So, back to the chicken crazy part.
We brought home 41 hens. We already had a dozen Rhode Island Reds (including two roosters) as well as about 7 or 8 Ameracaunas (which included 3 - yes, 3 - roosters). The idea was to take the coop raised RIRs, the "I own this farm and will go wherever I want" Ameracaunas and all the new hens and throw them all into the pasture with a new roosting house and a new nesting house. Everyone would free range, a new pecking order would be established, all our eggs would be produced from hens happily scavenging for bugs and grass and seeds and weeds the way happy chickens do. It would be a Norman Rockwell, picture perfect, slice of apple pie, American farming dream come true.
|They didn't know how to roost|
|Greg's Rhode Island Reds|
We learned quite a few lessons that night and the next day.
About two weeks later, a fox or coyote attacked the flock and killed about 20 chickens. We had been doing a lot of other things on the farm and didn't realize what had happened until late afternoon. I went out to check on them and realized the flock looked very sparse. I thought maybe a bunch of the hens were hanging out in the nesting house since it was so hot outside and the nesting house is dark and cool. But as I walked through the pasture, I kept coming across piles of feathers. Each time I saw a pile of feathers, my stomach tightened a little bit more. When I came across the first dead chicken, my fears were confirmed. The more I walked the pasture, the more dead chickens I found. We did a count and came up with 21 chickens and 1 rooster. Half the flock was gone.
Five days later, we were hit again. Ten more hens were dead or missing. We're down to 11 hens and my white Ameracauna rooster who claimed the flock.
The hens have stopped using the roosting house and are roosting on the nesting boxes. It's a mess. Greg is going to make shutters so we can close the chickens up at night for their safety and to keep them from roosting in the nesting house. We plan to replace the electric wire with electric poultry netting as soon as we can afford it.
We're going to try to buy more layers as we can and continue to produce eggs. We've learned some tough lessons and made some costly mistakes.
And we're still crazy enough to keep at it until we can make it work.