Current Topic: Some friends of ours did not think we were 'Farmey' enough so they brought us a chicken starter kit. Including one hen, one rooster, a sack of cracked-corn feed and a roll of chicken-wire. And left us on our own.
Our Hen Lays Green Eggs...
These were not just ordinary chickens. They were Araucana chickens rumored to be the only chicken native to the American Continents. In any event. They are best known to posses an ancient trait (genetically) that enables them to produce colored eggs. Typically green, blue, pink, red as well as brown and white. Our hen produced light green eggs. Cool!
Unfortunately however because we were not really prepared for this gift the temporary pen we made was enough to protect the chickens but not conducive to breeding. Apparently. Besides... For quite a while we consumed the eggs. After that we never had any successful breeding from this pair.
That's where another friend stepped in. It was Science-Fair time and He decided that his child would enter with an egg incubation exhibit. And that went very well for them however after the presentation we became the recipients of several more chickens and a couple of ducks.
Oh my! We are a little (lot) over our capacity now. Hmm!
We Built A Chicken House We Call The Chicken Mahal...
When we first received the baby chicks we just stuffed them in the two-horse trailer. We also broadcast a live webcam view from within the trailer so everyone involved could watch. I think it was the most popular time for any website I have owned. Sigh! Anyway. When the chicks were a couple weeks older however we had to move them. And we didn't have much to move them to.
So entirely from scrap materials we decided to build a proper house for the chickens. We chose an A-Frame structure and we call it the Chicken-Mahal. We thought this would provide a good balance for nesting, roosting and feeding features in a very small space. Additionally it was fenced into a corner of horse paddock. Most horses don't mind birds and will chase down a small predator, mostly out of boredom and curiosity. At one point operations were so good we had a bunny-rabbit move in. Yeah! He showed up from nowhere and moved into the Chicken Mahal. The Chickens didn't mind. The Rooster didn't mind. We didn't mind. When my Mother was here helping out she couldn't believe it. Actually... It was kind of cute.
Sadly... Even though the chickens really didn't seem to mind we couldn't tolerate seeing them all 'cooped' up like that. We kept seeing a bunch of horses cramped together in a single stall. No way close to a reasonable analogy but we felt guilty none the less. So we began 'Free Ranging' them. Initially it was working well. We let them roam during the day and then they came in, habitually, at night. Where they were fed and watered. And Yeah! The bunny was not a prisoner and regularly joined his comrades.
And Then Came The Chicken Mageddon...
One day, out of nowhere, the Chicken Mahal came under attack from Nature. And it was relentless. On the short list are Coyote, Raccoon, Skunk, Weasel, Mountain Cats and various predator birds (raptors). In the first wave, over a period of a few weeks, we lost half our chickens. As a result they refused to live in the Chicken Mahal anymore. Unfortunately... That tactic didn't work out well either. Fortunately... On several occasions a missing chicken would pop out of the tall grass with several chicks. Surprisingly... This cycle went on for a few years.
In the end there was but one lone Hen. The Rooster had been taken several weeks earlier and it was the end of Winter. The brave chicken none the less set a clutch of eggs and produced several chicks. We were not done yet. Until the neighbors dog decided to have a feast.
That's It... We're Done...
We Think We Have Things Under Control Now...
Until... Our friends other child entered the Science Fair. Yup! Chickens are back. But this time we have shored up the perimeter to the Chicken Mahal and are enforcing a more structured balance between Free-Ranging and Cooped-Up.
This is working out a little better now. For the chickens as well as our peace-of-mind. Instead of loosing chickens on a daily basis we are now able to share them (surplus) with our neighbors. Chicks, Eggs and Roosters.
Stay tuned to see how this works out.