One of the best parts about living in Missoula is that you get the best of the “urban” and the “rural” worlds. It’s Montana’s second largest city–and the biggest city for several hours driving in any direction–so we get our share of culture and music, as well as a hip downtown. But since it’s surrounded on all sides by vast wilderness, mountains, rivers, and agricultural lands, you can easily escape the urban bustle and embrace the rural lifestyle.
Plus, you can be a chicken farmer.
Two years ago, we built a sweet chicken coop, complete with a window, insulation, a tin roof, and a fun-run for the girls. We populated it with 4 young silver-laced wyandottes, and watched them do their chicken thang. With a light on in the coop for a couple hours in the morning and evening, they even kept laying their pretty speckled eggs throughout Montana’s dark fall and winter.
Last summer, one got strangely and incurably ill (i.e. she was trying to walk around on her head and was miserable). We lost her. But the other 3 soldiered on.
One of the most hilarious parts of being a chicken farmer is chicken herding. We let the girls free-range for worms and other goodies a few times a week. They roam the yard, and even occasionally take a walk down Highland Drive to visit the neighbors (half of whom are urban chicken farmers, too). But then you gotta put the girls back in the coop, which is easier said than done.
Herding is a fine art, and takes years of practice. It’s a mix of patience and pressure: if you make them walk too fast or get too close, they scatter in 3 directions. But if you go too slow, they slip right through your legs to find another tasty treat in the dirt.
It’s time to say goodbye to our girls, though.
We’re getting ready to leave in early April, and it’d be nice to see them settled in a new coop-dominium before the weather gets frozen and harder on them. They should have another year of laying in front of them, as long as they get enough light, food, and water.
So, our question for you: who wants to be a chicken farmer? We’ll throw in 10 pounds of free food, and a free herding demonstration, to boot.