Five year old Billy and one of the hens who like him. Hens have their favorite roosters, and Billy is well liked for being a kind rooster. The oldest rooster at a man and his hoe®, he has the longest spurs of any of the roosters. Watch the roosters and hens for an extended period of time, and you come away with an appreciation for the intricacies of chicken life. Give them the space they need to live they way they want to, and you realize how absurd it is to cage these animals, or crowd them together by the tens of thousands.
These chicks are seven weeks and still have a ways to go before they are independent. Many broiler chicks have already been butchered by the time they are this old, and most only have another week or two before they are off to market. These heritage breed mix chicks are many months away from the dinner table.
The nice thing about chickens is that they like to come home in the evening. Your or old, as the sun starts to set, they all make their way back into the chicken yard and the coop. In the winter months, they are in by 4 o’clock. In midsummer it can be 9 o’clock or later. They don’t want to be left outside in the dark.
So just how far do chickens travel in a day? Much further than most people realize. In just three hours, the mother hen has taken her chicks over 600 feet through woods, pasture, and gardens. Over the course of a day she will take them from half a mile to a mile. This would be the equivalent of a person walking three to six miles.
I wonder what the psychological effects are on chickens which have very little room to move. I look at chickens being raised in 10 by 12 foot chicken tractors and can’t help but imagine they must be going mad. I’ve yet to see any of my chickens limit their daily movements to such a small space. Some of them travel so far I’m surprised they don’t get lost.
What I’ve observed with my chickens is that they don’t like to stay in one place very long. Even when they are in the midst of plenty to eat, they won’t stay more than five or ten minutes eating before moving on. It may an instinctual behavior to keep from being found by prey. Wild chickens which stay in one place too long may have a greater chance of being eaten than those which keep on the move. And if chickens have this instinctual need to keep moving, what happens to their psyche when they can’t?
When you watch these small six week old chicks running around with their mother, it’s hard to imagine that many broiler chickens are six pounds and ready to be butchered by six weeks. How is that possible? What happens to a chicken when it grows to six pounds in sex weeks. What would happen to a human child if it grew to the size of a large adult in four years?
The Swedish Flower Chicken is a landrace chicken that developed in Sweden. Landrace is a breed which has developed over time by adapting to the natural and cultural environment in which it lives.
Swedish Flower Chickens are colorful birds. No two are alike. Here are some links to other places raising these incredible birds:
Do searches of “Swedish Flower Chickens” or “Skånska Blommehöns” and you’ll find many more stories and images of these wonderful chickens.
Each chicken is unique. Each chicken has its own face, its own personality. You can see their personality develop as chicks. Among siblings, there are outgoing chicks, quiet ones, curious ones, timid ones. As they grow, their personalities develop and in some cases change. Have a flock of chickens and you’ll never have a boring day.
It doesn’t seem like January. The sun has been out all day and the chickens are having a great time. When you see how the chicks enjoy hanging out with their mother, even hopping on her back, isn’t it obvious that every chick deserves a mother?
Modern agriculture is all about efficiency. What is the least amount of feed we can give these chickens to raise them in the least amount of time to maximize profits? What is the least amount of money we can pay workers? What is the cheapest way we can ship this food? Those are the driving forces behind filling supermarkets with vast quantities of food. It’s not about maximizing your life and happiness.
But we are going to be on this planet for millions and millions of years to come. We need to expand our viewpoint and instead of running madly in a system driven by this quarter’s profits, we need to envision a system that will endure for millions of years and maximize happiness for everyone and everything, even the animals we raise. We are all interconnected in ways we can’t even imagine. Energy flows from one living thing to another. If you think about it, we are all just recycled chicken shit. The chickens eat the grains, the grasses, the berries. Their shit fertilizes the fields to grow incredible carrots, cabbages, and other vegetables. We eat those, so in a sense we are just eating recycled chicken shit. It all goes round and round. We all need to be healthy and happy, including the plants and animals we eat, to carry us through another million years.
Chickens are born knowing how to take dirt baths, but when they get to learn this behavior from their mother, they sure enjoy it.
Every hen lays a special egg. To lay wonderful eggs, chickens need good food, plenty of exercise, and a quiet place to sit.