Written by Kashi Stone 2015
Chickens are fabulous creatures.
They really talk to you, they do.
We have about twenty-five chickens on our small farm and two roosters. One rooster is very large and is obviously the leader of the brood. His name is Mick Jagger. When you hear him sing in the morning with the sunrise, you understand why he is named such a name. He has a beautiful song.
Since I am in charge of the kitchen and the meals for our crew, I notice if we have eggs or if we don’t.
For the first couple of months in spring, we were harvesting approximately fifteen eggs a day. The weather was cool; there was moisture in the air, fresh soil in the garden filled with spring bugs and other delightful insect cuisine. Once the plant starts were in the garden beds and starting to peek through the soil, they quickly became a favorite source of nourishment for the chickens, much to our dismay.
Don’t set up your chicken coop near the garden fence! They can easily fly over a seven-foot fence. They can destroy garden crops and starts by scratching in the dirt looking for bugs and digging up plants or by merely dining on the foliage of all lettuce or tomato plants. It is better to establish their domain away from the garden and far from the chance of discovering the garden. They will travel long distances on the property to get to those tasty morsels growing just above the ground.
That is why it is important to take good care of them. I have found that if you respect them, nurture them and really pay attention to them, they will tell you exactly what they need and they will thank you for it when you give it to them and they will leave stuff alone, for the most part.
Mick Jagger, our rooster, would walk up to the porch looking for bits of food, checking dog dishes and possible food scraps that I may have tossed out the side window like I do sometimes. I could see that the chickens enjoyed the treats too.
There was a problem though. Each time they came up on the porch, they made a mess. They would leave a trail of chicken “doo-doo”. It was really awful. I loved to chat with them and give them treats yet the necessary cleaning duty afterwards quickly became old and not much fun.
After a bit of conversation amongst a few of the people in our group, we decided that it would be best if I took on the daily care of the chickens, deliver the food scraps and harvest the eggs. Prior to this the care of the chickens and harvesting of eggs had been rather random and occasional.
Now that I had the care and concern of the chickens, I decided that I would take their food scraps down to their pen each day after I prepared a meal. Once I started doing this, they stopped traveling up to the house to look for treats and dog food.
They do have a feeder full of grain in their coop. However, chickens looooove scraps from the kitchen. If I don’t have a pan full of scraps in my hand when I come to visit, I can see a bit of disappointment in their walk and in Mick’s saunter.
I feel bad when I show up empty handed. I make it a point to give them a pan of scraps at least once a day.
When the weather began to turn hot, the chickens began to lay less eggs ~ approximately six eggs a day. That was a serious drop from spring when the farm staff were harvesting roughly twelve eggs a day.
Something had happened that greatly impacted the chickens.
I had to research what was going on and how to fix it. Thank heavens for google. I found answers to my concerns and questions immediately.
I discovered that chickens are immensely sensitive to heat and dry weather. They sweat through their feet and the crown that sits above their head, the little red corneal on the top of their skull.
If they are not getting moisture into their feet or on top of their head, they become dehydrated, very unhappy and they stop laying eggs.
It had become obvious that a better watering system was necessary for the girls. It was imperative that I bring them more treats and create a place of shade near their coop, too.
Once I had started to give them fresh water every day, created fresh pool environments for the hens to play in, brought them more treats and continued to fill up their food dish each day, things began to turn around in a radical way.
I discovered that chickens really talk to you, they do.
As long as I stayed consistent and continued to care for their needs with a generous spirit, their appreciation for my efforts began to grow and grow.
Within one week, we went from gathering six eggs on the first day to gathering thirty-six eggs by the seventh day.
I was astonished as I watched this happen.
I was humbled as I learned to become aware of their unique personalities and individual voices.
And completely blown away when I began to sense and feel their deliberate, conscious expression of love for me.
By the fifth day, it became obvious to me that they were thanking for me for taking care them through the number of eggs they were laying each day.
When I first decided to take on the responsibility and began to work with the chickens, they would cry and scream and flutter about as I walked into the coop or pen to feed, water and gather the eggs. It would cause such mayhem whenever I stepped inside the hen house.
However, once I began providing areas of water, a pool for them to wade and play in and damp areas for them to walk and rest from the heat, they realized that I was their friend. Soon, they stopped fluttering and scurrying about with all of their clucks and began cooing and calmly saying “hello” as they casually parted so I could make my way. It was a wonderful turn-around and sudden change in our interaction.
I could see that they were actually communicating with me each time I came for a visit. They became more and more alive; each personality, each sweet little hen, and the proud, brave rooster who sings a cock-a-doodle-doo-doo song all day long.
Usually, when I would go to gather eggs, there would be two to three hens laying eggs. On the seventh day of this experiment, there were eight hens laying eggs, quietly sitting in their boxes, enjoying the new, lush environment and the bountiful, daily, kitchen-scrap treats.
Approaching the hens, I would hesitate and wait for two or three hens to finish sitting on their eggs before I would take an egg. However, on this one, particular day I noticed that the hens had a special kind of “coo” in their cluck as they sat on their nests.
I also noticed that a couple of the hens had moved back about an inch off their nest of eggs so that I could see their eggs.
“Really?” I asked the group of hems humming quietly on their nests in front of me.
“Really” they cooed back to me as each one slowly glided back and revealed a few more golden eggs beneath them.
I stood there in front of the hens and bent down, eye level and on one knee in humble gratitude for the gentle way in which they were showing their appreciation.
I was deeply touched.
Slowly, I reached my hand near a hen who was sitting quietly in her box. Carefully, reaching for the egg, I gently took it from the nest. Then, she slid back another inch. Resting just behind the first egg was another golden egg!
I smiled as I spoke, “thank you, Madame Hen”. Slowly, I reached down and picked up the second egg. A soft coo came from her as I took the egg. I giggled as I complimented her for the extraordinary beauty of each one I harvested from her box.
Gently and slowly, I moved towards the next box to the right. Resting beside this hen was three eggs, exposed and ready for me to harvest. Slowly, I reached down and picked up each egg to gently place in my basket. Again, this hen did the same as she moved back an inch to reveal a fourth egg. I was amazed as I praised her for the generous gift. She clucked a happy cluck and then, settled back into her nest to watch while I continued and moved to the next box.
As I moved towards the third box, I watched the hen slowly slide to the side so that she could reveal the three eggs that she had just laid.
Really……. I was blown away at the deliberate, timely, conscious interaction that I was having with these hens.
As I slowly removed the three eggs from her nest, thanking her, I suddenly felt a beam of love straight into the center of my chest. I gasped when I realized what was happening. I stood frozen for a moment feeling the love that ALL the hens were consciously radiating and sharing with me.
Within a few weeks, the number of eggs harvested daily had increased from thirty a day into fifty a day. It remained there for as long as the love and care continued.
Fresh eggs for everyone!