We are caring for a smaller flock of hens now, nine in total.
There are a few factors involved with this decision:
1. We are eating less eggs.
2. We rehomed some of our larger birds and some of our older hens and rooster have passed away, it was a conscious decision not to replace them.
3. Grain prices have increased. Caring for a smaller flock of hens = reduced costs.
4. After living here for 13 years we are noticing the impact of erratic weather patterns and climate change. It effects the amount of green pick on the ground, and fresh growth (especially during the Winter and Spring months) this is a crucial part of the hens diet, something the hens rely on to eat and forage while free ranging. Keeping a smaller flock = more than enough green pick. Observing. Evaluating. Making changes that benefit the flock, this is an ongoing practice that I highly recommend.
5. At no time have our hens living/freerange/care arrangements ever been compromised, we added more food areas when we had less hens. The hens still have lots of space to free range, now it is in different parts of the garden.
6. My standard has always been to make sure that on the hottest of days (that can now stretch into weeks) or the wettest of days, the hens have optimal living conditions and care. They have always had this regardless of the size of flock, we have just changed things around.
7. Instead of a large number of hens being in small flocks in different areas of the garden there is now one small flock in one area. It makes it easier for me to manage and be independent on a daily basis with my injured hand.
8. We all know the consequences of a virus spreading, I am quietly concerned about the bird flu and from reading the news, aware that it has been in Victoria, Australia. Spread by wild birds, we do have migratory wild birds in Tasmania. If anything the pandemic has taught me, it is to be as prepared as possible for any scenario – Michael added an extention to the back of the hen house that gives ample room for the 9 hens to be inside if they have to be housed 24/7 because of a bird flu outbreak. On Instagram I follow farmers and poultry keepers in the UK who are having to keep their flocks enclosed due to avian flu outbreaks. Fingers crossed I hope it never happens here and hope that in the UK things get sorted quickly. It is not my intention to provoke fear, just sharing what we are doing.
A small flock, ample inside and undercover areas for them if needs be. Being prepared, less anxiety, more calm.
9. Because it is a smaller flock they are able to free range around the Kitchen Garden and raised garden beds. Good for pest control, and I am loving the company.
10. As well as free ranging in the Kitchen Garden they also have access to the Back Orchard (measures 25 metres x 20 metres) and sometimes the Quince Orchard for a visit.
11. We have 2 Orpingtons, 1 Australorp, 2 Silkies and 4 Pekins. None of them are flighty and don’t jump the fences into the garden beds where they shouldn’t be. Given so much space and various areas they are never bored or hungry, the grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence so to speak.
12. With a local farmer delivering our yearly hay supply there is ample hay to last the year, keeping hay costs down and not worrying about running out. Some of the hay is used in our guinea pig hutches and some of the hay is used in the nesting boxes and for refreshing the henhouse floor, the soiled hay then gets used as mulch on the perennial garden beds or goes to the compost bays.
14. Honeybee the duck does spend a lot of time with the hens. Honeybee, being a duck, does dirty the clean water dishes and we are quick to refresh the dishes with clean water.
15. From now on we will only add Silkies or Pekins to the flock if need be, knock on wood our 9 hens are with us for a very long time and this won’t be necessary. It’s a sweet little flock and I’m grateful that we share the garden with them.
Making the decision to care for a smaller flock was easy because circumstances change and the health and the care of the flock comes first.
Emotionally for me it was harder, letting go of the dreams I had of caring for a large Buff Orpington flock.
Until next time,
Hen House changes.
January 4, 2023