I’ve still been loosing chickens to predators, but it was looking a little different. The carcass was still inside the electro-net fencing and one time even inside the coop. Today I was getting them water and heard loud squawking that keep going on. I go over there and they were all in one corner of the fenced yard and still making a lot of noise. One of them even managed to wiggle through the fence and run into the woods. I looked over and against the coop I saw what looked like a pile of grey feathers. I went in that direction and what I think was a hawk flew up to a tree.
This hawk was on top of one of the Black Java’s trying to kill and/or eat it, I was surprised that the Black Java was completely covered by this bird of prey. However the chicken was actually a bigger bird. I believe I stopped it in time to save the Black Java. The rest of the girls all took cover under some brush and fallen branches.
I now have to figure out what to do to protect the chickens from aerial predators. One of methods some have had success with is a rooster. The last one I had would run away rather than protect the girls, so he was turned into dinner. I’m hoping this next batch will have someone that can protect the flock against a predator smaller than itself.
I’m starting to re-think my choice to use portable electric fencing for the chickens. While it is easy to move it over 10′ or 20′ at a time on grass, the first tree you run into becomes a problem. The fence has to be pulled up almost completely to go around the tree and then done again when you go past the tree. The area I’m trying to run the chickens has a lot of trees and brush so when I moved them this last time I spend far too much time chasing chickens.
It is amazing that when you want them out of the way you have to be careful not to step on them, however start catching them and after the first few the rest are very hard to catch. I even got a big fishing net and it helps some but they are still real fast and if they have anything to hid under or go around (like a tree or a bush) that doesn’t really work. For a birdbrain they sure do figure out quick how long your reach is with whatever you are using to try and catch them.
Further I would recommend that if you go with the electro-net fencing that you go with the 80′ sections rather than the 160′ ones. This gives you greater flexibility as to where separate the fence to go around things like trees.
After watching the various programs on the BBC about farming in times past (Victorian Farm, Tales from the Green Valley & Wartime Farm) I’m starting to see the value of having a stand of Hazel growing.
First there is the option for a nut crop that is becoming more valuable due to the popularity of Nutella, plus Jiff just started a hazelnut spread. You can also harvest an incredibly useful wood crop. It handles coppicing very well for fuel wood and the flexible young wood can be used in a wide variety of applications. Further a row of them can also be woven into a living fence due to the flexibility of young saplings and branches.
I planted a row of hazel seedlings in the spring of 2013 and they didn’t really do very well. This was on ground that had been all dug up by the road crew for some road work about 5 years ago so the soil (dirt really) does not have much fertility. I’m going to try and fix that with heavy wood chip mulch and maybe some horse manure.
My plans for next year is a bunch planted from seed in an area that has better fertility. I still have to find a source of seeds and figure out if they can be planted in the fall or if I have to wait until spring. Ideally i would find some locally.
I lost two chickens a couple of days ago. My wife saw what looked like a coyote running by the fence. The White Leghorns really don’t want to stay in the fence and now I have one less. The Black Java’s also don’t want to stay inside the electric fence and I now have one less of those as well. I need to re-evaluate my electric fence as the chickens do not seem to be wary of it any more. I suspect that now with two lengths of electro-net fencing I don’t think the fence charger is strong enough with the grass it goes through.
For the past week or so when I’ve when out to check on the chicks anywhere between 1 and 5 of them would be running around the dog pen that is their home trying to find a way back in. I couldn’t figure out how they were escaping. around most of the dog pen I have chicken wire 3″ high to keep them from escaping and the last segment is a green plastic with holes in it as you can see below. Today I see 7 chicks roosting on top of this plastic, which means they are easily able to get out through the chain link fence. Time to do some more modifications.
Here is a little video of the brooding area I have setup for the chicks. It is a dog kennel that I have put some metal roofing over the top. As described in an earlier post there is a raident foil lined box that they get under to warn up and when they sleep.
I’m well on my way to raising a second batch of chicks without any supplemental heat. I do provide a huddle that the can get under. This is lined with radiant foil insulation and when they all get together under it they are able to stay warm. However I am not doing this in subzero temperature and there is 37 chicks, enough to keep themselves warm.
They have moved outside at 10 days old into a dog kennel that I have put some metal roofing over. They are scratching away and being chickens. This is inside the electric fence to protect from predators.
Last year I got the numbered leg bands and put them on all my birds. However within a couple of months most of them had come off. Today I noticed the last bird that still had one was walking funny. When I finally cought her (she is a White Leghorn and very fast) I noticed it was down around her foot with the toe that points backwards not in the band. This caused it to cut into her skin. I think I caught it in time but I feel bad that I didn’t notice it sooner. One of the dow sides of letting the flock run through woods/brush is it that it is hard to catch them. I need to do a better job of keeping an eye on the flock.
The post office called and thevhad a package of chicks for me. Belive it or not you can ship live animals via USPS. I set them up in a box in the basement out of any drafts with wood shavings, feeder, water and a huddle lined with radiant foil insulation (more about this later). I haven’t found that I need a heat source, they all huddle up in a corner. Of course I think part of the reason this works is their are 39 chicks to keep each other warm.
After trying for two years I finally got some Black Java chicks. I first ran across an article in Mother Earth News in 2003 and have been keeping them in the back of my mind. However I wasn’t prepared to keep them until about two years ago. They are an endangered breed and are reported to be good dual purpose birds as well as good foragers. I found someone only about 5 miles from me that had got some birds from Garfield Farm and I was able to get 8 birds from her that hatched about the first of July. Sometime in early spring 2015 I hope to start hatching my own Black Java chicks.
The American Livestock Bread Conservancy lists the Java as a threatened breed.