Six Chicky Chicks

Buff Orpington and Chicks

Mostly we buy in baby chicks every few years but some are born on the farm, hatched by our existing population of chickens like these six chicks who are being mothered by a Buff Orpington hen.

We keep up to 300 to 500 hens for their services of organic pest control. They eat insects. This means I can grow things organically without having to use pesticides. We also live uphill from a marsh so there are mosquitoes from there and there are blackflies and horseflies from the woods. The hens also do a fantastic job of keeping down the tick population and they’re quieter than guineas. All of these insects are food for our hens which means we don’t have buy chicken feed.

The result of the hens is a severe depression of the biting insect population within about a 1,000′ radius of the chicken roosting spots. That’s about how far the hens forage each day. In the winter when the insects are gone we feed pigs to the chickens, that is to say the chickens get a share of the meat scraps from butchering. This gives them the protein and fat (calories) they need to get through the winter. They also eat a fair bit of hay which replaces the pasture grasses they eat in the warm season although hay is no where near as good as fresh pasture.

A side bonus of the hens is that they produce copious volumes of eggs which we cook to double the available protein and solve the biotin antagonist problem.jn.n1716 We concentrate the fully pastured eggs towards our younger pigs, the piglets, weaners, shoats and growers because they benefit the most per egg and that gives us the greatest feeding leverage.

The hen and her chicks in the picture are sunning themselves in a warm spot near the south whey trough. The pigs have a wallow[1, 2] right there and along the side was a dry area that the hen was using for her dust bath. The fencing divides the trough into four sections so that different groups of pigs can access the trough from different fields. The chickens are capable of walking right through the fencing and tend to follow the pig herds around since the pigs stir up insects and such. This is much like one sees out in the wild with big grazers and the birds that follow them.

Outdoors: 83°F/47°F Sunny, Super Moon
Tiny Cottage: 69°F/64°F

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About Walter Jeffries

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6 Responses to Six Chicky Chicks

  1. Patrick says:

    I love the Buff Orps, but I’ve noticed that buff colored birds – ducks, geese, chickens – are magnets for our local predator populations. I’ve only seen hawks attacking the lighter buff birds. I figure those light birds on dark grass are visible from space.

    I have the pigs and birds apart – the pigs are far from the house and the birds are closer in for eggs. Am curious if you think predation is lessened with birds among pigs?

    I have no doubt a hurt bird is a quick meal to hogs that smell blood. It’s a tough world out there. I am more curious if you think the pigs keep the ‘coons and foxes and possums and skunks away?

    We birthed almost 50 birds here in the last two months, so we’re thinking of moving them into/near the paddocks with the hogs.

    • I haven’t seen that. I’ve heard people say it about the white ones but I haven’t seen that there either. It may be simply because we have a roving pack of livestock dogs who track and will kill and eat arial predators. There is even a word they call out when they see crows, hawks and such to alert each other – a specific bark. See the article Raven Baiting.

      I don’t think the pigs have any effect on predation because these same arial predators also prey on piglets if they get the chance. I think that, an not their effects on poultry, is the reason our dogs hate the ravens and hawks. The dogs know that those birds are piglet killers and the dogs are highly protective of piglets.

      Likewise our dogs have eaten all the coon, foxes, skunks, etc that were within the 70+ acre area of our pastures.

      Beware that pigs will vacuum up chicks. The hen in the photo above keeps her chicks on the other side of the fence from the pigs. Once the chicks get big enough to run fast it is no longer a problem.

  2. Keith Murphy says:

    Very much granted that Guinea Fowl are (much) louder than chickens. But they do one thing that to me is very important — they hate snakes and will kill them with great pleasure. Living in the deep south we have lots of snakes. Some of them (copperheads, water moccasins, eastern timber rattlers, pygmy rattlers and finally coral or king snakes ) are very poisonous. We have removed two or three pygmies in the last several years. I have four children with another via adoption coming later this year or early next year. I’ll put up with noise in order to sleep a little safer. You might not have that many snakes up in cold cold vermont, but for those of us that do…I’ll stick with the stupid, loud and mean Guinea Fowl to keep patrol for some nasty beasties.


    • Our chickens (and dogs) eat snakes but we don’t have all the variety of poisonous snakes you have so I can’t comment on that directly. Theoretically we have copperheads (never seen them) and timber rattlers (rarely see them). Mostly we have the non-poisonous smaller varieties of snakes under a meter in length.

  3. Keith Murphy says:


    Interesting. I didn’t realize chickens would eat snakes. I had a flock of them beginning when I was about thirteen for a couple of years and will get some more when we move from our little five acre place to the “big farm” but it was going to be more for insect control and protein production. Look it’s stacking of functions :)

    Thanks for the insight.


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