Today I went out to clean out the remains of my stewardship of egg laying hens. We had cleaned up the "parts" left from this last massacre thanks to a local bobcat that found its way in. It was a very strange morning when I went out and called out my every day "Good Morning Ladies" where I would typically get a return of excited clucking with the brave few running out to say hello in the morning sun. When my handyman, Tony, arrived this morning I told him "No mas gallinas, lets floor it up and call it good."
Shovel by shovel I scooped up the remaining feathers, chicken poop and shavings. Carefully raking the corners, taking down the wall heater, heat lamp, winter proof watering station, etc. I will be able to use the dust and feathers for compost come spring.
My trusty companion Brundy keeping me company
As I scoop out the nesting boxes, I think of all the many eggs I have pulled out and gifted to so many appreciative smiling faces. Cleaning off the door, I think of all the small children that have visited the farm and ask if they can see the chickens again. The joy on their faces is just something you don't want to miss. My plan is to scoop out the remaining chicken food and give it to one of my chicken friends. I wouldn't want it to go to waste.
Becoming a flower farmer and having been a long time gardener I certainly know the value of chicken poop. The pile I have made will serve the flowers well. When we are cooking lately or cleaning out the fridge it is the strangest feeling to not run it all out to the hens, for they love to eat it all up for us. Simply putting scraps in a compost pile out here is just a recipe for animal invasion. The hens did a great job processing food for us and turning it into gardening gold.
I remember when we first moved into the farm. It was October 2016. My family honestly thought I was crazy for what I was getting them into. A dark log cabin in the woods. My boys thought that their social life would come to a screeching halt. However, I loved the 4.5 acres with a year round creek running though it. (A hiking trail runs through our property as well, that's a whole other story).
Hens arrive right before Christmas
I have always had the burden and gift of seeing great potential in things. So we were enjoying our first winter (where the heat would only go as high as 60 degrees and the fireplace did not work) and the neighbors ran the idea by us if we wanted their chickens. They were worried that the local bear was going to get them. I agreed and thought I would have lots of time to get things prepared. But to my surprise, December 23rd, the chickens arrived at 8 PM, in the dark. How could I say no. Haha. Since we were already constantly bundled up we welcomed the hens into the barn and thankfully I just had to plug in the heat lamp (with a long extension cord running 150 feet back to the house). My mom and her husband were visiting and we all enjoyed meeting the hens. It was a very unexpected Christmas gift.
This first flock was very enjoyable. They all had names, they were very easy to pick up and handle, and they were wonderful layers. These were the first chickens I had even raised but my mom had grown up briefly on a chicken farm. She was essential and showing my how to pick them up and hold them. It was a little intimidating at first, these dinosaurs with strange feet now living under my care. They had a wonderful space and I had added 6 more to the flock soon after, learning all about introductions and migrating your flock together. Sadly after 3 years they were all killed with one sole survivor, who only survived because she was broody and hiding in the nesting box.
Then comes the second group. 10 plus the survivor. Honestly I had a hard time connecting with them. I didn't hold them much so it made them difficult to pick up and move around (hens are great garden pest cleaners and I needed them). We were in the middle of a big remodel on the house at the time and I think it was a time and grief for my first flock situation. We didn't even give these girls names. I did however enjoy them and visit them daily. They were early layers and we were provided with an abundance of awesome eggs to use and share.
Another 3 years and I was off my guard. We were storing a trailer in the barn and I didn't put together the accessibility scenario. A very easy leap from wiggling in the gap in the barn door (that since has been fixed), onto the trailer and an easy leap to bust through the chicken fencing that was loosely applied (and has since been reinforced). A bobcats dream evening. This brings me back to the silent morning that saddened me greatly. I was supposed to look after them, make sure they were safe and I failed. Well, if I have learned nothing in life I have learned that failure is a gift. We tend to walk through so much complacency in our lives that its those moments of the unexpected that make all the difference. Those are the moments where you will see things differently. Where you grow. And so I did. I analyzed the gaps, so it won't happen again.
So this morning after I finished my last shovel of shavings from the chickens coop and carefully cleaned out the nesting boxes, I looked back at Tony and said "OK. Maybe gallinas."