This week we continue our conversation about laying hens with guest Anne Briggs (a.k.a. Anne of All Trades). We discuss introducing new hens into your flock, building a chicken coop, and chickens in the vegetable garden.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- Pecking order
- Building a coop
- Chickens in the vegetable garden
- Chicken manure as compost
- Tips for chicken noise and dirt
- Anne’s best advice for someone thinking about getting chickens or just starting out
- Chickens are fantastic at pest control, including hunting slugs, cabbage worms, and grubs. To minimize damage and maximize usefulness, chickens do need some management in the garden.
- The longer they are outside, the more they will wander, so managing their garden time is important. This also helps keep them from hiding their eggs and creating a daily Easter egg hunt.
- Make sure they are well fed before letting them out to roam the garden.
- Chickens are great diggers and one bird can move about three yards of compost a day. To prevent chickens from digging in your garden beds, install temporary fencing and keep their wings clipped so they can’t fly over the temporary fencing.
Pecking order in chickens is a real thing. You never want to introduce just one bird to an established flock; you always need at least two or three, so that if there are problems, they are spread out and not all focused on one bird. The best way to go about flock introduction is to add the new birds in such a way that the flock can see the new additions but not touch them, such as using a dog crate. It’s also best to put new birds in the coop at night, so when the hens wake up, they all wake up together and they just seem to think "huh" it's always been like this.
Chickens can be noisy. In the absence of a rooster, sometimes hens will assume that position, and some breeds are noisier than others. Chickens can also get dirty if you don't have a proper setup. Plan ahead and invest in a good feed and watering system, think through how you'll keep their coop clean so taking care of them doesn't become a gross chore, and make sure the coop is predator-proof.
If you’re thinking about getting chickens, Anne says, ‘Do it! It will change your life.’
Our chickens turning our plant debris into compost!
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More about our special guest:
Anne is a very talented woodworker, musician, farmer, and mom to a whole cast of creatures. On her suburban farm just outside of Seattle, she has 2 miniature donkeys, 3 alpacas, 2 nigerian dwarf goats, and one kinder goat (which she uses for milk), a bunny, two barn cats, a dog, 20 ducks, 4 geese, and anywhere from 20-40 chickens.
A Note From Anne:
I'm currently in the process of writing a book chronicling my metamorphosis from a city-dwelling millennial working in a soul-crushing job in the tech industry to a full time woodworker and organic farmer. I've made some major changes in my life, my buying habits, and altered my perspective on what's important in life significantly. Five years ago, I picked up my first tool. My first woodworking project led to another and another after that. The gratification I experienced working with my hands in the woodworking shop expanded outside the garage and I convinced my husband Adam to let me get chickens. One thing led to another, and a couple years later we lived on a farm, I'd built most of the furniture we owned, and I wouldn't trade this new life for the world.