THE RIGHT CHICKEN FOR YOU, ENRICHMENT ACTIVITIES & VARMINTS
THE RIGHT CHICKEN FOR YOU
Chickens are one of life's true enjoyments. They are good for mans body; inside and out. The watching/caring and tending for the critters lowers ones blood pressure and makes us live longer. Fact is everyone should own a chicken or two, maybe even a dozen or more. Just observing their daily antics immediately lowers ones blood pressure so YES, they are good for the soul!
Take your time to find the right chicken breed for you. There are several reasons for this as not all chicken breeds are alike. Many folks talk about beauty and egg quality but another important aspect to different chicken breeds is temperament. I look for a breed that is docile, calm, works well in confinement and "plays" well with others. When reading breed descriptions key words I watch out for are: less tolerant of confinement, aggressive, very flighty, active. These key words when added to a flock may end up to being a heartbreak. Not always, as some folks look for these qualities, but for me these qualities did have the tendency to exhibit as bad chicken behavior such as feather picking. I learned the hard way. It was hard for me to face the fact that I owned a bunch of homely, featherless, egg laying ugly wonders.
Now if a breed strikes my fancy I do research and look for the key words that I know suit my operation such as docile, calm, works well in confinement. I now have a flock of docile, calm, beautiful fully feathered egg laying machines. Pure eye candy.
I should also note my original chickens were never crowded. The chickens I purchased did not have the genetic makeup to enable them to tolerate confinement and could not play well with others in the environment I provided them. Fact is I purchased first without thought and did not research.
How does a person find the "Right Chicken For You". Of course research BYC, a wealth of knowledge is provided on BYC. I also find myself referring to Henderson's Handy-Dandy Chicken Chart. This site has everything you want to know about a certain chicken breed.
Finding the "Right Chicken For You" is one of the most important steps or building blocks for the back yard flock owner.
I also changed my practices to enhance the lives of my chickens. I now have what I call chicken "Enrichment Activities" in their pen. I added more feed and water stations. Also added "Jungle Gym" activities such as poles serving as roosts set strategically apart to enhance jumping and flight activity. Some roosts were placed together at staggered heights, others solo. Also in their play area I added large rocks, sand for dusting and a pedestal bird bath for food or water.
Other enrichment activities revolved around their food. Each morning they get a flake of alfalfa with scratch grain sprinkled around the ground and on the alfalfa. They really think this is neat. All chickens love to play the game "scratch and find". The alfalfa works great as they can scratch and find nibblets of green leaves and the true find is the corn or oat disbursed within the alfalfa. I have several feeders each with different varieties of feed. The feed variety consists of layer pellets, crumbles, corn and scratch. In the mornings I feed day old bread from the bread store and on winter mornings make a warm mash with the bread, beat pulp, scratch, cat food, table scraps and sunflower seeds. In summer I provide cold morning mashes coupled with feeding fresh garden veggies, harvested weed greens, table scraps and bread year round.
Each evening and on weekends they run loose to roam. This is their "ultimate" enrichment activity!
Incorporating activities into your flock, even if you have 1 bird or 100 and no matter the size of your coop truly enriches the life of your birds. Just adding a mash to their diet always seems like a "great chicken adventure". There is always amusement in observing them find the treasures located within the mash. I find it also enriches my life as I watch them interact with their activities.
A good varmint proof hen house is self explanatory.
Our varmint deterrents consists of small solar yard lights strategically placed around outside of the chicken pen and two excellent night watchmen; a Redbone Coonhound and Bloodhound......when not sleeping
I do not know if this helps but I also have a couple of wind chimes around the coop area. Is noise a deterrent to the varmint? Unknown, but it provides a good calming and egg enhancing atmosphere for my feathered friends.
What most folk are not prepared for is finding the varmint in the chicken house. What do you do? Myself, I always find adventure in the catching of a varmint in my coop. Easy to catch are possum by the tail, snakes by the back of the neck and even a prairie hawk by the back when the Redbone had him cornered. But for most flock owners I would recommend a catch pole. A catch pole can easily be made. It consists of a pole with a rope on the end to acting as a lariat. They do sell commercial catch poles. Other equipment would be a live animal trap and a small cage such as a dog crate.
Most varmints can be caught with the catch pole and transported in the crate. Live animal traps are set when you know you have a problem. If you ever catch a skunk, well "beware". I find the best way to transport that critter is to sneak up on them slowly holding a large bed sheet up in front of you. If you see the skunk pounce the ground; STOP! This is a warning. Then slowly walk up again when he starts rooting around. As you come up to his trap then slowly drape the bed sheet over the trap. Lift him into a pickup bed and transport him as "far" away as possible; next state!. Also, you may not want to have guests over for the next few evenings, but remember the chickens and dogs will ALWAYS love you
Good luck and may your flock bring you great happiness and totally enrich "your" lives
Edited by soldier - 2/26/12 at 1:41pm