Few backyard experiences are as rewarding as bringing newly laid eggs from the coop’s nest box into the kitchen, but well cared for chickens give their owners more than the makings of a delicious breakfast. Hens readily provide hours of amusement with their antics in the coop and run, add a touch of color to the yard from their varied features, and donate droppings to create the world’s best garden fertilizer. Here’s how we show our flocks some love…
A flock of chickens deserves respect and kindness in exchange for all they give their owners. Expressing appreciation is both tangible and intangible. The tangible ones are providing the flock with plenty of space, a clean secure place to live and sleep, nutritious food supplemented with occasional treats, and a run that offers sunshine, fresh air, and plenty of room to run and flap. Intangible appreciation is expressing a kind word each day.
Both people and chickens enjoy elbow room and places of privacy. Cram humans together and often the result is bickering and little cooperation. Chickens are much the same. The books may say to give each heavy breed hens four square feet of floor space and a foot less for light breeds but that is the bare minimum. Crowding a coop often is the root cause of egg eating, fighting, and picking at each other. The solution is plenty of space. The more the better. Chickens love to run, flap their wings, and hop up and down to perches and branches. The bigger the run and the less crowded the coop results in less squabbling and other social problems.
Some chickens also love finding places where they can be alone and away from the flock. Privacy is important and may be just a nook or cranny in the coop where a bird can be away from her flock mates for a short respite.
Providing interesting clean coop that protects chickens from predators and the weather is just one way to show appreciation to the hens. Another is healthy food. Commercial mash provides all the nutrition that hens need, but feed can get stale. Store it in a metal can with tight fitting lid and avoid buying large quantities that might get stale. Better to frequently buy fresh feed, keep it dry, and present it to the birds in a clean feeder. Treats are always appreciated and can include kitchen scraps, a few summertime lawn clippings, and even an occasional handful of dried mealworms that are available for sale in many stores that sell feed.
It may sound sentimental, but words of thanks and encouragement are appreciated by chickens. They come over to us clucking and cooing even when they see we do not have treats. At night, certain ones seem to “chat” with us when we secure them for the evening. When collecting the eggs, as appreciative flock owners, we nod toward the hens and say, “Thanks girls for these beautiful jewels.”