The chickens are more of a background creature on the farm so I rarely talk about just them. So here’s a chance for me to do just that.
We had some chicken losses this year, probably due to the small local population of hawks though I can’t confirm this first-hand. One thing’s for sure, they just disappeared, up and gone one day.
Of Don Juan’s group, we lost one of the Mexican girls and two of the spotted hens.
We have lost no one from Vanilla Ice’s white group (the second hen is hiding in the ground behind the hen in the foreground). The red silkies I adopted have all since disappeared.
This is a natural result of a few factors.
One, my chickens are bantams, they are quarter to half sized chickens. While this means they are nimbler, it also means they can be predated easily by things like snakes and raccoons. It also means their babies are super tiny and thus are basically little jalapeno poppers for rats.
Two, my chickens are completely free-range. We provide them with water and food and a nice home, but they choose to go do their own thing during the day and sleep in various spots in the barn at night. This makes it easy for sky creatures to hunt them down and also lets them do dumb things like wander off into a hole or walk into a dog’s mouth. A side effect is that we had no real control over egg collection nor when they went broody and could not directly care for the newborn bantam chicks.
I will be fixing my chicken approach in a few ways. I do believe that chickens should be free to roam around in the grass and dirt etc, but I want to give them a much more secure home to rest in during the night, one that also lets me collect their eggs with ease. I will also be moving to a larger breed of chicken instead of raising the bantams. Bantams are delicate and dainty little things who produce small eggs and barely any meat on their carcass. Comparing bantams to regular full chickens is kind of like comparing an orchid to an apple tree in terms of how much it gives back to you. If your priorities are beauty well then of course the orchid and bantam win, but my priorities are reliable food production, so it makes sense to change to the traditional breeds. Now with a half year’s experience under my wings I know where and how to buy these regular chickens, so I can spend the fall and winter planning my construction and the spring building and stocking it with some fine feathered friends, ones who will be more safer and provide me with more value than the bantams.
That said, the bantams were great to learn with, I do not feel in any way that I squandered my money on them. In fact I ended up getting my ducks from the same bird auction as the chickens, so if not for my want of chickens I wouldn’t have learned how much I love raising ducks. And I don’t intend to get rid of the ones I have now, I will make them a nice secure winter hangout (probably they’ll hang with the ducks anyhow) and tend to their needs, and in the spring if they are still around I will make them a nice and safe enclosure where we can all tend to their young without fear of rats etc.