I am a retired nurse; I enjoy gardening, canning, making homemade wine & I love my chickens. This is my first flock. I have Black Australorps, Red Sex Links, Ameraucanas & Welsummers. I have 1 double yoker on a regular basis. When I clean out the 'coop', I use the clean out for mulch for my garden. I have put my garden beds to sleep for the winter (I live in Wenatchee Washington - between Spokane & Seattle in the middle of the state, the orchard area) and look forward to seeing what my garden does next spring with all the good soil additives from the coop that I put in the beds when I cleaned out the coop for the winter. My coop is small- 4 x 8 x 6" on the inside area with a floor and tar paper inside and the outside fenced area is 5 x 6 x 5. I have put thick plastic on the outside area and put a light in it for the winter, so the chickens will have more area to cluck around in during the winter that will not have 'snow' on the ground (the reason for the plastic on the outside). So far it is working out well. Really comfortable with the light on. I have started culling some of the hens to my neighbor-my welsummers have gone to him. All my hens are winter hearty. Will see how they do during this first winter for them.
I made some chocolate cherry wine the other day, some champange and some saki. I still need to make some pumpkin wine after I get the others that are brewing out into the carvoys. I get all the fruit from my grape vines and from my 92 year old neighbor that has a small orchard. He gives me as much fruit as I can handle. I had so much that a person can only cann so much preserves and so that is why homemade wine was my next step.
All my hens are doing well. If I had to choose the ones I love the most, I'd have to say my Americaunas. I love those colored eggs. They are nice sized and so pretty. I just love the puffs on the cheeks and their little beard looking things. But I love all my hens. They are all sweet natured. My dog always goes outside with me to check on the 'girls'. She loves them too, I think. Now that they are grown and since she had one peck her on the nose, she doesn't want to play with them like she did when I first got the chicks.
I've heard what you can and cannot feed your chickens, however, I feed them whatever I want to. I do not feed them avacados or fresh potato skins. I haven't noticed them laying any differently with what I feed them; I give them layer pellets, grit, oyster shells, and leftovers from our meals as well as scraps from the fresh fruit and vegetables that I use. I also throw a handful or 2 of cracked corn into the coop in the morning/and/or evening when it is time to go to bed, or if I need them to stir up the compressed pine from their droppings under the roost pole.
Since it is illegal for me to sell my eggs, I have gotten creative. I 'barter'. I have a friend I give all the fresh eggs she wants to, and she buys me chicken feed. This helps out with the feed, we both get fresh eggs and I don't break the law. It works out pretty well.
I also use my homemade wine in the same way. I barter for fruit from some of my friends when I want to cann something different. I have other friends that have different fruit orchards and we trade. I get what I need and they enjoy the homemade wine. It is a win win for us both.
Same thing with my 92 year old neighbor that wants more chickens. My broody hen sits on his fertilized eggs and when they hatch he gets the chicks after she has raised them up and my hen is happy she raised the chicks. Anyway. Hope this hasn't been too long and boring for you. Take care and enjoy your chickens.