Farming is a lifestyle as much as it is an occupation. Our house is twenty feet from where we park the tractor, a hundred feet from winter chicken coop, and close enough to where we overwinter pigs that we can see their ears sticking up from the straw from our living room window. “Chores” are something we do regardless if its a weekday, a holiday or in the middle of a blizzard.
As you might expect, things on our farm are business during the summer April through November, there is work to be done from sunrise to sunset, 7 days a week and by Thanksgiving we are ready to put our feet up as much as possible during the holidays. And we do. Yet while things are much slower in the winter, the farm still requires constant attention and relies heavily on someone to tend to the animals morning, afternoon and night.
We can buy ourselves some free time by feeding a few days worth of hay at a time to the cows and sheep, and making sure the hogs have plenty of straw and full feeders,
but laying hens require maintenance multiple times a day whether its the longest day of summer or shortest and coldest day of winter.
Chickens just don’t let you take a vacation.
During winter, eggs can freeze very quickly, so they must be collected multiple times a day, including first thing in the morning. Our hens begin laying eggs around 5 a.m. and continue to deposit their bounty in the nest boxes until about 3 p.m., at which point they call it a wrap. Around 4 p.m. we close up all of the nest boxes (so they can’t sleep in them), and after dark, when all of the chickens are settled on their roosts for the night, we go open the boxes back up so that they’ll be able to starting laying eggs in them first thing the next morning.
Filling feeders, replenishing water and collecting eggs requires attention every few hours during daylight and so someone has to be around the farm to make those things happen. It is no exaggeration to say that we are married to our chickens.
Are there ways to automate on the farm? Surely, and we do have many modern conveniences that make our job easier around the farm. But automation is a double-edged sword. After all, relied upon enough, automation leads to modern factory farms where people are sparse and animals are dense. And that’s exactly what we’re trying to get away from.
Is it tedious to have our lives dictated by a few hundred chickens? Yeah, it can be. But hand-collecting eggs and filling feeders with 5-gallon buckets is a small price to pay to be able live the farm life. And it’s a lifestyle we love, chicken matrimony and all.
Thanks for reading!