Life and Death on the Farm
Natural Farming and My Flock of Rhode Island Reds
Three years ago, after I had established most of the perennials that I was intending to purchase in, I decided that it was time to bring in some chickens. Of course it wasn't entirely an easy decision to bring new life onto the farm. We are all vegetarians here, but we eat eggs and when it boils down to it, I believed that chickens would be a net gain for the soil fertility. There was also the hope that they would reduce bugs, particuarly ticks, the only bug I really care about, and that they would provide a modicum of entertainment during the dull times.
Watching the chickens grow from little puffballs of golden feathers to big unruly birds was a pleasure. We started out with 16 birds, that is, 1 rooster, and 15 hens. For over a year they pecked away the grass, and grasshoppers, and lived the normal lives of a completely free range chicken flock. In the summer the chickens couldn't keep up with all the greenery and bugs, although certain changes to the landscape were clear, but it was in the winter that their impacts were the clearest, as they consumed and composted nearly everything they would want over the span of about half an acre. They dug some holes and exposed plenty of dirt but ultimately they didn't destroy the land, as chickens cooped in a small aread always will.