Yards of Poultry

It is mid-July and the days are sweltering.  Farming is in full swing, and the days can be long and tiring.  But the farm also offers much inspiration to keep motivated.  Lawns and pastures are a vibrant green, colorful flowers abound, and all the glorious fauna have swapped their Winter shagg for sleek Summer threads.  Everything looks alive, I am surrounded by the beauty of rural life.

One of the standard images of the idyllic country life is that of chickens lazily scratching and pecking about the yard.  And, indeed, when I decided to move back to the farm, I, too, had this image in my mind.  But anybody who has ever raised chickens and let them have the run of the place has soon discovered that freely ranging chickens are messy and destructive– leaving smelly poop everywhere, scratching up flowerbeds, and invading vegetable gardens.  And any chicks that these ranging chickens set and hatch will be feral, thus embodying all above mentioned annoyances times two.

white rock hens

white rock hens

Don’t get me wrong:  Free range chickens are healthier, control insect populations, lay more eggs, and cost less to feed in the Summer.  And customers at market prefer eggs from ranging birds.  So various compromises have been devised, from fencing acres of pasture for the birds to forage on to confining them to coops for the first half of the day, then letting them range in the afternoon and evening, keeping them more intent on feeding and less likely to wander out of the barnyard.

But I still would enjoy seeing birds adorning the lawns.  I have found solution with some of my other poultry I keep.  Turkeys, geese, and peacocks are also beautiful to see, while I have found them to far less destructive and littersome.

One of my favorite joys each morning is stepping out onto my front porch to sip my coffee and being greeted by the sight of my Midget White turkey hen and her poults.  I raise other poults in the barnyard, but these the hen hatched herself and I am letting her range with them.  She takes then round the lawns everyday, showing them how to forage for themselves.  She does not scratch, so my flowers have been safe.  I find very little poop.  Passers-by have commented on how nice the turkeys are to see in the front yard.  (They, in fact, later ended up in the local newspaper, a passer-by having taken a picture of them from across the road)

Midget White Turkey Hen and Poults

Midget White Turkey Hen and Poults

In the side yard, there are geese.  White and grey Embden and Chinese.  They seem to like the area between the barn and greenhouse, which is good, because they do leave droppings with gusto.  But they are vegetarian so it quickly dries to compost.  They graze the lawn each morning and evening.  They are funny to watch and quite noisy if insulted.  But they are by far mostly quiet.

Geese in the side yard

Geese in the side yard

In the back yard, there are peacocks.  I have been raising a mating pair for two years now.  I bought them in so they are skittish and likely to fly off if set free.

Cobalt and Stella

Cobalt and Stella

Last year they hatched and now I have a pair of yearling males I am allowing to range.

My goal is to have the peafowl ranging on the lawns.

So far, the two are doing well, and I have even witnessed them practicing. wpid-IMG_20130628_192356_344.jpgOf all the birds, they have the greatest sense of humor and are hilarious to watch.

I look forward to next year when they have their trains to display.

So I have found a way to have the best of both worlds, while helping to support and preserve heritage breeds and allow natural behaviors.  Raising these birds provides beauty and adornment to my farm, with the added bonus of diversity to my family’s diet and to my market offerings.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Leo Cotnoir
    Jul 17, 2013 @ 18:45:30

    The eggs of chickens that get to eat bugs are definitely tastier!

    Reply

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