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Chicken conclusions

January 26, 2012
By Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere , Marshall Independent

Rising at 4:30 in the morning to take my place in the lambing barn has given me time to retrospect about the collection of chickens that we now have residing on our farm.

They line the top of the lambing pens, each just touching their neighbors but yet, not stuffed together like they can do sometimes when it is really cold outside.

The barn is quite warm at this time of the year because it is shoulder to shoulder sheep and baby lambs right now. As I have sat there, bottling some bottle lambs, I have had time to watch a little bit more closely these fine feathered friends of ours and have come to some conclusions about them.

First, we have a lot of chickens, specifically laying hens and one rooster (we are not counting the one peacock and two guinea fowl that we have remaining on the farm). I believe that we have around 25 chickens, give or take few right now since one chicken nest got away from us and produced three pullets that are doing quite well despite being born so late in the year.

Chickens have become the "thing" to do in the bigger cities, not only in Minnesota but in other states as well. They are considered as much of the garden as the produce itself is. They generally are laying hens that are being raised in some of the nicest chicken coops that I have ever seen. I am sure that there are a few dogs out there that are jealous because the chickens have better digs then they do. Chickens are fast becoming a staple of gardens because they provide manure for the garden and of course, eggs, and one would think, meat.

However, since most city ordinances only allow three hens and may or may not allow a rooster (they are noisy), I would make my bet that most are pets. In the country, chickens have graced the farm for many, many years and we take them as both providers of eggs and meat. They are generally not seen as pets.

Chickens are nice too look at and some say they are calming. Those who say they are calming obviously are not letting them run "free range" throughout their yard or farm because in the springtime the first thing that they do is run to your bird feeder and clean it out.

After that, they run to your flower beds and scratch out the seeds that you just planted and if you are lucky to have a strawberry bed, and then watch out because you will not have many strawberries after they have eaten their fill there too. I am pretty sure that they don't do a lot of thinking but are reactionary animals.

I do have to admit that they will leave no stone unturned and the presence of bad bugs in your garden will be lessened by 10-fold. They do offer some of the best manure for your gardens as well. The best plants that I have had have been fertilized with chicken manure.

Chickens have been also the rising star at the county and state fairs because they are so easy to take care of and show at the fair. The chicken barn at the state fair has been the most popular barn for the past three years running. The one thing that most people miss when they get chickens, specifically roosters, is that they think they only crow in the morning.

Well, there is a good reason why many city ordinances only allow hens because roosters crow just about all day long including at 4:30 in the morning when you are out in the lambing barn while the rest of the world is still fast asleep.

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