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Will We Get More Birds?

Poultry has been a part of our farm since before we had a farm to speak of. Geese gave me my start in writing about this lifestyle, and their adventures were part of the inspiration for our move. But in the spring of this year, we lost our entire flock to the deadly Avian Flu.

You can look back on my experience with, and advice around, Avian Flu in the blog post here.

Now we have gone through an entire summer without birds, and are considering the question of wether or not to add poultry back to our farm. When I say I’m hesitating, people will look at me kind of funny: poultry has been such an important part of my life. But it has been interesting considering the pros and cons of birds having lived with them and then without them.

Here are my thoughts on why we may not add birds back to our farm:

  • Mess. Ducks and geese are especially messy, chickens are dusty and all poop a lot. Our birds free ranged, so it was not as if they made a particularly huge mess in any one spot. It was more that everywhere were “small messes” (poop). Being barefoot or sitting down in the yard without carefully considering your spot were not options. And because of the lack of poop without them, the number of flies on our farm has been reduced dramatically.

  • Chores. We enjoy eggs, and we enjoyed the pest control benefits of our birds. But like all animals, they’re a lot of work — regular stall cleaning, feed and water every day, letting in and out in the evenings and mornings. Since we’re lucky that we can get organic, free range eggs locally, I have to ask myself if the chores are worth the benefits. If I was paying myself for my time, would I actually be breaking even on a few eggs? Especially considering birds age out of laying, and you are always having to buy more birds.

  • No destruction. I can plant things outside the garden fence again!! No worry about geese barking young fruit trees, nibbling wires on the trailer hookup until they’re frayed and not functional, chewing the siding on the house that we just painted….the list goes on. I’ve been unable to plant perennials for my entire time gardening because the pigs overwinter in the garden area and anything outside the garden fence is eaten by the geese. The chickens and ducks could wiggle their way through the garden fence, and ended up destroying more cabbages, tomatoes, and other seedlings than I care to admit.

  • More wildlife. We’ve had a dramatic increase in wildlife without the ‘guard geese’ scaring everything away — particularly, wild birds. Having song birds around regularly is an absolute delight. With only the late spring, summer, and fall having past we’ve already seen waves of migrating bird of all kinds that we never saw before.

  • Less worry. More widllife might sound alarming if you keep birds. What about predators? Well, now I might see the neighborhood fox or hear a coyotes and guess what? Who cares? Our sheep, pigs, and goats are well fenced and protected by our Livestock Guardian Dog Stanley. So we can just enjoy what wildlife we see. We aren’t worried about said property/plant destruction. We aren’t worried about stepping in poop.

I am hardly against birds. Considerations are being made for perhaps a pair of geese, because we so enjoyed watching them and seeing their personalities develop. We’ve talked about guinea fowl again because their mess was least offensive, they were totally undestructive, and were amazing tick control.

After all, it was having a large flock that got us in trouble — our flock outgrew the indoor space we had available, so when Avain Flu arrived in Maine we were unable to keep our birds totally isolated from wildlife. So a few birds may be the answer.

Either way, I can say with heartfelt gratitude that the experience with our birds, especially our geese, was amazing and I do miss them everyday. Wether they end up being a wonderful chapter of our journey that is now closed, or an ongoing adventure, remains to be seen. And if you are considering poultry for the first time, do think about these cons as well as the many, many pros to having birds. And never let your flock outgrow a safe, indoor space.

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