Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chickens


I love having chickens. Not only do they provide us with delicious eggs
 but they are great pets. I really enjoy watching them run around and interact. And the boys enjoy chasing them.

The problem with chickens is that carnivorous animals also love them. We started with five hens and had over forty chickens at one time, and we are back down to ten. And four of the ten are the original five hens. Age equals wisdom in the chicken world.

One of the reasons I have chickens is because I want them to be able to free-range (like my kids) and eat fresh plants and bugs (sometimes like my kids) and get exercise (like my kids). Healthy chickens lay healthy eggs.

However, chickens are tasty treats for so many animals. One night a racoon family broke into my henhouse and wiped out half of my chickens. Chickens that had names and were our adored pets. Another time my neighbor's dogs got out and dug under the fence and killed eight of my hens while they were free-range roaming.  And we have plenty of chicken hawks in our area and I have lost a few hens to them. Once a racoon, dog, fox, hawk, etc. tastes your chickens, they will be back for the all-you-can-eat buffet. 

The other day I was in the field watchin my hens and I noticed some vultures circling above. The chickens paid them no heed. Then suddenly I saw a chicken hawk approaching, not making any noise that I could hear, and the chickens made their alarm sound and rushed into their pen. I have seen this several times and it amazes me that they can tell the difference.

This is Zebra, our rooster.  He is our original  Man of the House and really watches over his hens.  I love to observe him when he finds something tasty (like termites or a worm).  He starts making this excited cackling and the hens run over and they eat it while he stands there proudly watching them.  I guess he is in a pretty good mood most of the time because he has quite a few lady friends.


He really likes to show off his pretty feathers.

I have ordered some new chicks by mail and they will get here in a little over a week. I have an assortment coming and I can't wait to open the box.  The post office usually calls around seven in the morning and the boys and I go and pick up a box full of peeping adorable chicks.  Seriously the cutest things I have ever received by mail!  My goal is to have enough chickens so that I have eggs for us and our friends and family.

Back to the free-range issue.  I have realized that my chicken pen has been labeled a buffet by many of the wild and not-so-wild animals in our area.  I even saw a gray fox running in our field the other day.  So in order to keep my chickens alive I can't let them run around all day outside their pen.  It makes me sad, but I don't have a choice if I want my chickens to survive.

However, we have found a way to keep them partly free-range.   Most days the boys and I go spend a few hours out in the field.  We have our redneck playground of four round haybales and gopher mounds which make perfect construction sites.  The chickens get to roam the fields filling up with tasty treats and we get some sunshine and exercise.


Give my boys a stick (Duke) and some haybales (Imp) and a field full of chickens and life is grand. 

Except if you are a chicken-chasing (but not killing) dog. 

15 comments:

  1. We had 20+ chickens - a chicken hawk got a few, but almost all of the rest were killed by the neighbors dogs eating through our building (old smokehouse turned pen)to get to them and kill them. It hurts my heart. We're doing it again this year, now that their dogs are no longer around. I am super excited. We have a son now (2) and I can't wait to show him all about the chickens and eggs...it feels good, also, to know we are not the only ones with a redneck playground :) Great pictures. Cheers from Georgia.

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  2. I have often thought one or two chickens would be a fine addition to my house. I have enough dogs, with enough training on them to be guardians and not predators. I'm sure no wandering dogs would get them and I'm doubly certain that no birds would either. But they are more animals to manage and I don't want that, so....I will enjoy yours vicariously.

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  3. Cute post. I was just in Key West and Chickens are all over the place and they are protected. :)

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  4. Ah yes, this is something I began to consider last year. Hubby said yes! We just need to build their home. We have seen a red fox in our woods, and judging by all of the tracks in our snow right now, there must be an assortment of animals that come out to play each night. I will definitely be researching more before we jump in, but what a lovely post and images you have posted here. Love it!

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  5. Ah yes! We had one dog that would absolutely protect the chickens. However, once we had a large out-door cat that turned into a chicken killer! I'd known chicken-killing dogs, but our chicken killing cat was the first I'd known. And yes, once a chicken-killer, always a chicken-killer.

    Here are a few portraits of the Red Rock hens if you're interested!

    http://ojphoto.blogspot.com/2010/04/chickens.html

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  6. I love your blog! My husband did an apprenticeship for Polyface. They have pastured chickens but they use movable pens (with an open bottom) so they still can move around and eat bugs. I'm not sure about all the ins and outs but I wanted to share in case it would be something that worked for you! http://www.polyfacefarms.com/

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  7. That is cute. I think I might want chickens one day :)

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  8. Rita, I'm with you on the chicken thing. I had 15 last january and now I'm down to 8 hens. We let ours free-range too but a fox has gotten a couple and a few have died mysterious deaths.

    I noticed we had braver predators show up after our dog passed away a few months ago. They knew he was gone.

    I'm getting ready to order chicks for the spring too! So excited for new babies. Good luck with your chicks. Have a great week.

    P.S. I'm really enjoying the blog design. Thanks Rita!

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  9. I have learned the hard way a large hawk will get more than a chicken, we lost our Chancy (little Fiest) to one when she was 6 mos old. It flew down and snatched her up before we could do anything to stop it. Her little Sister ChiChi still hides in the house when one is flying around our place and she is 10 yrs old now.
    I would love to raise some chickens for eggs, but Dear Hubby says no..won't say why, just says no, he's not going to fool with them.
    Love the picture of your little ones playing in the pasture and fields,

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  10. It seems that we have the same redneck lifestyle. I loved my chickens but they too, got attacked Christmas eve as the coop door was left open. I like mine to roam free-range as well. I am on the search for new chicks. Would you mind telling me which mail order site you ordered from? I just want to make sure I am getting good chickens LOL. Thanks for sharing! Blessings from Florida :)

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  11. Awww...the poor doggy is left out of the chicken chasing fun, eh? That face is priceless. When my dog makes that type of face, I wish he could tell me what he is thinking...although I'm pretty sure I can guess! Thanks for sharing...

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  12. Just wanted to let you know I love your blog so much I had to pass the word out through my blog today. Thanks for the amazing work you. I know I will be coming back alot, you just might get tired of me. =)

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  13. i'm glad i'm not alone... we've hatched two sets of chicks. one batch we got 11 and the next we got 3 and neither year did the chicks make it to even the laying age. so sad. i really want them but i don't want to keep feeding the coons. debating weather or not to hatch again this year

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  14. we got our first 6 chicks this year - so excited about this new foray! it's been fun reading about your chickens!

    love your blog!

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  15. I have seven chickens who have just starting laying eggs... love them! We built a 16 x 16 chicken yard attached to their coop and I have not let them free range, because there are just too many fox, coyotes, hawks, dogs around here. They'd be lunch. I feel that it's kinda mean not to let them roam, but I know they wouldn't last if I did. So I give them plenty to forage around for in their pen and hope that's OK. They seem happy and look very healthy.

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