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Mud Hens

It’s getting a bit messy here at the farm due to the more than five inches of rain we’ve had in the last week. The ladies don’t mind the rain too much, and if it’s just a light rain most of them will spend much of the day outside. Along with the rain comes the earthworms, one of the ladies favorite things, and they love to scratch in the mud hoping to dig one up. In the morning when they leave the coop after a rainy night, they hit the pasture at a full run, hoping to be the first to gobble down a big juicy nightcrawler! During the day when the heavier rain arrives, most of the ladies have the common sense to perch on the roost under their sun and rain shelter or go inside the coop or their covered run to get out of the weather. We have one breed of hen, the speckled sussex, which we have found to be very adventurous and which can be seen exploring the far reaches of the pasture even in a torrential downpour. It’s actually quite entertaining to look out into the chicken yard during a downpour and see most of the ladies huddled together on their perch and one or two of the sussex still going about their business in the pasture. Lil’ Red Rooster is also quite the free spirit and refuses to seek shelter from the rain. As a result, he often goes to bed soaking wet, but by morning his feathers are dry and he’s ready for another day in the rain.

Although the girls don’t mind the rain and the mud, I try to keep the mud under control. One of the down sides to a muddy pasture is that when the girls get muddy feet, they tend to get the eggs dirty in the nest box. Also, the ladies are constantly drinking out of mud puddles instead of drinking the clean water in their waterers. While this is not necessarily the worst thing in the world, it is a possible way for parasites to be spread depending upon how clean the ground was before the puddle formed. At one time, we spread many wheelbarrows of gravel in the chicken yard to make a mud-free pathway for the humans (and the chickens if they cared to use it) to get from the secure run to the coop to the shade shelter. Of course we should have known that the ladies are never content to leave any stone unturned, and they ended up scratching the pathway into oblivion in short order. Now whenever the pasture gets muddy, instead of hauling up gravel, I bring up a few loads of wood shavings from the once massive pile of 27 cubic yards of wood shavings I had delivered a couple of years ago, which is now down to a measly couple of yards. That was one of the best purchases I made since we got the farm – 27 cubic yards of wood shavings delivered for I think it was $100! Anyway, all I have to do is bring up the wood shavings in a garden trug, dump them onto a muddy spot in the pasture, and the chickens will spread it out nicely while they scratch and peck in the shavings searching for bugs. We make quite a team, and before you know it, the eggs are once again clean in the nest box and the girls are drinking out of their waterers like proper ladies.



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