A Trampoline for Chickens

Chickens under a Trampoline with a Ladder to Nest Box

Chickens under a Trampoline with a Ladder to Nest Box

My cousin, his wife, and their nine-year-old twin girls love farm fresh eggs.  They drove out to the farm so many times for eggs, that we finally just gave them their own hens.  We put three big chickens in a cardboard box, closed the lid, and all they needed to do when they got home was to build a chicken coop.

City ordinances in their town allow backyard hens, and the only requirement for the chicken coop is that it be no more than five feet tall.

When designing your own chicken coop, the best plan is to keep it simple.  All that chickens really need is a roof to protect them from rain and sun, and some kind of fencing to keep the chickens where you want them.

My cousin’s twin girls are creative, intelligent, and absolutely adorable.  They named their hens Chick-Chick, Cluck-Cluck, and Janet.

When they got home, the girls engineered a very clever solution to house their hens:  they converted their trampoline into a chicken coop!

Chick-Chick, Cluck-Cluck, and Janet

Chick-Chick, Cluck-Cluck, and Janet

First, they neatly attached wire fencing around the posts to keep the hens inside.  The jumping part of the trampoline served as an excellent roof.  They made a simple nest box with a door in the back to reach in and collect the eggs.  For a roosting perch, they used a fallen oak branch, perfect for the hens to climb on.  And for bedding, they used their own raked-up leaves.

The coop is light enough for my cousin to easily move around the yard, so the hens have continual access to fresh grass.  Or, they can leave the coop on the garden to prepare the soil for the next planting.  The coop is neat and tasteful, and the neighbors have no idea there are chickens underneath.  And best of all, the twins can still play on their trampoline, with the hens nesting peacefully below.

A Very Respectable Nest Box

A Very Respectable Nest Box

Easy Access to Eggs

Easy Access to Eggs

For most people, the challenge of the chicken coop is the main obstacle to keeping backyard hens.  But chicken coops are easy.  If you don’t have a trampoline, you can search the internet for endless examples of inexpensive chicken coop ideas.

If you have a more upscale taste in chickens, Neiman Marcus sells a luxury chicken coop for the low, low price of $100,000.  Or, Williams-Sonoma can ship you a chicken coop on wheels for only $1,500.  The trendiest chicken coops in Texas compete in the Austin Funky Chicken Coop Contest, and you can vote for your favorite.

Still, I think the chicken trampoline wins the prize for ingenuity, functionability, and hilarity.  The next time I visit, I won’t be surprised to see the twins, and the hens, all jumping on the trampoline together, everyone having a great time, and I don’t think it will hurt the eggs one bit.

(All photos on this post courtesy of two very clever little girls!)

Happy Chickens

Happy Chickens

Fresh Eggs Daily

Fresh Eggs Daily

The Color of Egg Shells

Eggs blue green brown freckled

Why do some eggs have white shells, and some eggs brown shells?

The ear lobe of the mother hen determines the color of the egg:  white ear lobes, white eggs; brown ear lobes, brown eggs.  You can easily test this by reaching under a lot of hens—it works every time.

Our eggs are blue, green, pink, and dark brown.  But our eggs are not beautiful because of the color of the shells, or the ear lobes of the mother hens.

Industrial White, Industrial Brown?

By the early 1980’s, grocery stores sold only white eggs on their shelves.  That was because industrial egg factories produced only white eggs.  The hybridized hens developed by corporate scientists were designed to be as small as possible, and therefore consume less feed, to save expenses.

These industrial hens were descended from white layers, so they laid white eggs.  Every grocery store in America carried white eggs, not because of quality, taste, health, or concern for the treatment of the hens, but simply to cut down on expenses.  Taste and health, as anyone who ate these eggs could tell, were not priorities for the egg producers.

Eventually, however, the industrial egg conglomerates faced a big problem:  their white eggs earned a bad reputation among consumers due to the hormones, steroids, and antibiotics fed to the hens, not to mention the filthy and inhumane conditions of the egg factories.  White egg sales declined.

A Marketing Solution to a Perception Problem

Research by the egg conglomerates revealed that American consumers believed brown eggs were “farm eggs”, as opposed to “white grocery store” eggs.  The egg corporations capitalized on this consumer perception by introducing brown layers into their factories, and rebranding their product as “farm eggs”.

There was nothing different about the inside of the eggs; they were still full of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals.  The egg factories were as filthy and inhumane as ever.  But the corporate rebranding to brown eggs worked.  Brown egg sales soared, and soon brown eggs were as common on grocery store shelves as white eggs.  And all the egg factories had to do was replace white ear lobes with brown ones.

The egg corporations actually made money from this rebranding, because they sold “farm eggs” for a substantially increased price, much greater than the miniscule increase in feed costs for brown layers.  The brown eggs sat next to the white eggs on the grocery store shelf, and cost ten to twenty percent more, but the inside of the eggs did not change a bit.

Diversification in the Henhouse

We keep a wide variety of laying hens on our farm, and even their names are beautiful:  barnevelders, cuckoo marans, ameraucanas, black langshans, black australorps, Rhode Island reds, dominiques, barred rocks, and more.  We continue to add new varieties all the time.

Diversification in the henhouse increases the health of the flock just as diversification in the garden increases the health of the soil.  Some breeds fare better than others during the intense summer heat in Rockport, and some breeds take to pasture and forest better than others.  By selectively introducing breeds, we can easily track the ages and production of each cohort.

A natural selection based on climate, soil, native forage, and other localized factors helps us build the healthiest possible flock.

What’s on the Inside?

The diversification of our flock gives us a wonderful variety of color in our egg shells:  blue, dark brown, green, and pink with purple freckles.

Our hens live in the fields and fresh air and sunshine of our farm.  Their diet consists of grass, weeds, bugs, produce from our gardens, and our customized feed ration.  Our hens are routinely rotated onto fresh garden space, where they eat down the remaining harvest and green material, and fertilize and cleanse the soil for the next planting.

Our eggs are a pure distilled taste of Rockport, as fresh and healthy and delicious as any eggs anywhere.  Our eggs are beautiful, but not because of what is on the outside.  They are beautiful because of what is on the inside.

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