Living off grid – well we just had to have chickens right?
When I was a kid we had a couple of bantam chickens. They were named Popeye and Oliveoil, or maybe it was Oliveoyle. Anyway we only kept them for their eggs. I’m not sure why we wanted such small eggs. We could have just raided a robin’s nest or two and not had to buy any feed. I still remember those two chickens. When the rooster was after the hen (which was often) she would run into the doghouse and hide behind the dog to get away from him. It must have been one of those forced marriages. Of course, as a child I just thought they were playing hide and seek.
I’d like to say I remember that we enjoyed the eggs but sometimes my mother thought the eggs should be soft boiled and I did not enjoy those at all. Who came up with that idea anyway? Why not just eat them raw? Did she think I wanted to grow up and be Rocky Balboa? What was the point in wasting the energy to almost cook them? Just saying……
So when Laurie and I moved out of the city we just had to have chickens. We fixed up an old storage shed and made a chicken condo out of it. We had all the chickens sign papers that they would live in harmony, lay lots and lots of eggs and the rooster would never crow before 9:00 a.m. and only on weekdays. Well, the chickens do seem to live in harmony.
We have one Rooster and eight Hens. I think they are happy, well I KNOW the rooster is happy.
The condo is insulated, has a lot of roosts which they don’t use much. We put four nest boxes in it. Guess how many they use? Usually just one. I guess they don’t like cold boxes. When it is time to lay an egg, the hens should just go to a nest box and lay one. Not ours, they get in line to use THE box. No one wants to be first because the box is cold. They are not patient either. Once they are in line, they want the laying hen to hurry. They stand there and scold each other if they are not fast enough. Then when they are done and get out of the box they brag about what they just accomplished. They are not at all sportsman like about it. There is a lot of trash talk. It can be very noisy in the henhouse.
All of our chickens are “free range”, I guess because they didn’t have to pay for it. They get store bought feed twice a day and the rest of the day they spend on their free range foraging for bugs and things. You can’t believe what chickens eat. I can’t believe we eat chickens and eggs, not after what I’ve seen. These chickens (I am not making this up) will sometimes stand under a horse tail and wait………I’m from the city remember? I am not farm hardened. That is disgusting.
It’s still cold and wet here even though it is May. I guess there are not as many bugs and things for them to eat. After dinner last night I went outside and almost got ran over by the whole herd of chickens. Flocks fly, herds rumble. This was definitely a herd.Have you ever stood in one spot and witnessed eight chickens running straight at you full bore? It is a sight to behold. Full speed they came. Waddling side to side, some flapping their wings for more speed. I thought I was a goner. I guess they were just extra hungry. Maybe the horses weren’t around. I went back into the house and got some scraps (pay dirt for a chicken). I can’t tell you how happy they were. I was happy they didn’t trample me to death.
These guys are smart too. We haven‘t lost one chicken to a predator. Well okay, we do have an Anatolian shepherd livestock guardian dog but that’s not the only reason. We had a coyote come to within about 50 yards of the flock one day. The hens all bunched up and froze and the rooster went out about 15yards toward the coyote. He actually put himself between the coyote and his hens! I guess eight hens to yourself is worth dying for. I was impressed! I thought he was all about the love. This rooster actually finds food and gives it to his hens or calls them over to eat what he found. He’s a real smoothie. I think he’s from Europe. Excellent technique.
But here he was actually putting his life on the line defending his loved ones. The standoff finally came to an end when I went outside and scared the coyote away. Of course the hens all gathered around the rooster, like he was the hero. Go figure. I have to admit, he is dashing in his feathered costume, but there is a little substance there as well.
It wouldn’t be the same here without our chickens. Fresh healthy eggs are wonderful but the entertainment value is priceless.
Ed and Laurie Essex live off grid in the Okanogan Highlands of Washington State where they operate their website goodideasforlife.com and offgridworks.com.