How Praying in a Chicken Coop Changed My Farm Business

Praying in a Chicken Coop

I don’t normally pray in a chicken coop. Of course it’s great to pray wherever you are as you go about your work on your farm. But late last winter I was actually trying to spend a purposeful hour in prayer. And I went and sat in the chicken coop to do it.

Now there were legitimate reasons I was praying in my chicken coop. In late winter the predators seem to get particularly bold and I had begun to lose chickens left and right (or is it right and left?).  In Alabama everything seems like it has chicken at the top of the list of favorite entrĂ©e’s. Coyotes, raccoons, opossum, dogs, hawks, owls, crows, and even snakes have all been known to kill our chickens. So after the normal precautions of checking the electric fence and moving the flock failed to work I felt the need to find out what critter was the culprit. Since the kills were happening during the day I decided to wait and observe from a discreet location. And I determined the best place to hide and watch was actually right inside my mobile chicken coop/wagon. But it feels so unproductive to just sit for hours waiting for something to come along and attack your chickens. So I decided to multi-task and do something productive while I sat there.

Praying for a whole Hour?!

Just a few weeks earlier I had attended a week-long disciple-making training at MetaCamp taught by Curtis Sergeant. It had been life-changing. One of the many tools we had learned was a Christian prayer wheel (not to be confused with some of the pagan ones), which divides up an hour into 5 minute segments.. It turns an hour of prayer from what seems like an eternity into, “Done already?!”. After the training that was one of the things I had committed to practice using in order to invest more in my relationship with God. This particular week I decided to do my prayer hour in my chicken coop while I watched for predators. So after breakfast I took my notebook with my prayer wheel description in it and settled down on a 5-gallon bucket and tried to focus while my hens milled curiously around me.

Learning to Listen

With the prayer wheel each 5 minute segment is assigned a prayer topic or activity. Like “Thanksgiving”, “Repentance”, and “Praise”. Or “Pray through a Psalm” and “Sing a worship song”. These things were pretty familiar to me. But something that was new to me were the times where I was supposed to “Listen”. I have to admit that listening was not a normal part of my prayer time in the past. But I actually began to enjoy it. And often God would clarify my thoughts on what was going on in my life or bring to mind something I had not been paying attention to like I should. Nothing like a vision or anything, but I definitely found the time spent very profitable even if God didn’t always show me something particularly revelatory.

Not what I was Expecting to Hear

While I was in the chicken coop this particular day I was praying about my farm and meditaing on the next year. During my listening time I was trying to reflect on the areas that I needed wisdom in. As I was trying to see if there was anything God wanted to make me aware of I suddenly had a strikingly clear thought where I sensed God say,

“Chickens are great, but I don’t want you to do them anymore.”

What?! It startled me at first. This was not a confirmation of something I had already been exploring or contemplating. It was not even close to what I had been thinking about. This was out of the blue and radical if it really was God speaking. For the past eight years of our farm chickens have provided our main source of income. So the thought of giving them up was shocking and not a little scary.

“Is that really You God?”

Now I am very cautious when it comes to saying for sure that ‘God has spoken’. It is often abused by people and can be dangerous when not guided by the solid truth of Scripture. But since I was actively seeking to hear from God when this thought came to me I couldn’t just discredit it. Especially since it definitely wasn’t something I wanted to hear.

So I began thinking, “If this is God, what exactly does He mean by ‘not do chickens’?” We have a lot of customers who depend on us for eggs and meat chickens, but I had to admit my real passion is growing vegetables. We have also had a heart to teach the poor how to feed themselves and vegetables is a better place to start than with animals since most people can grow plants when few can have animals. I began to realize that the biggest hinderance to getting better at growing vegetables was the time taken away by our chicken operations. So maybe it would make sense that God wanted to free us up to focus on gardening. But it would be a big step of faith to walk away from the income we had always had from the poultry side of our business.

As I finished my hour of prayer I eased down out of the chicken coop and decided to talk to my wife about what I felt God had said. What happened next is a story for my next post. But it was beginning of big changes for our farm.

The biggest lesson I want to share from this story is the importance of taking time to hear from and listen to God. It has made a big difference in my life and I am sure will in yours. Here are four brief reasons why you should consider spending some time hearing from God, whether in your closet, garden, or chicken coop.

4 Reasons to take time to hear God.

  1. Jesus set us an example by listening to his Father. Even Jesus, who we would agree was one with God the Father, took time to pray. He even looked to the Father for specifics regarding what he was to do and say. “Whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” (John 12:50)
  2. We are totally dependent on God for direction in every area of life. We tend to look to God for direction only in the big things of life, but look closely at what the following verse says. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, emphasis added) ‘Nuff said.
  3. If we are really children of God we will be seeking to be led by Him. To be a Christian means to be a disciple or follower of Jesus. How can we claim to be a follower if we don’t look to him for direction? The following passage is very sobering. “Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” (John 8:47) Wow. If we aren’t hearing anything from God then we need to check our faith in Him.
  4. The more we can hear God’s direction for specific, not just general direction the better our time serving Him will be spent. We don’t want to waste our time on things or in ways that aren’t consistent with God’s plan. If chickens aren’t necessary for what he wants me to be doing right now they will only be distracting me from what I should be focusing on. Jesus said. “I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.” (John 12:49) Jesus said that he looked to his Father not only for what he was to say, but the specifics of how he was to say it.

A Tool for Spending an Hour in Prayer

Below you will find a link to the Christian prayer wheel tool I used that day while praying in my chicken coop. I would encourage you to set up a time in the next week that you can use it. But feel free to spend it any place quiet!

When you follow the link it will take you to the MetaCamp student guide. You will find the prayer wheel exercise on pages 31 and 32. Just print them out so you can keep them in your Bible.

Christian Prayer Wheel for Spending an Hour with God

Have you ever had a time you felt God spoke to you? How did you know it was Him? Has there been any resources or tools that you have found helpful regarding hearing from God? Please feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

Chickens: God's Gift to Gardeners

For a change, in this post I want to talk about a practical example of using God’s design to redeem the land, and show how it can bring amazing results. Perhaps it might be useful to some of you.

By the way, I am very grateful to Mr. Herrick Kimball over at The Deliberate Agrarian for mentioning me in his blogazine issue this month. It has really boosted my readership! Welcome to all you newcomers.

For the previous several years the garden operation on our farm hasn’t been the most successful. We still were blessed with many veggies to eat and sell, but the two acres of plantable ground was far from being fully utilized. Especially since I am the primary labor.

However this year was a HUGE improvement because the Lord helped me to implement a small piece of His design early in the season.

This spring our egg operation expanded from one flock, to two. With an additional flock to move around the farm I was faced with a dilemma. Our newly cleared pasture had baby grass coming up that would be decimated by foraging chickens and our small amount of established pastured needed some serious rest. To go along with this challenge, our garden needed to be planted soon but was grown up in crabgrass and other weeds.
Then, somewhere along the way the Lord helped me to see the previously unseen, obvious solution. Put the chickens in the garden!

It was not the first time I had heard or thought of the concept (or even used it), but I had been hesitant before because our garden is further away from our buildings than seemed safe. It seemed more tempting to the critters who consider chicken meat a delicacy around here: coyotes, opossums, raccoons, hawks, owls, etc. However, I knew it would be a good way to turn the chicken’s scratching from a liability in the pasture, to an asset in the garden. So I hooked the tractor to the portable coop of one of the flocks and hauled them down there.

I parked the coop over an area of basically crabgrass sod and surrounded it with electric netting. The chickens were released, and I threw their feed out on the ground. Several weeks later the grass had all been turned into eggs and fertilizer and I had bare soil with a very even dressing of manure. I then moved them to another area, and prepared and planted the spot where they had been. This went on throughout the season and the results I saw were amazing.

In the above picture you can see some of our fall crops. Broccoli, cabbage, collards, cauliflower, and tomatoes. In this plot I first got a demonstration of the amazing impact the chickens have on the plants. This was because part of the plot was in an earlier planting of tomatoes and the chickens never got a chance to be on it. The contrast between the part where the chickens had been and where they hadn’t was astounding. See the examples below.

Broccoli plants on ground not worked by the chickens.

Broccoli plants on ground worked by the chickens.

Cabbage plants on ‘un-chickened’ dirt.

Cabbage on ‘chickened’ dirt.

Tomatoes in ‘un-redeemed dirt’.

Tomatoes in ‘redeemed’ dirt!

In Luke 6:38 Jesus said, “Give, and it shall be given to you.” I believe this is an excellent example of this principle being displayed in the preparation of soil for planting. And it didn’t require more work from me. It just required me caring for and working God’s creation in a way that honors His design. His wisdom is far superior than anything man can come up with. I mean, just consider a few of the benefits of utilizing the design of chickens in the garden:

-The chickens turn one of the garden’s greatest liabilities, weeds, into one of the garden’s greatest assets, fertilizer.
-Instead of having to work to clean up weeds and crop residue, the chickens do it for me and turn them into eggs, which we then eat and sell!
-Tillage is minimized to preparing a seed bed and shallow cultivation of weeds. Earthworm population has increased.
-Bug population is kept under control.
-Spoiled produce can be fed to chickens to be converted into eggs and fertilizer.
-No time spent applying manure
-No time spent cleaning out coops.
-Organic matter can be incorporated into the soil without the danger of losing nitrogen because of the manure.
-The cost of production of eggs is decreased because feed bill doubles as fertilizer bill as well!

The wisdom of the Lord is limitless, and he offers it to those of us who will ask (James 1:5). What a blessing it is to have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe, who instructs us in the way to walk, and grants us success. Imagine what the fruits and benefits could be as we continue to seek to redeem our dirt!