Kindness is essential in our daily lives.
I will share weekly a new post with a message of how powerful kindness really can be.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Free Ranging Chickens and Millipedes

Upon their arrival to our home late summer 2010 the chickens lived in a portable chicken tractor. Portable means it had wheels so we were able to lift it up and move it around the yard periodically to give the chicks access to fresh grass and bugs. While they lived in this we got busy working on updating a section of the so-called old chicken coop and at the same time tried to figure out how we were going to build an outdoor run. This chicken tractor also was a good way to get them used to their new home and view visitors without becoming too excited. Our intention was to eventually let them loose to free range once they became acclimated to their new surroundings. 

Chickens and Millipedes

One of the reasons we gladly accepted these chickens was because of a serious millipede infestation we suffered through during the summer of 2010. Our house, driveway and stone patio pavers were covered with thousands of millipedes (if not millions) and these strange looking creatures (yuk) eventually worked their way into the basement of our house and then they gradually made it up to the main floor. It was necessary to vacuum these little buggers every day and then some! I tried everything to rid us of this problem. The man-of-the house isn't as skittish as I am and so he didn't see this as big a problem as I did so I was on my own figuring out what the heck I could do. I became obsessed. My ritual every morning was to roll out of bed at the crack of dawn to fight these creepy crawling creatures with my fly swatter. Wearing my nightie, robe and rubber boots I would circle the house with fly swatter in hand hitting every live millipede I could put my eyes on. After breakfast I would check them again only to find thousands more arrived. I did this several times a day to no avail. My mission became aggressive after I read somewhere that 300 babies came out of every egg they laid. This grossed me out so badly that I came up with the brilliant idea to try and kill them off with boiling hot water. So starting the next morning, using two electric tea kettles, I knocked off all those crawling on the house to the ground and poured hot water over them. I did this up and down the retaining wall along the driveway and on the patio pavers in the back yard and anywhere else they popped up. Yup, this did the job of killing them on the spot but the odor was so horrendous I can't even describe it without getting sick. It didn't make any difference because the next day they were back in droves again! On my next attempt to rid this infestation I filled a 5 gallon bucked with Clorox water and knocked or scooped live specimens into the bucket and happily watched them swim in vain and die but it was too time consuming. I know this sounds cruel and inhumane but by this time I was at my wits end and just shy of a having a nervous breakdown. After two applications of toxic insect spray from the hardware store I thought we had the problem licked. Nope. Two applications and these little buggers were still hanging around. Then the light bulb went off! Hello! PROFESSIONAL EXTERMINATOR!! Duh! Why this never came to my mind I'll never know. Bottom took two professional sprayings of the whole house, patio, driveway and everywhere else the millipedes may have inhabited.  This knocked down the problem but not completely as a few stragglers continued to show up and I knew what they could produce. Hence, the chickens!

By the fall of 2010 the chicken coop was complete and a fabulous run was awaiting the ladies. After a couple weeks of being cooped up they were let out to free range for extended periods of times accompanied, of course, by an adult (human) until they became familiar with the surroundings. Foraging on all living bugs, worms, etc.  became a favorite pastime for the chicks. They eventually learned the property boundaries and free ranged under the watchful eye of their chick mom from the living room window.

To pretty up the surroundings of the coop, in the spring of 2011, I put in a sweet flower bed where the girls could casually scratch and pick bugs at leisure. No weeding here for me - they do a fine job! A nest of bees showed up in this bed but they soon disappeared - not sure if the chickens had anything to do with this or not. Who cares as long as they are gone!

From one flower bed to another they feasted on bugs, bugs, and more bugs weeding their way around the whole yard. After they're done scratching and digging in the manicured beds I sometimes follow behind with a rake to pull the wood chips back into place. As I've gotten older and more laid back (maybe wiser) I'm more accepting of flower beds that are less than perfect. Finally!

Scratch and dig, scratch and dig, scratch and weed, scratch and eat bugs. These girls are required to work for their room and board.

As you can see this is a joint effort. It's a game of follow the leader.

Did you notice they don't like to have their pictures taken? They always manage to put their backsides to the camera. Come on girls, all work and no play is backbreaking!

More scratching and weeding and eating bugs.

....and if that's not enough, they find their way to the compost pile churning up the chicken fertilizer that will be used to enhance our vegetable garden next year. 

Bottom line....I'm so appreciative of their fine efforts and am happy to report NO MILLIPEDES DURING THE SUMMER OF 2011.


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