The Importance Of Choosing The Right Rooster

There’s much debate about the merits of keeping a rooster in a dual-purpose or primarily layer flock. We’ve chosen to keep a flock rooster (and would actually like to have two, if they could get along in the long-term), but have learned some things along the way.

When we first started our flock of chickens, we purchased straight run chicks and ended up two males (out of 18).  That’s a ridiculously low proportion of cockerels to hens, but we were tickled. What luck!

Continue reading “The Importance Of Choosing The Right Rooster”

I’m The Livestock Guardian Animal

Ducks Looking At Something In The DistanceWe live in an area that is rife with predators, and have shared stories of losses to owls, foxes, and hawks. We’ve had close calls with loose dogs, too. This is what seems to be the most challenging time of year for protecting our free ranging poultry, so we have to stay on our toes.

Since our property is largely rolling topography, we can only see part of it from indoors (plus an outbuilding partially obscures the view). We keep a couple of sets of binoculars handy to scan the trees for aerial predators, and make a mad dash outside as soon as a hawk is spotted. There have also been strange dogs on our property from time to time; our house dogs alert to the presence of the interlopers and nearly go through the window. Just opening a door has been enough to send the dogs running away. Continue reading “I’m The Livestock Guardian Animal”

Goodbye, 2016…Hello, 2017!

2016 Photo CollageIt’s that time again – this year is coming to its end. We like to look back at the year because you can forget how much you learned and during that period. We also like to recognize our accomplishments, as well as identify needed improvements. We characterize 2016 as our year of learning on the farm.


2016 started on a sour note, with about half of our small flock of layers lost to predators. We implemented deterrents and learned about the importance of having a vigilant rooster (or two) to keep watch over the flock. We hatched 4 groups of chicks and learned about integrating new chickens into an existing flock. We processed roosters, treated injuries, and let a (surprise) broody hen hatch some eggs.


We started with a small group of Muscovies going into 2016, due to some predator losses. We were thrilled when the ducks began laying, and wanted to expand our flock. Continue reading “Goodbye, 2016…Hello, 2017!”

Hawk Season Again (Warning: Graphic Description)

Cooper's_Hawk_WikiWith this cold weather, we like to take extra treats out for the chickens and ducks.  When we went out this afternoon with scratch, we noticed that the adult chickens were nowhere to be seen…very odd.  The juvenile chickens were huddled in the back corner of the barn, and when we got closer, a hawk flew up and into the rafters. To our dismay, we discovered that the hawk had killed and had been eating one of the juveniles – a nice New Hampshire Red pullet, of course, one of the friendliest of the bunch. It had eaten much of the pullet’s head, which was detached, and had plucked most of the breast. *&#@ hawk!

We had a problem at the end of last year with hawks preying on our laying hens, and we lost a significant number in a short period of time. This seems to be the time of year when, perhaps due to scarcity of wild food sources, the hawks come looking for meals at our farm. Yes, our birds are delicious, but we’d vastly prefer the raptors stick to catching mice and wild rabbits. Hmm…maybe they should look inside the plastic owls we put out to try to deter the hawks – we found a nest of mice in one of them recently. Needless to say, the plastic owls aren’t very effective. Continue reading “Hawk Season Again (Warning: Graphic Description)”

Phoebe’s Ducklings Scoff At Containment

Those tiny Muscovy ducklings are always getting into mischief. They’re small enough to go right through the fence into the neighboring run, and Mom (Phoebe) can’t follow.

They’ve figured out how to exploit the weaknesses of the fence. They hop right over the plastic netting on the bottom to play in the mud. While Phoebe doesn’t look all that upset, we saw juvenile red-tailed hawks circling yesterday, so those babies need to stay in their fully-netted run.

We reinforced the netting at the bottom of the fence to keep those wily babies in (zip ties come in handy for many projects). Seems like they always find some vulnerability to exploit, forcing us to quickly repair it. They probably laugh about it, too.

In a couple of weeks, they’ll be too big to squeeze through the fence, but until then, we’ll have to keep an eye on these guys. If there’s way, they’ll get out…

Coraline’s Ducklings Are Free (On The Farm)

Coraline_Ducklings_Free-RangeCoraline’s babies will be six weeks old tomorrow, and they sure look different from the yellow and brown puffballs they were not so long ago. Their color has changed significantly: now, they’re predominantly brown, and a few have white chests. They’re about half Coraline’s size (a couple are larger), and very curious about the world outside their run.

Coraline’s been ready to leave the duckling run for a couple of weeks. We wanted the ducklings to gain more size before we unleashed them, hopefully making them less of a target for predators. When we did this morning’s chores, she was standing at the gate to the run, clearly wanting to go out, so we decided today would be the day. Continue reading “Coraline’s Ducklings Are Free (On The Farm)”