07 Jul The New ifarm Chicken Flock
We picked up chicks from Essex County Co-op back in April and the ladies are really growing fast! It was a diverse bunch: we acquired four different varieties bred all over the world, with personalities and plumage as varied as their names. By early September they will be laying and we will have lots of eggs to sell!
One of the breeds is called Plymouth Rock, a New England heritage breed with a beautiful barred black and white plumage. Another is the yellow-gold Buff Orpington, originally bred in Orpington, England. There are also whitish Araucanas hailing from Chile and black Australorps bred in Australia. They are quite the kaleidoscopic flock. The Buff Orpingtons are by far the friendliest breed. We decided to give them names, but since they are all so alike with their golden plumage, they are all currently named Sally.
All four varieties are heritage breeds, bred a century or more ago with the intention of having healthy, self-sufficient chickens that also specialize in laying eggs. The Araucanas are particularly interesting, with a curious gene that gives them green-blue eggshells. We don’t know if Dr. Seuss kept Araucanas or made it down to Chile to meet any. But we have suspicions.
Keeping the chickens safe from predators has been our biggest challenge: ifarm has a pair of red-tailed hawks nesting on Towne Pond, a stones throw from the farmhouse. We love to have the wildlife around, but they don’t share our ideas about chicken longevity! To solve this problem the chickens have a mobile home. We outfitted an old manure spreader with a new coop and a mesh enclosure that can be easily moved by tractor. We move the enclosure every few days to give them new forage and scenery. They also roam in fenced areas under supervision whenever possible.
We love to have the chickens forage: they eat ticks and insects that munch on our garden. They are one loop in the permaculture circle that aims to mimic natural systems between plants, animals, and fungi. Stop by for one of our weekly workshops, Permaculture Gardening Through the Season, if you are interested in seeing this theory in practice! Another piece of the puzzle is our new shetland sheep flock, fertilizing the fields and producing wool.
Enjoy the summer sun!