Having lived in Ecuadorian Amazon region for nearly three years back in the nineties, one of the sounds and sights I missed the most upon returning to the U.S, was that of the ever present wandering chicken. The cackling hen, and even the early morning crowing rooster. They remind me of these simpler days, of the much slower pace of life that sometimes seems to be so pervasive throughout Latin America. So of course, I knew, that someday, I would have to have some chickens in my life. And yes, it finally happened.
I've pretty much had some chickens since a few months after Steve and I got married and I moved to the farm in 2010. The first ones lived in the old goat shed, then the following year, we expanded the flock and built the same 8 X 12 ft coop we have today. My only challenge was that as time went on, it seemed like our chickens were becoming better escape artists - or our fence was doing a less than required job at keeping them inside. They loved to browse the back yard, dig in the flower gardens, ramble down the driveway, scratch in the mulch, and yes- eat the tiny transplants in the lettuce plantings.
The last straw was last June when we learned we needed to have an extensive food safety audit, and we're told that *even one* domestic animal in our sweet cherry orchards could be cause enough for immediate failure! We were already too busy to take the time to build an Alcatraz-like fence to keep the birds fully contained. So, we thankfully were able to re-home our 18 lady chickens down the road to a friend's farm. Not so lucky were the six roosters, who did end up make for some delicious chicken mole'! My friend had room for the hens, but not the roosters. Did we miss having chickens on the farm? Admittedly, not right away. During the busy summer season, we just didn't miss one more chore to do at the end of the day (closing up the coop). But by fall, as the farm became quieter, we knew we would need to have chickens again come spring. So, a few weeks before Christmas (and just days before the ground froze), Steve and I put in new, taller fencing for the chickens. We were able to adopt our chickens back, along with some new ones – so now we have a total of 28 hens. We plan to put eggs out as an option to pick up during CSA pick up, but will also consider a limited number of egg shares. In the meantime, we have plenty of eggs in our household, as well as eggs to share with our dear parents!