Friday, August 18, 2006

Murphy's law of chickens

Given: In the beginning there are 30 or so free-range chickens, three of them male.

Given: There is a little predator problem.

Murphy's law of chickens:
By the time you get down to nine chickens, three of them will still be male.

All that's left of the next-to-last Marans.

Since the last chicken update in April, we've lost five more hens.

We have two chickens still left from our original batch (from spring 2004), Stewpot and a white leghorn hen.

The others are survivors from spring 2005:
1 Rhode Island Red rooster
1 Easter Egger rooster
1 Marans hen
3 Easter Egger hens

The Easter Egger hens are my favorites - they're sweet (and apparently more predator-proof) and they lay cool greenish-blue large eggs all year long. (They don't stop laying during the molt or during the winter like some breeds do.)

We decided that if we get more chicks next spring we'll have to build a run for them around the coop and stop the whole free-range idea, or at least limit its hours. These chickens are just too fond of the woods (a.k.a. coyote and bobcat central).

Let me know if you want a rooster.


Rurality said...

From the location and looks of these feathers, I think this Marans was taken by a hawk. Jasmine (the Pyrenees) is usually very hawk-vigilant, but every now and then one will slip through her net.

swamp4me said...

Just let the remaining roosters and hens breed you up a bunch of predator-savvy, super chicks :)

meresy_g said...

I miss my rooster, but don't want another one. We had a hawk try and nab a chicken or too, but as soon as they see the hawk in the sky, they run under the car or a dense shrub. Now they even do that if a large butterfly flits over them. I only let mine free range in the late afternoon, so they don't roam too far.

KFarmer said...

I used to let mine free range all the time when I first got them. Then my sister's dog killed a few, the hawks got a few and then I was down to nothing. One time I put out 40 something pullets and a dog came and killed just about every one of them. Mad? I picked up dead hens all the way to my neighbors house- where the dog lived.

I cooped them up after that and then it was the raccoons and opossums that got them... chickens are tough to keep no matter what you do. I just kept reordering every year to keep the population up :)

Good luck.

Tim said...

My wife would love to have chickens, but we simply don't have the room for them in our tiny garden, and I'm afraid one bad morning of a rooster crowing at 5 am would be the end of our chicken "collection". :)

Floridacracker said...

I limited my flock from totally free ranging too...partly because they insisted on roosting on the porch...messy. Then at night when they become incredibly stupid...even for a chicken...the predators feasted on them.
Now every bird is caged unless I choose to free range them while I'm out. Most are in the chicken tractor which is pretty nice for them since it moves around, but I think I'm read for a chicken break.

Rachel said...

I love chickens but no room here for any!

Poor chickens. They have a tough life with all the predators that love their meat!

Linda K said...

Chickens definitely have their "ace in the nest" because we certainly wouldn't keep them for being good pets.

chiefbiscuit said...

We are heading into spring and closer to the sight of ducklings on the creek that runs by where I work - unfortunately the black-backed gulls gobble them all up, so the row of thirteen cute little ducklings trailing their parents, dwindles day by day - heartbraking stuff.

Rurality said...

Swamp4me, they don't seem to have much luck with that... I think we also need to set up a separate brooding area.

MG, they do spend most of their time in the woods! But this happened just onthe edge of the woods, where there is some evidence that a hawk likes to perch.

KF & Rachel, yup everybody likes chicken!

Tim, they start much earlier than that! We learned that the hard way, before we built the coop.

FC, our chickens aren't too interested in our buildings - sadly it's the messy, messy ducks who are. So far we haven't had any coop predation other than a rat snake. He did kill one of the pullets.

Linda, I think if you have just a few you can train them and they're ok. But yeah they're not all that smart in general. Of course they are pretty and fun to watch. I just wish they'd stay in the yard.

CB, I know what you mean. Where I used to work, the Canada Goose babies got whittled down in the same way. There most of the culprits were turtles.

Floridacracker said...

Oh no... went to feed the chickens and one of my banty hens has gone broody and is sitting on a clutch.

shannon said...

We gave up free ranging last year, and our chicken yards have high, 8 foot fence around them. Not the most attractive, but the chooks stay alive (as long as we lock them inside the barn before dark - the foxes can fit in and out of our chicken door) and I think the feeling of an enclosed space keeps the hawks from swooping down into the yard and killing them there...

gtr said...

Sorry to hear it! Maybe the roosters are quicker or more wily?

We've been so lucky so far, knock on strong coop wood!

Good luck...