It is with heavy heart I tell you that we had another visit from the fox. In order to save the life of the remaining ladies, my family helped us play our last game of Chicken Ninja sneaking the survivors into the neighbors coop in the dark. They will finish living out their days there and we will still be able to visit them.
Since there is already a rooster in the coop Stewart was not invited. He’s too big for the littles so we couldn’t put him in with them. His crow turned so sad that after a couple days I took him to the Rooster Rescue and the owner fell in love. So hopefully that means he will get extra special treatment.
Terrible lesson learned. Next time we bring in new chicks they will be raised in the barn and not let out until they are full size while the veterans still stay in the coop and predator proof run. We are now considering a chicken tractor for either the veterans or the littles in life transition. A chicken tractor is a fully covered run with a small coop that you drag anywhere you want. Picture it! The ladies get a new area to investigate every couple days! On 10 acres there will always be new greens and bugs to peck on!
Unfortunately not everything can be fun and games with our chickens. It was a sad day when we came home and found that a fox had gotten into the ladies corral. He killed 4, injured 2 and gave another a heart attack! He only took one of the hens with him when he left. For those of you who remember Sweetie, she was the one with a broken toe who was injured the first year we got the ladies. She obviously couldn’t run very fast so was the fatality that left with the fox.
This solidified the fact that although the barn is large, a perfect temperature, and the fence is high enough to keeps a lot out, the Tajacoop and run’s full coverage of 1/2 inch wire cloth is the only thing keeping our girls alive in this wild, wild west!
Next plan……..adding an electric fence. Nothing like a good zap to negatively reinforce that we don’t want you varmint in here! The yellow pieces in the picture are holding 4 hot wires. Oh….we tested them. They won’t kill you but it’s sure to give a nosy fox a good reason to find easier prey!
I just happened to be looking out the window last week when I saw the fox trying to rush the gate and went ballistic on him from the window! It was enough to make him turn tail and run so fast we couldn’t find him once we got outside. He wasn’t quite giving up yet.
My last ditch effort was to make this scarecrow. It was just some bright colored clothes I put on a hanger and hung from the tree, but it makes me and the hubby do a double take thinking someone is there. If it fooled us it has to work on the fox…right? I’ve been changing the clothes every now and them to make it seem more real.
After putting in the electric fence and the scarecrow together we have not seen the fox again, thank goodness! The old ladies are safe for now. Cross your fingers for them! They love their new home so much!
The neighbors barn cat loves to hang out by the coop and watch the ladies. I never let them free range while the cat was there because she seemed way too interested. One day I was working in the garden while they were free ranging and I heard some squawking so ran quickly to see what was up. The cat was laying down chewing on something and the chickens were lined up about 10 feet away just staring at her. My heart sank thinking she caught one of the hens! As I got closer I was relieved to see that she was wolfing down a large mouse!
You go girl! Keep those critters away from the coop!
Honestly, the ladies looked a little jealous! I wonder…..would they have eaten the mouse?
Chickens are actually pretty fragile animals. That’s why we created the most predatory proof coop and run regardless of the cost. That’s why we originally didn’t plan on letting them free range. Predators on our property we’ve seen walking through our front yard include coyotes, fox, hawks, owls, raccoons and the dreaded neighbor’s dog, a known chicken killer. Large snakes are also predators because they eat eggs and we have a number of them.
So you can imagine how much I worried when I decided the chickens needed to start free ranging for not only their happiness, but also to get a bigger variety in their diet. I check the area before I let them out and stick to them like glue to be sure they aren’t in any danger from not only predators, but from things they find on the ground and shouldn’t eat.
There have been a couple interesting wildlife encounters that were fun to watch. The bunnies hang out around the bushes of our house which is also a favorite place for our chickens, especially on a hot day. At first the bunnies would run away, but they slowly got used to each other. The only real interaction I saw was one of our Easter eggers clearly felt a bunny was taking over too much of her food so she chased her until she raced through the bushes and out into the prairie grass.
There is a barn cat that loves our property and now spends a lot of time sitting in our goat pen watching the chickens. I read that cats won’t bother chickens because they are usually smaller than them. In this case it was definitely true so I let the girls out of their run and they rushed into the goat pen which is one of their favorite spots. The cat was overwhelmed by 27 chickens running at her and got the heck out of there fast! She returns every evening to catch her fill of field mice…..thank you very much!….and to sit and watch the hens until they go to roost.
The deer also like our bushes. They hang out underneath them on hot days. One day there were 6 of them. I walked past them (they usually don’t move when I’m there), and warned them I was getting ready to let the chickens out and they may want to move. They just stared at me blankly. When the 27 hens stampeded to the bushes, every deer took to their feet and bolted! Too funny! The deer hang out around the run now, chewing on the tall grass, looking at the hens every now and then.
Yes, we’ve had a few hawks that we had to rush the chickens back into the run over, but most birds have been scared of the girls. I tried to catch it video on it, but it happens so fast. One of the Buffs was so fascinated with a robin that she followed her around the fence and when she got too close, the robin finally flew away. The only aggressive bird that surprised me was a large magpie that postured against a wall of hens that were baffled with him. His nest was far away but he insisted on pressing the girls. I finally had to step in. I later read that magpies will actually kill chickens! Luckily my girls are large and there are so many of them that they seem to scare off most wild animals. Let’s hope that luck never runs out.
If you want to see the only video I was able to capture of a chicken meeting a wild bird, enjoy the short 7 seconds on YouTube!