In addition to their wild wanderings, we've tried to offer them variety and fun in their Habbitat. After Christmas every year, we collect unwanted christmas trees and leave them in the Habbitat for more natural nesting and resting areas. The grass grows taller around these dead trees and offer wonderful little hiding places for broody hens or cranky roos. They also provide excellent bug hunting grounds. In an attempt to create more diversity, we decided to try something new this year with pallets and left-over seeds, inspired by accident. Earlier this spring I read an amazing article about the taste of eggs in regard to the season. Eggs, of course, taste differently according to what the hen has eaten and is experiencing. In the spring the eggs are deeply yellow and rich, because the insects and wet roots she eats are abundant in the fresh spring weather. Early fall, the eggs are lighter in color and lighter in taste, because she's eaten more grasses and forage and is hiding out from the heat, thereby not eating as much. In an attempt to affect the flavor of the eggs, and encourage more natural behavior in the flock, I mounded a couple long rows of compost into which I planted last years' left over seed. Over the top I placed several pallets, laid side by side. The idea is that as the plants under the cover of the pallets begin to grow, the chickens, geinea hens, ducks and geese will feast on the leaves and veggies without digging up the roots and killing the plant. So far it's worked wonderfully, though I'll save my praise until the end of fall to see how well it worked throught the seasons. I planted squash, beans, sunflowers, wild grasses, lettuce and melons. Stay tuned to see how well it works!
When we first began raising our own meat a few years ago, everyone told us not to love, name or become attached to any of the animals destined for dinner. We tried to be stoic and removed and it honestly didn't work for us. I've discovered that despite what others have said, it's a more complete transition from backyard bird to dinner plate if we allow ourselves to love along the way. To understand the sacrifice it takes to kill a living being in order to live, we must first treat that living being with the respect and love it deserves. With that in mind, we totally love on all our birds, layers and meat alike. If anything, over the years I'd say we feel closer to the animils we claim as food then when we started. This year, all of our ducks and many of our chickens we hatched ourselves. Lovingly cleaning them of their broken shells at birth, caring for them throughout their lives, cherishing them by name and recognition of their personalities and in the end, delicately leading them through the process of their death. I think we'd all swear to the fact that these birds bring a whole different meaning to the term Happy Meal.