Daisy awaits her first egg.
Well, it took about 5 months, but my cute, fuzzy, peeping baby chicks are now large, ravenous birds, mercilessly tearing apart every living thing in their paths. I’m still totally in love with them – the way they look and move, the noises they make, how serious and comical they seem all at the same time.
But dang those girls can eat! Five full grown chickens cut loose on an urban backyard will clean out the green in no time. One day a few weeks ago, I went out to forage in the backyard for random edible weeds to add to a salad I was making. And there were none. At all. No chickweed, no wild lettuces, no sorrels, no yellow dock, not even any of that annoying Florida betony. My girls had cleaned me out.
I took a good look around my yard. I was so happy to have these birds roaming free in the backyard that I hadn’t noticed them staging a quiet revolution right under my nose. First of all, there is chicken poop everywhere. Second, all the raked and mulched pine straw had been spread across the yard, with little hen wallow nests scratched into it here and there. The compost piles have been scratched down to little hills.
On top of the devastation these delicious birds have wrought upon my yard, they’ve learned to roost on the top of the chain link fence. So many times I drive up into the carport to see all five of them innocently roosting by the carport garden, none of them realizing they’re three feet from freedom. Or I’ll glance out the window to five lumpy shapes on the back gate, perched on the purgatory between yard and back lane. In that case I’ve got to run all the way around the neighbor’s house to the back lane and shove them (bock bu-GOCK!) back into the yard. Naughty girls!
So the Herban Cowboy and I agreed that the yard needed dividing. We needed a garden/human area and a chicken/poop area. It’s taken several weekends of here and there tackling, but we finally strung some chicken wire across half the yard or so, around some trees. They still occasionally find their way out, and we’ll keep improving it over the next few weeks. But so far, so good.
The other chicken related news is that they’re just about mature enough to start laying. They’re about 5 ½ months old now, and they’re all just about as big as they’re gonna get. They “sing” in these funny creaking voices and they all like to huddle together and practice nesting. We switched them to big girl chicken feed as well. BIG update when we find the first egg I promise.
Once again it was the Herban Cowboy to the rescue. He built a quick nest box out of plywood, we filled it with wood shavings from the garden mulch, put a golf ball in it (for inspiration) and set it in the coop. There’s another nest box in the making, but hopefully one will be enough for now. I hope they get the idea and don’t start laying eggs in the bushes.
So we’re deep into the cool Savannah autumn here. The live oaks and the pines remain dark green and lovely, but all the other trees are showing off their colors before they shed their leaves. The Virginia creeper is a brilliant red and some of the sweetgums are actually going for purple. The pale winter sun hangs lower and lower in the sky each day. I’m afraid my cool weather gardens won’t get enough sun. I’ve been neglecting my gardens since the chickens took over my yard.
I guess the next project is to clean up devastation my girls visited upon the now chicken-free zone. Rake the pinestraw. Compost the dead stuff. Visit the neglected turnips, check on the puny carrots and broccoli. There might be enough lettuce for a salad.
Thank goodness I don’t have to live off this homestead.