We give away our chickens.
I’ve had chickens on and off for the past 8 or so years. We had them for fresh eggs; we never ate the chickens.
My first batch was 8 little chicks I raised from 2-days old. They spent the first eight weeks or so in our garage, under a heat lamp. We visited with them and played with them. On warm days, when I was working in the yard, I brought them out to scratch in the dirt. They had names.
We added a chicken coop to a shed near our horse corral and put them in it when it got warm enough. During the day, we’d leave the coop door open and the chickens would come out and scratch around in the dirt and horse poop.
Then one day, three of them were gone.
It was coyotes, of course. They’d discovered the chickens, which were easy prey. Coyotes grab their prey and make off with them. One year, with another batch of chickens, I actually saw a coyote running off with a chicken in its mouth.
No more days on the loose.
A friend and I built a fenced-in yard for them with a ramp from the coop into the yard. That kept the coyotes out — they didn’t seem to want to work at digging under the fence to get at the chickens.
But it didn’t stop the neighbor’s dogs. One Thanksgiving day, the doorbell rang and my neighbors brood of children were standing there. “Our dogs are eating your chickens,” they announced. We ran down to the coop to find the dogs in the yard, chasing the chickens around. They hadn’t gotten any of the chickens yet and they ran off before we could grab them.
We put electric wire around the base of the yard’s fence. The neighborhood dogs got to meet that wire one-by-one and didn’t come back.
Meanwhile, we were going through batches of chickens. They don’t live forever, you know. Sometimes they’d simply disappear. We put bird netting over the top of the yard — no small task, since a few trees grow in there. When we got down to just one chicken, we’d give it away. A few months later, we’d start again with chicks. But I never got too attached to them, since I knew what would eventually happen.
We also started getting roosters, hoping they’d work with the chickens to keep the flock going. We did have one hen get broody and hatch two chicks. She wasn’t a good mom. The other chickens soon killed the babies.
Last time this year, I took delivery of over a dozen chicks. I raised them and set them up in the coop/yard as I do every year. They started producing eggs in the late spring, not long after I went away for my summer job. My husband was soon giving away 3 dozen eggs a week. When I got home in the fall, they were still at it.
But then they started disappearing again. We couldn’t figure out how. Were they getting out, to be killed by dogs or coyotes? Or was something getting in? We checked the coop and yard regularly. We adjusted the bird netting. Each week, we’d lose one or two birds.
We were down to seven when we realized that it could be hawks getting in at the very top of the coop. There was an opening there about 6 inches tall, just under the roof. Small birds used this access way to get into the coop and eat scratch. Mike and I closed it up with chicken wire.
Two more birds disappeared. Now it had to be hawks coming in through the yard. There was no way we could completely cover the yard with bird netting — the trees in there were just too big and bushy. So I cut off access to the yard, limiting the chickens to an 8 x 8 coop that was open on three sides.
That’s when the chickens stopped laying eggs.
It’s also when we started spending a lot more time in Phoenix. Although the chickens can be on their own for up to a week — they have automatic water and their hanging feeder can hold a week or two worth of food (depending on the number of chickens, of course) — it was silly to have to worry about them when they weren’t doing their job. I couldn’t open up the yard again; I’d just start losing them again. So I did the next best thing: I gave them away to a friend who also has chickens.
She lives in Wenden in farm country. Her chickens run lose in her back yard and seem very happy and healthy. Yes, she occasionally does pick one out for a good chicken dinner, but that’s life. I figured that my four hens and one rooster might go back to work for her — especially if they got an inkling of what might happen if they didn’t.
So now we’re chickenless.