There are three ways you can buy chickens – as eggs in which you’d have to incubate them yourself, as chicks in which you have to raise them and be without eggs for six months, or as grown chickens from six months on but cannot be 100% sure how old the chickens are – when a chicken is over two years their egg laying capacity diminishes and the meat becomes tough. (Well, fourthly, you can buy them cold and cut from your supermarket.)
In Alta you can’t buy chickens. No one really has them, let alone breeds them. So we will have to get our chickens flown up from the south. Hopefully we can get some chicks before the winter so they will be ready for laying by next Spring. But for now it’s coop-preparing-time.
The chicken coop is a little overgrown as it hasn’t been used for a while. It is in an area with a lot of trees and so the ground needed to be raked to get all the debris and dead leaves up to stimulate new grass growth. This place will certainly be a lovely holiday home for our chickens (when we go on holidays). Their main homes will be grazing on our pastures four days behind the cows (a sustainable farming technique) and in the barn over the Winter.
Foxes can be a problem for coops and so we have a double perimeter system. Within the first fence we’ll have bigger livestock like lambing sheep or even the dog for protection. The chicken coop is the second fence. This fence is big enough to still technically call our chickens ‘free range’. We also have a wire roof overhead to stop eagles from poaching our chickens. It is a pain trying to keep it clear of twigs from the trees but the trees also help to deter preying birds.
Around the farm we have a little weed problem as many areas have been untouched for at least 10 years. One of the weeds that I have become quickly acquainted with is stinging nettle. This little guy is about knee high and likes to stick you through your jeans. They have shallow roots so they are fairly easy to get rid of but they can leave you with a burning rash if you don’t protect yourself. Chickens can eat stinging nettles and you can also make a healthy tea or stock with them but as we want to make our coop kid-friendly the nettles must go.
All our clean up certainly doesn’t go to waste! The leaves and sticks are excellent to start our compost. ‘Compost in the Arctic?’ I hear you ask. Certainly! We are experimenting with a technique we read about from Arctic Canada but that is for another post.