The Barnyard is Busy

by Marina

Spring is my favorite time of year.

Everything looks bright and fresh. Maybe from all the rain–it just makes the world glisten. Yeah, I know, it’s schmaltzy. I enjoy the spring weather. All of it.

In spring talk typically turns to the subject of gardening or cleaning. That’s all well and good but, been there, done that. I look forward to (and plan for and research beyond any sane person’s level) cultivating my barnyard. Mostly the birds. No, not the songbirds flying around, potentially stealing my blueberries and cherries. I’m talking about poultry and waterfowl. Ones that can contribute to my harvest. Specifically, chickens, ducks and geese. Not sure that I’ll ever try raising turkey. I understand they’re not the brightest of birds.

Now, this isn’t an every spring occurrence like you get with the garden. Most birds are productive for several years . . . if they survive (more on that later). When you get into the cycle of layers then after about three years you’re ready to expand again. I’ve found that adding a couple of new hens to your flock every other year is the best way to maintain consistent output of product. Layering, if you will. But how do you decide what is going to be best breed for you? How are you going to figure out how best to protect them? Where do you house them (especially if the number keeps growing)? What to feed them? How do you keep them healthy?

Look for a book!

There’s a lot of knowledge to be gained from your local feed store worker. And I’ve used some of that homespun and experiential know-how on various occasions. But there’s something to be said for having a lot of information in one place. And books are the obvious solution. I’ve gleaned knowledge from books specifically written about chickens, ducks, and geese. And, I’ve also found a lot of helpful advice in books that are general backyard homesteading references. That’s the nice thing about a library card–you can sift through a bunch of books and get what you need. Also, if you end up wanting to add to your personal library that’s a way to weed out the ones that are outdated or don’t cover what you need.

So, I mentioned above a pesky little thing about survival. Your flock is very susceptible to predators–coyotes, raccoons, birds of prey, wild cats (like bobcats), packs of neighborhood dogs–so to prolong their life you need to think about protection. That could come in the form of their house and fencing. Or it could come in the form of livestock guardian animals. Most homesteaders choose to use dogs. But donkeys and llamas are also known to be good protectors, especially if they are guarding something like birds that might be flighty around dogs. Plus, geese can alert to or warn off any manner of smaller predator.

Do you have a busy barnyard in your backyard? What do you keep?

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