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Chickens

We’ve had our little mixed flock since the spring of 2012. We started with Barred Rock, Buff Orpington, Dominique, and Rhode Island Red day-old chicks. At first, our chickens lived at home, where we were renting 5 acres. But when we had to move “to town” in April 2013, we moved the chickens to a friend’s farm about a mile away. We initially had three roosters but one was killed (along with 2 Buffs and 1 Rhody) by a fox in summer 2013. While we called around looking for laying-age hens, a generous and anonymous neighbor “donated” 8 hens to our flock. It was impossible to know exactly what breeds they were, or even their ages. Some were able to integrate quickly into the bunch, and some, sadly, were not. Meanwhile, our last remaining Buff Orpington hen went broody around Mother’s Day 2013, and after three 3-week stints with various apparently-not-fertilized eggs, she hatched two chicks! She knew there was something wrong with one of them, and though we tried to save it, it died the day after hatching. We were able to foster the other baby (Cheep-Cheep) in our brooder at home, and integrated her into the flock that summer. We were back to 13 chickens by the fall; 2 roosters and 11 hennies. We blame hawks and/or cannibalism for our losses. Then, on Mother’s Day 2014, either a raccoon or fox or..? attacked our flock and killed 8 birds, including both roosters. Since our sweet buff mama hen was broody again, I figured “what the heck!” and gave her ONE egg the day after the massacre. Three weeks later she hatched it out and though it made the 7+ hour trip south from PA to VA, Cheep-Cheep2 escaped while we attempted to move the hens from my dad’s to the farm. Add to that {or, rather, take away} the hen that we presume was either killed by a hawk or her sisters, we moved just 4 hens to the farm in summer 2014. We added 8 Buff Orpington poults and 1 Buff rooster shortly after arriving, bringing the numbers up to lucky 13.

We keep our chickens in a homemade mobile coop built on a 4×8 utility trailer. We use Premier 1 Electronetting and in the fall 2013, due to extreme predator pressure, installed an electric door that opens at sunrise and closes at sunset. During spring, summer and fall we use our tractor to move the coop about once a week. The winter of 2013/2014 was so snowy, it was impossible to move the trailer at all, so following every snowfall we shoveled/swept the drifted snow to create a clearing around the door/ramp area of the chicken house. With an electric waterer they seemed to do just fine in the frigid temps, even after the extension cord to their heat lamp became unusable.

I plan to keep the chickens in the same paddock as the sheep, and as long as they get along with the guardian dog, I most likely won’t use the electronetting anymore. I still plan to move the coop every couple of days, though, to prevent killing the grass beneath it.

Happy Hennies

Happy Hennies

Owl Moon Farm Chick Brooder

Quarantine Pen which can be a brooder, an ICU, puppy run…whatever we need.

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