Hens and Roosters

Hens and Roosters South Field Shed

These are some of our chickens who have taken over the south field shed, our other greenhouse, for the winter. I say greenhouse because that is it’s intended long term purpose. Right now it just has partial glazing. The roof sections around the court yard are in part sections of wall from disassembling the old hay shed that used to sit on the foundation where the butcher shop resides.

Roaster size pigs who had been using this for their sleeping nest recently moved to the south field plateau greenhouse so now it is available for several late gestation gilts who are about to move in and make it their winter farrowing space. During the warm months out on the extended pastures sows pick a nesting area out along the margins in the brush and defend it. During the winter months they can’t do that so it is important to provide them with the privacy they would naturally seek out by giving them a space away from the herds alone or in small groups of two or three. If they’re tightly synchronized we’ve had up to six farrow together in a winter paddock.

There are several roosters in this flock. Looking closely you may be able to spot two Americana roosters. Most of the hens are Rhode Island Reds along with quite a few Americana hens, some Speckled Sussex and a few Buff Orpington and White Orpington. Most of these came as hatchlings from McMurray but some have been born here and are a mix.

Contrary to many people’s expectations the roosters get along fine. They grow up together and establish a pecking order. There is a dominant rooster who goes around daily reminding the other roosters that he is indeed the dominant rooster and the rest of them square off in their territories carefully not fighting. Pretty much things are calm.

In addition to the main flock that occupies the south field shed smaller groups claimed the strawberry plateau shed and the lower garden shed down where Spitz, our Berkshire boar, and his ladies are wintering.

Pigs and chickens are a very good mix on pasture, co-grazing well. Bacon and eggs.

Yes, they turned their butt to me the moment I took the photo. Classic chicken photobombing.

Tid-bit: The dominant rooster has the longest tail feathers because he plus tail feathers on other roosters pulling them out or breaking them while they don’t manage to get his since he doesn’t turn his back and flee.

Outdoors: 24°F/2°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/61°F

Daily Spark: Perfect is a horizon. Aimed for but never arrived at.

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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4 Responses to Hens and Roosters

  1. Two questions:
    what do you feed your chickens, if anything?
    bigger Q — We would like to put a text box about you and your farm in a book we are writing for Chelsea Green. You are the only operation we know where pastured hogs really supply most of their calories from forage; we’d like to cameo your method to contrast it with pigs on grass who eat formulated feed.
    Can we make contact?
    Thanks in advance —
    Shawn and Beth Dougherty

    • In the warm months almost all that the chickens eat is pasture, both forages, insects and mice. During the winter we replace the insects with meat from our weekly butchering of pigs. Cooking the meat makes it easier for them to eat. Grinding even easier. We don’t feed commercial feed in the warm months simply because that would subvert the chickens’s primary purpose of being our organic pest control. In the winter it is simply a matter of economics, grain costs money and we have free meat trim.

      Feel free to ask questions. If possible by comments where we can share the answers with others but email works too.

  2. Patrick says:

    If you ever have to supplement with chicks again, you might want to try a few Black Australorp. They are cold hardy – my brother keeps them in Northern NY – and they are good foragers. Easy around the other animals, too. The upside is egg production. The Australorp once set the record for egg production: 300 eggs in a year.

    We are/were getting 60-70% production during below-zero nights with no supplemental heat (wire-covered hoop house one end 100% open, one end open 30%). That’s 6-7 eggs per 10 hens in winter. They tend to slow down after two years, which lends me to also say they are meaty and taste good for old hens.

    And while this probably is very locale-based, for some reason those birds are the ones that somehow survive predator attacks in far greater numbers than Americauna or anything else we’ve tried. It got to the point that everything else disappeared in a pile of feathers on the ground, until I had nothing but Australorp hens left. All breeds started with equal numbers. Our predators: Raccoon, fox, possum, hawk/eagle and Barre Owl.


    • We have had the Black Australorps and I like them better than some but they haven’t been as good as the Rhode Island Reds, Americana and Buff or White Orpington in our experience. I had gotten some to try at one point because of that record setting egg laying I had read about. I still have one, I saw her just this morning.

      For the predators I recommend dogs, good dogs, lots of good dogs. They hunt the arial predators.

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