Captured Moments – Raising Chickens part 2

We moved to ten acres just outside of the city.  We brought our remaining hens* and their mobile coop, set it up and attempted to make it secure from burrowing and digging predators.  (*We had lost one hen to a dog we were dog sitting.)
They loved having a larger area to forage and our dog was a good deterrent to any wildlife that might want to have chicken for dinner.

During our first few weeks in the new place, the neighbors rooster came to visit.  He was grand and the girls were smitten.  He spent a couple of hours , but did not manage to lure our girls away , so he went home.  We never saw him again.

The chickens continued to stake out their range over the next few months and a factor we did not consider was that they might range farther than was safe.   We lost a hen early on and took precautions to try to keep them closer to the house. We made sure our dog was out when they were free ranging.  The hens tend to put themselves to bed at night, so we just needed to make sure we are home to close the coop.   When you work, have kids with extra curricular activities, sometimes this did not happen in a timely manner.  We were lucky for a while.

These are two of the Black Copper Marans.

The chickens seemed to like our small black and white kitty.   They would follow her on her explorations.  Luckily, she stayed close to the house.   In this photo she has her paws on a rock.  She is fascinated by rocks.  She claims them as hers, plays with the smaller ones and sits on the larger ones. Not judging.  It’s her hobby and it doesn’t involve killing anything.  I take that as a win.

A year went by without incident. We still had five hens, a Brabanter, a Barred Rock and three Black Copper Marans.   A  lady we know asked if we would take some White Leghorn  hens and a rooster that she had rescued.  They had never been outside the small enclosure she had for them.  We agreed to take them and she brought them coop and all.  There were four hens and the rooster.  Day two, one of the hens died.  No visible reason, maybe the stress of the move.  We kept the chickens isolated from our flock until we were reasonably certain that they were healthy.  It took a while to get them to not run away into a corner of their pen when we approached.    We began leaving their coop door open, trying to entice them to forage with our hens.  Once free, they decided no more coops. This was unexpected.  They preferred to roost in the cedar tree in the back yard.  If we tried to get them out of the tree, they ran for the woods.  So they became tree chickens.  The rooster was very wary but not aggressive.  We named him Dude, Dood from a line in the movie The Island.

Outside of the aversion to a coop, the two flocks got along nicely.  Dood was very protective of the hens.  We were beginning to think we did not have predators in the area.  That maybe our dog and us being outside a lot, caused it to be an undesirable place to hunt.  We were proven wrong.  We lost chickens over the next year and a half.  We started seeing opossums, raccoons and hawks. We knew there were fox, coyote and large wild cats in the area, but had never seen any.  When we started losing chickens at an alarming rate during the day, we were perplexed.  They were still free ranging during the day and in the coop at night (even the Leghorns had started coming in the coop at night)  Then my daughters friend called for us to come look out the window,  there was a young fox on the rock pile behind the house.  It then became clear what we were up against.  A sly and opportunistic mother fox with three pups, was feeding her little ones chicken.  Our dog was older when we moved but had become more frail and arthritic and was no longer able to be a guard for the chickens.  I did not want him trying to chase any animals.  When the fox realized we had discovered her den, she moved her pups and we did not see them again until two years later.

Well fed fox pup.

We ended up losing all of the hens and then Dood to the fox and other predators.   I spoke with our veterinarian, who also has chickens that free range, and they said pretty much everything likes chicken.  They even have problems with hawks upon occasion.  Part of having  space to raise chickens was to give them freedom to forage.   It was time to build a new  larger coop with an enclosed run.

Up next, the new coop.

Captured Moments – Raising chickens part one

Good morning!

We have been raising chickens for about seven years.  When we first started, we were living in the city limits and there were no restrictions on keeping chickens.  My sons class had an egg hatching, so we were okay with him bringing some home.  He brought home five little chicks of unknown sex.  They were a mix of two Rhode Island Reds,two Brabantersand a Barred Rock.   We later bought three Black Copper Marans  from the lady that had hosted the hatching for the class.  As luck would have it, we ended up with three hens and three roosters.  Two of those were the meanest roosters I have ever met.  They were the Rhode Island Red and the Barred Rock. (But that is much later).  One of the Rhode Island Red chicks didn’t make it and the other was almost blind.  We were able to nurse her back to health, and she was able to be self-sufficient in our small  fenced yard. We named her Goldie. We were given another Rhode Island Red to replace the one that died.  We are not sure what the issue was with these particular chicks and it did not seem to affect any of the other breeds of chicks.  We kept them in a stock tank that was  2 ft tall x 2ft wide x 4ft long.  with a light to keep them warm.  This is a nice week by week guide I found at Community Chickens. (Click images to enlarge)

We came up with a temporary coop once it was warm enough and they were old enough to go outside.

 

 

 

 

We were completely new to this, but we did realize we were going to need a bigger and better coop so we bought a mobile coop.   It was a fun project to paint it and get it ready for our new pets.

We also had cats, a dog and a bunny.  Once the chicks reached almost full size, we let them out with the cats and out dog.  Luckily our dog loved every animal or in this case fowl, that we brought home.  He took them in stride and settled in to be their protector.  The cats were curious, but wary.  We never had any problems with cats.  The bunny had a problem with the chickens.  They were not very friendly toward our bunny ,so we had to let them out into the yard at separate times.  

The young chickens were great in the gardens, not wreaking much havoc.  This changed as they matured and no kale was safe from them.

Young Brabanter hen

 

 

 

 

 

All went well until the roosters grew to full size.  The first to show his aggressive side was the huge Rhode Island Red, aptly named Red (among other things, mumbled under ones breath) He attacked you head on, no stealth attacks for Red.  All claws and beak.   No one was safe. A man with a farm and large flock agreed to take him.  We were all very appreciative.

These are the three roosters. Front right is the Brabanter, Behind is Spot, the Barred Rock and in the back is Red, the great and terrible.

The Boss – Spot

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Spot started attacking everyone but our son, we found a home for him too. He was a stealth attacker.  He waited until we walked away and then came with claws up.  I had wounds on the backs of my legs for a while.  He liked our son, but we could not keep one so aggressive.  Again, we were lucky and the lady that donated the eggs for the hatching traded us for a Barred Rock hen.  

We also ended up giving away the Brabanter, which in hindsight was a mistake, as he had the best personality.  Unbeknownst  to us at the time was how rare the Brabanter breed is.  They are smaller chickens and lay medium white  eggs.  The hens have a lovely feather top knot instead of a comb and the roosters have seriously cool combs and wattles.  

My son loved these two but the crowing at all hours of the night was wearing on the good will of the neighbors, which was a big factor in not having roosters.

A boy and his chicken

 

Before we decided Spot needed a new home, one of our Black Copper Marans went broody.  She sat on everyone’s eggs.  We decided to let her sit on three eggs which we hoped were fertile.  None of the eggs were hers.  She did not care one bit. This is a nice article on broody hens at Hobby Farms.com.  (many articles are about breaking the brooding habit but this one was about the positive side of broody hens)

Mama Marans and her first chick.

Mama Marans and her two chicks in their own pen until the chicks get older.

Of course one of the two was a rooster. Here they are at almost four months old.  Luckily we had an easy time finding a home for him. Isn’t he pretty?

Life continued to go smoothly, until we were dog sitting.  We had the dog in the front yard but one of the barred Rocks liked to fly over the gate.  We did not anticipate this and it was too late to save the hen.  It was at that moment that we truly appreciated our gentle giant of a dog.  

By the time we moved to our place in the country, we had three Black copper Marans,  a Rhode Island Red, one Barred Rock and the Brabanter hen.  They were all reliable layers, but did slow down during the hottest part of the summer and coldest part of winter.  The Black Copper Marans lay the prettiest dark brown eggs. 

Up next:  Raising Chickens part two. More things we did not know.