had a horse in it in ages. However, I’m sure you see the green feed pan hanging on the wall. This stall is on the end of the barn that doesn’t get much sunlight and in the winter when the doors are shut it’s extremely dark.
But here it is, the feed bowl. Also known as the nesting box for 9 hens. I didn’t get a picture on that fateful day when it was piled with eggs. Now it’s winter time and many of my girls aren’t laying, but it’s still the best place to lay an egg I guess! I now keep it cleaned with hay to make it more comfortable since it must accommodate so many tenants.
Tip for the day: If you decide to get laying hens, don’t invest a lot of money in nesting boxes!
-The Clucky Hen