Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Not sure who won, me or the chickens . . .

I have given up on free range chickens.  The idea was that they would take care of the flies before they hatched and cut down on our fly population here.  That hasn't happened, but of course I only have 10 chickens left, so 20 acres of pastures is a lot of territory for ten chickens to cover.

I have had to fence in anything I don't want them to destroy.  The other day, after wondering why I wasn't getting any strawberries, I walked outside and saw all of them INSIDE the fence I had constructed around the strawberry bed.  They love anything red, so of course they got to all of the wild strawberries before I did, as well.

I got several new blueberry bushes, and they were hanging heavy with fruit when I planted them.  No fruit, all gone, every last blueberry down the gullets of the chickens.  I saw a hen with half a small snake hanging from her beak.  She was having quite a time with it - it was probably three or four times the size of a large nightcrawler - but eventually it was down the hatch!

Now add to this frustration losing another hen to a critter Saturday evening, finding egg shells on the floor of the Moop and in the nests, one of the feed totes being ripped open and half the feed gone, and ending up keeping the chickens in the garage to keep them safe for the last two nights, and I have reached the point where it is time to give up.

Oh, I forgot to mention that they are laying "in the wild," so I am lucky to get an egg or two a day.  I found 13 eggs in a flower bed, five eggs in a box of gate handles and fence parts, one on the ground by the bird feeder, and two on a shelf in my garage.

Here is a pic of the box of fence parts.  Now, wouldn't that be dreadfully uncomfortable?  But there they were!  Five eggs amongst the plastic parts.

I'm not sure who won.  They have worn me down.  But they will be in the Moop again tonight at dusk with the gate closed tightly behind them, so I doubt that they will feel like the winners.  Here they are enjoying their last taste of freedom.   Once they are settled in for the night, the gate will be closed 24/7.  Then it will be safe for me to plant my herb garden.  They leave the established plants alone, but tender young seedlings are their bread and butter.

Here is the view through the gate, the gate that will be shut up tonight.  I hope the thieving marauder is not able to breach the fence.  I hope they are safe tonight, back in their Moop.  I love the little critters.

PS - It wasn't so easy.  Only eight chickens are in the Moop tonight.  I had to capture them one by one and throw them over the fence.  I missed two, so eight are in the Moop, and two are fending for themselves overnight.  I opened the garage door and left the light on, hoping they will return before I go to bed.  I won't sleep well worrying about those two, wondering if they will make it through the night out amongst the predators.
PPS - Last two chickens were home this morning, one of them inside pen.  My next challenge will be keeping them in without clipping their wings.  I just spent about a half hour stringing orange twine from post to post across the top of the pen.  Will have to get more on my way home from market.  If it can keep hawks out, then hopefully it will keep chickens in!

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