Posts Tagged ‘predators’

Still here

January 9, 2010

I know it’s been a while since I posted. I don’t even want to know how long! Anyway we are still here. It’s cold and we have lots of snow, but that’s the nature of winter in Illinois. It’s time to start planning the garden, so I might write a post on that. It helps to figure out what to plant more of, what to not plant at all, etc. I have lots of cardboard in the garage just waiting to kill the newly sprouting grass that will be here in the spring. I have a few seed catalogs and they are fun to look at.

It feels like the middle of winter even though it isn’t. The days are getting longer, though, and that is nice. I like the sunshine (who doesn’t??). I keep thinking about how nice it will be to have the windows open, to hear the million frogs croaking and squeaking, and to see the chickens out doing their chicken things. They are all doing well. I don’t remember if I mentioned that Holly died, but she did. So that means that we’ve lost 3 chickens to predators and 1 to some unknown cause. I have no idea what happened to her. We got home one day and she was bleeding and that was that. There was no visible wound and no other chickens were hurt, so we have no idea. I suppose it could have been something internal as she often laid double yolkers.

OK well that’s all for now. I will try to post more often, but there really isn’t much going on. I do have a few posts I could finish up, like why I’m not a vegetarian anymore, posting pictures of Version 2.0 of our lego house, and a post I started about roosters. I have a lot of things in the works, but just haven’t finished them. I might find some time soon, or I might not. ūüôā

Letter to a coyote

October 1, 2009

Dear Coyote,

Do not mess with a woman with PMS and a gun, even if it is a bb gun. Just some advice from a cranky mama who had a bad day. Please pass this on to any other predators of chickens and/or cats.

Thanks,
Cranky Mama

Summer update

July 22, 2009

OK, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Really I haven’t. We’ve just had such had such a busy summer that I almost wish I would fall off the face of the earth just so I could get some rest. Things are still busy, but in a couple of weeks we should be back to normal; that is, no one travelling and no one visiting. That is part of why I haven’t posted much. The other reason is that we have lost some animals and that is upsetting and not fun to post about.

We lost two of the New Hampshire hens one evening at dusk. The kids and I were out of town, so things were quieter, I’m sure. Perhaps that is what gave the predator the nerve to get them so close to the house. We also lost two of Mama Cat’s kittens and one of Little Gray’s. We found a dead kitten on our lane and buried it and we assume it was Muck. The other, Muggy, just disappeared. Her other two kittens, Stinky and Vicious, are still around and Vicious has even gotten to be pretty friendly with the other cats and with us. Of course, it could just be that she is in heat! I am quite sure Mama Cat is pregnant again, too.

Little Gray’s kittens are cute and playful and friendly. In fact, I have Swirly Junior on my lap right now. He sleeps inside with us at night and we all love him. We did lost Scotchy Junior, about a month ago. He was under the couch and got stuck in the mechanism for the recliner. We didn’t realize this until the next morning as we were getting ready to go away for the weekend and I was making sure all the kittens were outside. It was horribly, horribly sad and I feel guilty that a kitten died because of our own carelessness.

Anyway, the garden is going OK. Things are growing despite my almost total neglect. I’ve used some lemon basil from the garden twice and made a yummy chicken dish. We have green tomatoes, lots of herbs, cauliflower and carrots. I need to plant more for fall, so maybe next week I will find some time to do some more planting. I did lose all the corn, probably to some deer that ate it while the kids and I were out of town. I think that the kids are a great deterrent to animals that think of coming too close to the house.

The chickens are doing well. The Buff Orpington chicks are growing and are now in the coop/dog kennel thing. It is working well enough for now, though it won’t work well for winter. We are still planning on building a coop, but it it turning into a fall project rather than a summer project. We have at least two Buff Orpington roosters, possibly a couple of more. I think that Lula Mae is getting ready to lay very soon. She has been making lots of noise and clucking when she goes into the coop at night. Her comb and wattles have grown and gotten quite red, which is also another sign. The other hen, who we have named Holly, doesn’t seem quite as ready, but I think she is getting there, too. Chicken Joe wasn’t crowing much when we still had the other rooster around, but now he is crowing very nicely.

That’s all I have for now! I will post more pictures someday soon. I have to take some first! I think next week things will be calmer, despite the fact that Tom will be out of town. I will be home with the kids and Tim and will try to play catch up with the garden, the mowing, and the blog.

Chicken observations

May 20, 2009

I was out watching the chickens the week before last while taking a break from the garden. I watch the chickens a lot, but I am usually mulit-tasking This day, though, I was only laying on a blanket watching the chickens. This is really fun and relaxing and I should do it more often. Anyway, I noticed a few things. We definitely have two roosters (cockerel, really since that is what they are called until they are a year old), and one of them does not stay all that close to the pullets. I’ve noticed this more since then and am thinking this rooster is not a keeper. On this day that I was watching him, he also got freaked out by something and then suddenly attacked one of the hens by biting her near her ear. Not nice, Mr. Rooster!¬†

I also noticed that the hens really look different, but that you have to look closely to see the differences. I was laying there, watching them and writing down notes so that I could tell them apart. I noticed that one has a ring of black tail feathers. You can’t really see the black feathers from the top or the front, but if she is walking around, scratching at the ground, you can see the ring of feathers. Another hen has some black near her hackles. It’s hard to see from far away, but up close is easy to see. This hen is also a little darker than the others. One of the hens is a bit lighter and I think is the chick that was always a bit smaller and lighter in color. So anyway, now that I can sort of tell them apart it is time to give them names. We were planning on using the names of my grandpa’s sisters. I made sure this was OK with him since he reads my blog. He said it was fine and it actually worked out that we have 4 hens. He had five sisters, and four have already passed away, Aunt Hazel being the most recent. So I figured we would name the four hens after the four who have passed away: Lula Mae, Rosalie, Georgie, and Hazel. As soon as we figure out which is which, I will take pictures and post them with their names.¬†

While I was watching them that day, a hawk flew over head. I did not see it at first, but I did notice something was wrong as they were all peering at the sky with one eye and making a sound I have never heard them make before. I cannot describe the sound, but it must be the “hawk” sound that I’ve read about. I looked up in the sky and finally did see the hawk, but it was long after they saw it. They happened to be outside the movable coop (for some reason it seemed that they could not find their way in) in a huddle anyway. So they were not easy to spot and the hawk moved on.

In other news, the chickens are free ranging for large parts of the day. It just depends on what is going on. I don’t like to leave them unsupervised, so Sunday and Monday they didn’t get out much. Then on Tuesday I let them out and I ended up getting bonked on the head by something and wanted to go inside. So I left them out and they ranged all around the house and the garden areas. They seemed very happy about this situation. I wanted a breed that would do well free-ranging or in confinement and New Hampshires are supposed to do well in either condition. The thing that I didn’t read is that once you let them range, they will not be happy being confined. They are not happy being in the movable coop for long. Even if it were bigger, I just don’t think they would want to be in there for very long. They love ranging. The benefits of free ranging chickens are numerous. They are obviously happier, therefore they will be healthier. When they start laying eggs, their eggs will be healthier as well. They are eating lots of bugs and weeds, which in turn means they are eating less feed. This is exactly what I wanted to happen.

I do worry about hawks still, but now that it is spring I can easily see how much shade and cover the chickens have to hide from hawks. The bigger concern is the outdoor cats, but so far the chickens seem quite unconcerned about Swirly or Little Gray. The chickens did have to set their boundaries with the cats, but they did that and now don’t pay much attention to those two cats at all. Mama Cat seems fine as long as I keep her tummy full. I’m sure she will disappear again once her kittens are older, but hopefully not before we can get her fixed!.

Critters and gardening

March 23, 2009

One of the fun things about living in the country is that you have to protect your animals AND your garden from critters. It seems that every animal that won’t go for the chickens will go for the vegetables. We need to build a fence around the garden to keep out the deer, rabbits, moles, squirrels, birds, and who knows what else. Those are just the ones I know of for sure. Some of the animals that will be interested in the chickens would also be interested in the garden, too.

Our neighbor, Jeff, has an electrified fence around his garden. He probably has it down in the ground, too. I was just reading that to keep out moles, you need to put fencing down 24″ (about 61 cm). We have lots of moles. I don’t think they are over by where the garden will be, but I am sure it won’t take them long to find some newly plowed, healthy soil full of bugs and worms.

This is just a reminder to myself that I also need to join the nearest community supported agriculture (CSA) farm, just in case we don’t get a lot of our own veggies this year. We have a lot to learn, especially about keeping out critters. I don’t mind sharing with the wildlife, but I also want some for us.

Rethinking the coop

March 18, 2009

So I’ve been rethinking the coop and the whole issue of free ranging. I would LOVE to let the chickens out to wander around until their hearts are content. Yet, “trying” free ranging basically means doing it until something happens, which most likely means one of the chickens is killed by a predator. After getting the chicks, it’s hard to imagine doing it that way! So, I don’t want to let them free range, and yet I want to let them out to eat bugs and weeds and fertilize the ground, so we will have to figure out a way to do that while also protecting them from predators, which as I mentioned before we have almost all possible predators for chickens.

I have been rethinking this for a while, but yesterday we were outside and saw two hawks circling around. I am taking that as a sign and am currently planning a movable coop that will work until we eventually build a hen house with an attached run right by the garden. We should be able to work on a hen house and run soon, but first we will have to build a movable coop and get the garden started.

It’s kind of fun looking at coop and run designs. There are so many ways to be creative while making a coop for the chicks. I am also thinking we should insulate ours since it does get cold here in the winter, so maybe we will have to practice with some straw bales. Yippee!

A quick update: we marked out the garden today and it is about 38 X 34 feet, so it will be a very good size. We may not plant the whole thing right now, but we will get it tilled. Then I figured if we don’t plant the whole thing, we will just plant a cover crop for the chickens to munch on.

Working with what we have

March 4, 2009

I’m still thinking and reading and trying to figure out which breed to get and where to get them from, as well as when to get the chicks. When to get them is tricky, mostly because I am impatient to get the chicks! It would be better to wait until it is warmer so that they can be outside sooner and learn to forage on their own sooner. But, that also means waiting longer to have fresh eggs and to get the chicks. I keep going back and forth about this issue in my head. I think I will probably end up getting them fairly soon just because I am so eager to get them, even if it means more work for us at first.

In the¬† meantime I have¬†finally decided to use the coop that is already here. I’d like to¬†let the hens range freely during the day and then have them in the coop at night. I’ve read a couple of different ways to do this, including letting them out for only a couple of hours a day and then tempting them back in with milk or bread. Others say to keep them in the coop for a couple of weeks and then let them out and they will just know where the coop is. Either way, they will be spending some time in the coop since there are too many predators out here for them to be out at night. There may be too many for them to range long during the day.

Of the common predators¬†for chickens, we have almost all of them. Common predators include, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, hawks and other birds of prey, foxes, wolves, bobcats, cougars, fishers, minks, weasels, and rats, along with domestic and feral cats and dogs. I know for sure that we have skunks as the kids have had the pleasure of smelling skunks hit by cars. Tim has seen a ‘possum and we’ve all seen raccoons on the back porch. Tim and Moira saw a bald eagle the other day and our neighbor told us there are lots of hawks around. We’ve heard the coyotes close by at night and my mother-in-law has seen a fox on her way here, too. Apparently there are wolves in Illinois (I’m not sure I agree completely with the tone of that article, so just consider it informative.) It’s possible that the other predators are around, as well, as many of them seem to be native (though we are not near Cook County since that is Chicago!).

Anyway, I seem to have gotten a bit sidetracked on researching the predators in Illinois. It’s pretty interesting and I might post more later. I have to say there are way more dangerous animals here than I remember or knew about. I never would have thought there might be wolves or bobcats!

So back to the point of this post: working with the chicken coop we already have. Here are some more pictures of what we have to work with:

It needs to be cleaned thoroughly. I started that last week, with some help from the kids. We swept off the concrete slab, so that is done for now. There is a covered area that has some pine shavings in it. For now I just swept some of that back inside the nest box, but we probably need to clear that out, clean it, and put in new. The upstairs is pretty dirty, from what I hear. I had Tim add another step to the ladder so that Aidan can climb up and down (and maybe me, too??). I’m not sure if the chickens would go up there or not. They’d have to fly up there to roost and I honestly don’t know if they will fly that high.

Other than cleaning, it also needs some chicken wire or fine hardware mesh. The fencing around it has holes about 2 inches wide and I think that is too wide because rats could get through and steal the eggs, assuming the hens lay eggs in the coop. Two sides of the coop have wooden boards at the bottom. I think we need to add another board on the back, as well as adding some chicken wire to the outside. The chicken wire might be good if it’s just a few feet up and not up the whole way.

Those are some minor fixes, so hopefully it will be easy and will do the trick to keep the hens safe. I would also like to paint it. Right now it is painted a brownish color. I think a fresh coat of red paint would really spruce it up. I’m not sure why red, except that red seems to be the color for a hen house.

If the free ranging doesn’t work, there are lots of options for movable coops and hen huts and permanent hen houses. It might be fun to build one of those, but for now I think it is best (and cheapest) to work with what we have.