Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Chicken Trials

Chickens can be a great addition to a homestead no matter what size. They can also be a major pain in the rear end. Especially when you have an escape artist. When you have one who consistently gets out of their pen, eventually the others will figure it out as well.

I have had chickens off and on my whole life with one big difference. We always had what is called dual purpose birds. Dual purpose chickens are birds that can be used for meat or eggs. I know you can technically use all of them this way, but a dual purpose breed is one that balances each of these tasks. The breeds I was used to were Rhode Island Reds, Orphingtons, Jersey Giants, and things like that. 

The heavier breeds are easier. Let me explain. Most of the heavier breeds are quieter, and many are just more pleasant. It is easier to make a heavy breed more of a pet than the lighter breeds. I know there are some of you that have been successful at befriending some of the lighter breeds, but in general this is not the case.

I have had penned and free range birds. Free range birds require more land than penned birds. We currently live on 1/2 acre in what I would call a semi rural neighborhood. What that means is no one cares that we have chickens. We could have goats if I thought we had enough room, but I don't. I can let them roam around without making anyone angry. No one will get angry, but that does not mean that someone will not pick up your chicken and take it home.

The last time we had chickens here we decided to let them roam. They were pleasant birds. The girls were laying eggs regularly. They were good. Then they vanished. Not a single feather was to be found. I think someone took them.

Both my wife and I wanted chickens again. We decided to get a strictly laying breed this time. This may have been an accident. Last time we had our birds in a chicken tractor. This time we have more birds so we decided to build a pen. I built the type of pen I always had before. Four feet high with a gate and and a coop area so they could have shade and a place to get out of the weather, that was it. The heavy breeds might have flown out a time or two, but as they grow they get too big to fly out. This apparently not the case with laying breeds.

When the chickens first started getting out I thought,  " No problem. I will just trim their wings." I have done this many times and knew how to do it without hurting the birds.  This stopped them for a day. Like I said, I don't mind chickens in the yard and my wife didn't either, at first. That was until they started eating the cats' food. At first it was only one bird. It didn't take the rest that long to figure out the trick.

Next I added another 2 feet of height to the pen. This stopped all but one hen for almost a week. Then they all learned to get out. Next we trimmed wings again. This time more severe. (Don't worry. I know how and did not hurt them). This finally stopped them from going over. But they figured out how to push open the gate. I now have that fixed. So far so good.

You see chickens can be a great addition to your sustainability and homestead. They can also be a pain, even to those who have dealt with chickens their whole life.

We should start getting eggs again here in the next week or so and they had better hurry. THEY OWE ME!

I have included my video on clipping a chickens wings. If you have the dual purpose breeds just this alone should keep them in the pen.

I wish you Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes.

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