Rebuilding the flock

Elissa with some baby leghorns.

Quite a bit of bird-related activity since the predator attack a few weeks ago. We already had plans to rearrange our pen fencing to maximize square footage without having to buy additional rolls of fence. So we pushed forward with those plans… new pens are 75 feet by 50 feet, which allows for up to 34 birds in one pen and still remain kosher with the “pasture raised” buzzword. (From what I’ve read, you need to have a minimum of 108 square feet per bird [on pasture] to be considered “pasture raised”.) So we’ve had to shuffle the flock around as we tear down one pen and rebuild it, etc. As I write this, two of the planned three pens are fully constructed and we’re aiming to do the third one this coming weekend.

And in this pen rebuild process, we’ve added a skirt of chicken wire along the bottom outer edge of each pen. This skirt extends 1.5 feet out from the pen fence along the ground (stapled into the ground), and 1.5 feet up along the fence (zip-tied to the fence). So we’re hoping this will eliminate any chance of gaps along the bottom of the fence (how we suspect the predator[s] got in this last time).

We’ve also obtained 19 new birds. 12 Tractor Supply chicks and 7 near-laying white leghorn hens. The Tractor Supply chicks were sexed (90% accuracy, so we’re probably due for a male or two in the bunch). The whole fam has been enjoying playing with the baby birds.

Overall egg production has been virtually zero since the predator attack, and we won’t be bringing any eggs of any kind to market tomorrow. The attack took all of our laying chicken hens, and the 12 new babies won’t be laying until next season. The 7 older leghorns will hopefully be laying any day now, but nothing yet from them. Meanwhile, our ducks, which seem to have survived the attack just fine, have been molting for the past couple weeks, and it’s apparently common for ducks to stop laying while molting. So, yeah, no eggs these days. We’re crossing our fingers that the ducks and 7 leghorns start pumping them out soon. People have been asking for eggs at the market and it’s tough to turn them away, but what can you do.

Sad News

At some point during the wee hours of this past Sunday morning, some predator(s) got into our bird pen and killed / took 16 of our female chickens. This included all of our laying hens, plus two chicks. All 7 of our ducks survived, as did our two roosters and one baby chick. We don’t know what type of predator it was, whether there were multiple of them, where / how they got inside our fencing. Maybe a weasel? We aren’t long-time bird owners, but have gotten the impression that this sort of catastrophic event isn’t uncommon.

Anyway, so Sunday was a sad day for us. We’ve had plans to build a larger set of pens (75′ x 50′ each) to accommodate additional birds. (Egg sales have been going well at the market.) So we went ahead and constructed the first of those 3 pens Sunday, but added a layer of chicken wire at the base of the pen to make it harder for animals to get under the fence. We want to try to form a fairly tight seal between fence and ground around the perimeter.

As a result of this attack, we don’t currently have any chicken egg production, so we won’t be offering chicken eggs at the farmer’s market for the time being. Our ducks are still laying, though there has been a dip in production, presumably due to the trauma over the weekend. But we do plan to bring duck eggs to market this coming Saturday.

We plan to replace our female chicken flock, though the new birds may be a mix of chicks and currently-laying females. We’ll keep you posted on progress.