This year has been a big year for our little feathered friends. We’ve grown our layers to around 150, had scheduled deliveries of meat birds throughout the summer, and even raised up some of our very own chicks from our broody hens.
It’s been exciting, but also heartbreaking! With any kind of outside animal comes the risk of a predator. We’ve been fortunate enough to dodge that bullet the past few years. After our first experience of a raccoon prying a hole in our chicken wire 3 years ago with our very first flock of 10 chickens, we’ve had high scale electric! Nothing has come close to getting a chicken since then and we’ve even taken out a few predators with the 3 wire wrap around electric on a timer. Well with the meat birds on pasture, we’ve had to have a different approach. They didn’t have electric protection and last year we were lucky to raise them with no hiccups.
This year, no such luck. Early this spring Keith came in one day after doing his morning feeding and the look on his face when he walked in the door told me something was wrong. I’ve never seen him like that. He looked so defeated. He walked over and intensely said, “they got them, every last one, they’re all gone.” In one night, we lost 100 meat birds from 3 different coups that were only a week and a half away from butcher day.
It sucked. The girls came in that morning and said, “Mom I feel so bad for dad, I want to help him clean them up.” I said, “Go ahead you can help him”. She said, “No, he told me I can’t help and to come inside because this is the type of things kids are traumatized by.” Ha! I’m pretty certain my oldest would have been fine. She has some pretty tough skin.
But you learn. And we learned that our pasture raised layers and meat birds have to have electric around them. So we did. We’ve surrounded them with portable poly solar fencing. It takes more time because we have to move the fences weekly, but it’s worth it to know they are as safe as possible.
We started our next round of meat birds with the new fencing and completed a successful butcher day. This was our third time butchering with the extended family and it went really smoothly. Keith built a plucker which has made the process so much faster. They started at 7am and completed 100 birds by 2pm with set up and clean up. It was a long and tiring day, but so rewarding to have a stocked freezer with healthy pasture raised chicken.
Our biggest success this summer has been the Egg Mobile! Keith made this for our layers and it is perfect for pasture raising them. We move the fencing every week depending on how the grass is looking. I love it maybe even more than the chickens. I can sit inside my living room, drink a cup of coffee, and watch the birds. Quaint. Relaxing.
They lay their eggs, eat supplemental feed, and drink water inside. They all go in on their own at dark and then we have to lock it up each night and open it each morning.
For the first time we also had some hens sit on eggs. It was a neat thing to watch. They sat all day and only hopped off to eat or drink. If we got near them, they would get all fluffed up and angry looking. After the babies were born, they took care of feeding them and getting them water. Great learning experience for all of us, but especially the kids! Homeschool science 😉
All in all chickens were a great success this summer. We have that figured out for the most part and only improved upon what we’ve already learned.