What are these chickens doing?

This is how happy chickens spend most of their waking hours: scratching around looking for good things to eat. In these pictures, taken shortly before Thanksgiving, theyr'e working their way through fallen leaves in their pasture--turning them into rich compost that will feed next year's plant and bug life. Sometimes people ask me what chickens have to do with herbs--why does "Hap Mountain Herbal" sell eggs as well as herbal goods? The answer is in compost, especially the birds' composted manure. Our growing beds, located uphill from the chickens, lose fertility downhill with every rainfall. The chickens capture some of that, and add generous amounts of their own manure, mostly below the roosts in their barn. They churn their manure and the straw we layer on it in the same way you see them working through the leaves here, speeding up the composting process. Through the winter months, the heat from their composting manure warms the barn for them. In the spring, we'll move the partly-composted manure up to a pile near our garden. From there, it goes on our garden beds--some of the best natural fertilizer there is.

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