Creating a wholesome environment extends beyond food and water. We are outfitting our girls with the best items we know to keep them healthy and comfortable. These are new pets for us and as such, they do take an investment. I am not of a mind to treat these creatures as a commodity, but as a member of the household just like our cats, dog, bees and wild birds. They deserve respect and good stewardship as part of the natural world I am bound to nurture and protect.
Part of that care is ensuring that the coop is clean, dry, well ventilated and comfortable. We have accomplished this with a few items. First the floor of the coop is covered in pine shavings. These are soft, and absorbent to provide for a soft landing and to absorb urine and moisture from droppings. To augment the prevention of odors, I have employed both fresh and dried herbs in the coop. We have an overabundance of lemon balm (sweet Melissa or lemon mint). I cut large amounts of this and place it in the coop to keep it smelling fresh. In addition, I have added a handful of a mix of herbs from “Treats for Chickens” it is a blend of herbs that promote well being as well as prevent infestations and odors.
I will be cleaning the coop out every two weeks and adding the shavings to our compost. The pine will break down quickly aided by the chicken manure. This will activate the composting process. With the addition of the herbs, the decomposition will be virtually odor free. As fall arrives, I will select which garden beds will not be used in late fall and winter, those will be covered with shavings as well as any straw extracted from the chicken run to decompose over the winter, adding vital nutrients to the soil as well as aeration and will act as a mulch and soil erosion preventative.
In the run, we are using straw as a bedding material, it is softer for the chickens to run around in, scratch, etc. It also promotes insects coming up from the soil below to be enjoyed by the chickens. In addition, we have added a wash tub for dust baths. This mix of ingredients allows the chickens to clean their feathers to prevent mites, fleas and ticks. The combination of material is as follows, top soil from the garden, gritty sand, food grade diatomaceous earth and sifted wood ash from my winter fires in the fireplace. The diatomaceous earth is deadly to mites and other parasites and the wood ash creates an hostile environment for insects.
In addition to daily rations of greens, herbs and fruit for them to forage and play with, chicken life can be boring…bored chickens can turn mean so it is important to provide entertainment for them. The first item we purchased was a “chicken swing”. Will installed this in the run and we hope the chickens perch on it and have hours of fun swinging. Further hooks for hanging treats and toys will be added in the future.
Our little hens are enjoying their coop and run and beginning to thrive on our homestead!