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Tractor Supply : The benefits of chickens

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04/15/2018 | 06:00 am

My husband and I moved here three and a half years ago. He is retired from law enforcement and I am a retired nurse. We wanted a little property so we could try to be more self-sufficient.

We planted some fruit trees, a small garden and put up a fence to separate the pasture. They we needed to decide how to use the pasture.

We talked to many people: neighbors, strangers at the COOP, Tractor Supply, tradesmen working at the house and anyone willing to share their opinion. We were told by many that chickens were easy to have. The reading and research began. We chose to get Rhode Island Reds. They are a dual bird -- good egg producers and suitable for meat. We started with four chicks the first year, then added 10 more the next. And six chicks this year.

You might think eggs are the chief benefit of having chickens. We get plenty of them. But the chickens help our small farm in other ways. They are great exterminators. Being free-range, they have access to all kinds of bugs. We no nolger have issues with ticks. My husband, Larry, can work in the wooded area and the girls follow him. When he removes tree stumps, they are right there to do their part.

Last year we found out they love to eat Japanese Beetles. Larry went out in the morning collecting them off the fruit trees, roses, crape myrtles and in the gardent into a container. In the evening, he would have them as a treat to the chickens. They loved them.

We also found out that chicken manure is a great fertilizer for the garden. When we clean the coop, the pine shavings and chicken droppings go into the compost pile for use in next year's garden. It is high in nitrogen, which is most often in short supply. By using the compost and working it into the soil, nutrients are added back.

It was a good decision to start with chickens on our small farm. Since then we have added goats, ducks and honey bees to our homestead. Each has it sown contributions. We love our life on the farm.

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