Sunday, February 1, 2015

Four 2015 Hens

Our last hens were killed in February of 2104, likely by a raccoon, possibly fox.  The last three died the same afternoon - one was carried off and two were in the pasture, decapitated.  I really hate when predators kill them and don't eat them.  I can accept that raccoons, hawks and fox need a meal - I don't begrudge them one, though I love my chickens and hate to lose them.  But killing and not eating them is just a waste of a life.

I didn't rush to get new chickens because I was tired of losing them, and I wanted the predators to stop coming looking for them daily.  Also, I had some long trips planned, and I wasn't ready to raise chicks again as that is time intensive.  I also didn't want to support breeding, but rather adopt some hens in need who would otherwise have a grim fate, or rescue some from a bad situation.  Nothing came along for some time.

Finally this month I adopted four hens, two of which are Wellsummers (reddish), one supposedly Araucana (maybe a mix? She isn't like my past Araucanas) and one black sex link.  They have been settling into their new quarters for a week now, with no pecking or squabbling even though they didn't previously live together.

 They have a chain link dog run for their run, which is about 20' by 5' with a concrete foundation so no predators can dig in.  It is covered in chicken wire so it is completely enclosed.  It has a tree in the corner (just outside the pen) for shade, a coop, and a large nest box area that actually tucks into an adjacent shed where their feed is stored.  They have a heated water bowl and there's a heat lamp for the coop when really needed.  There are a number of stumps that they can jump on to see things from various heights (and the stumps are overturned regularly so they have a bug eating festival).  This month I added a few swings and also mounted some sticks in various locations so that they have a number of perches.
Maisey watches the new arrivals from outside the coop.  One of the swings is shown here. 

Although I do plan to let them free range after they settle in, I have a very long fenced area (a few) with trees that are fenced off from the horses and goats.  These areas will be safer as the fox can't get to the chickens in those long runs areas unless he digs under, so I may either let them range only there for a bit, or only when I am outside with Maisey to guard them.

I would love to have more than 4, I really enjoy their personalities.  But 4 is about all we can keep up with egg-wise, and the space is better suited to 4 than more.  Usually I have them named by now, but I am still getting to know them, and I haven't settled on anything yet.  Here's hoping these ladies last a long time and have a very happy life here.

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