How did my grandmother do it?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by joebryant, Aug 2, 2010.

  1. joebryant

    joebryant Crowing

    My grandmother in southern Kentucky had a hen house. Its door was always open, never closed. Her hens went in and around the barn too, some roosting on the high rafters above the hay in the loft. Most laid their eggs in the hen house nests. Some laid in the hay of the hay loft. Nobody closed them in or did anything else. I never heard of anything ever happening to any of her hens, predator wise. Broody hens would often hide from her and show up with a dozen or more chicks. She didn't have any wire of any kind anywhere for chickens; they could go anywhere on the farm that they wanted to go. It wasn't only my grandmother; all her neighbors did the same.

    Why can't we live like that with our chickens? Surely there were the same predators then as what we have today.
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2010
  2. grandmaof5

    grandmaof5 Songster

    Aug 8, 2009
    Central N.S.
    I think there are many things different now than in your grandma's day. One thing is that many people thought of hens as expendable and when they lost a hen or two, it was just something that happened. (they did lose them a hen occasionally, I believe). Another thing was that many people kept 'outside' dogs which roamed the grounds freely day and night, to keep predators away. I know some people that still think of dogs as livestock, never pets...they look after them well, but the dogs are always kept outside, never in the house. As we've encroached on the natural habitat of so many animals, they have moved into closer proximity to us and our hens, maybe becoming denser in their population, and more desperate for food.

    Just some thoughts.
  3. zeusrekning

    zeusrekning In the Brooder

    Nov 29, 2009
    Upstate , SC
    I'd rekon it's the same reason your grandmother (if like mine) only shut the front door at bed time. She could also let her children run free ,as long as they stayed on the farm. And, how a grandmother knew where the nearest hickory bush was no matter what part of the yard she was in. Im a young man, and barely caught the tail end of this style of raising. Our granparents had something special. To answer your question -- I bet its video games have rotted your chicks brains. [​IMG]
  4. Camelot Farms

    Camelot Farms Chickenista

    We dont have a coop. [​IMG]

    Our chickens do just as your Grandmother's did. They wander into our barn at dusk and roost on the tops of the horse stalls or even up in the beams at roof level. Ours is an old tobacco barn so there are still logs at roof level from where they used to tie the tobacco. They each roost in the same spot every night so every few days I run and old shovel underneath those places and scrape up any droppings.

    Our dogs roam freely during the day and I am sure that their scent keeps most predators at bay. We live in a 'holler', so we are surrounded by woods and pastures on 3 sides. The flock spends their days in high grasses and in thick brush.

    I have occiasionally lost a bird but its a small price to pay for them to live freely.

    I wish one of mine would come traipsing in with a bunch of!
  5. joebryant

    joebryant Crowing

    Quote:I really envy you. I go bananas with guilt feelings if I'm watching TV, realize it's 20 minutes past the time to close the run's gate. Afterward, I thank God nothing killed them before I did my nightly routine of locking them in an ultra-safe area.
    BTW, where do you live?
  6. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

    Feb 2, 2009
    Southeast Louisiana
    I grew up a lot like that in the hills and ridges of East Tennessee. Our chickens were never locked up, some roosted in trees outside the hen house even in below 0*F weather. Most chickens laid in the hen house but I'd find eggs in the hay loft or maybe in brush piles. Several times hen's would nest somewhere unknown and appear with a bunch of chicks. We would go years between predator attacks, usually a fox or a dog, never a raccoon, possum, or skunk. Occasionally a snake would eat some eggs. It's not that the predators were not around. When they got so thick they were causing a problem, a neighbor's sons and my two younger brothers declared war on skunks. I'd already left home. They killed 56 skunks that summer.

    One of the differences between then and now is that I could only see one other house from our yard. Now you can see several. I could walk in several directions over the hills and never see another house. That's not the case now. The land used to be farmed, which meant the fields were kept clear and not allowed to be overgrown. Fence rows were kept cleared. The woods were trees with not much brushy undergrowth to hide animals. Now the fields and fence rows are overgrown with brush, which is perfect habitat for certain predators and certain prey animals, so the number of predators has increased and they live closer to people, both because they have more places to hide and more prey animals to feed their young. They are attracted to areas people live in because of all the easy food they get from people's trash. Coyotes have also expanded into that territory, both because the food supply for them has increased and the large predators that used to outcompete them have been killed off.

    This just talks about one area, possibly pretty close to what your grandmother's place, but it shows how habitat has changed and with it animal distribution. Many people in suburbia would be amazed at how many raccoons, possums, foxes and other predators thrive near people. These predators have plenty of places to hide in the storm sewers, parks, empty lots, and abandoned housing. They get a lot of easy food from people's garbage. And they are not afraid to go around people's houses, especially at night when we don't see them. That's where the food is.

    I think another thing that has changed is people's attitudes. My parents kept several chickens to provide eggs and meat. They were not pets, they were livestock. They did not get individual names and I seriously doubt Dad knew exactly how many chickens he actually had at any one time. They foraged off the land, getting supplemental food only when snow covered the ground. The loss of an occasional chicken was not a catastrophe, was factored into the equation, but did signal you needed to stop that specific predator since he knew where an easy meal was and would be back. Now, for most of the people on this forum, chickens are pets. We know exactly how many we have and can probably identify each one. The loss of one chicken is a big deal.

    So habitat has changed, predator distribution and feeding habits have changed (it is easier to get a meal from people's garbage than catch it in whatever wild is left), and our attitudes about our chickens have changed, especially comparing your grandmother's situation and most of the people on this forum.

    Anyway, that is some of my thoughts and opinions. I've kind of enjoyed typing it up. Thanks for posting the topic.
  7. rancher hicks

    rancher hicks Crowing

    Feb 28, 2009
    Syracuse, NY
    Quote:I really envy you. I go bananas with guilt feelings if I'm watching TV, realize it's 20 minutes past the time to close the run's gate. Afterward, I thank God nothing killed them before I did my nightly routine of locking them in an ultra-safe area.
    BTW, where do you live?

    Me too.

    Now I suspect there was alot of hunting going on and in grammas day folks didn't problem discharging a fire arm within 500' of the house if it was to kill a coon. Lord knows we saw and smelled more skunks and saw more coons in the city. I'm sure they had preds they just weren't so sensitive to blowing them off the face of the earth. Same with those blasted roof rats. Bet you couldn't find a "hava heart" trap in Gramma day.

    They gotta right to live just not in my neck of the woods.

  8. EweSheep

    EweSheep Flock Mistress

    Jan 12, 2007
    Land of Lincoln
    I agree with Ridgerunner. [​IMG]
  9. zazouse

    zazouse Crowing

    Sep 7, 2009
    Southeast texas
    Ridgerunner has ofered great info here.

    I have no pens except the brooder pen and it is outside.

    I keep my fields cut and woods cleared 100 yards into them,it's nice in there and that's were the older flocks hang out in the heat of the day.

    I am home all day and spend much of the time outside and i make rounds on my 4-wheeler or on foot at random times of the day, when i am inside i have a 15 dollar baby monitor and i can hear everything going on outside.

    I have 6 outside dogs that patrol this place, i rarely ever loose a bird and i have 100's.

    I keep hawks away from the no fly zone with bottle rockets and it works well for me.

    The critters out here are almost never seen except on my trail cam.

    I have only killed 1 critter in 30 years and that was a sick wolf the dogs had penned in the barn, my dogs have killed some wildlife that got to close but it is rare.
  10. nonseq

    nonseq Songster

    Sep 16, 2009
    Central Ohio
    I think Ridgerunner is spot on.

    I had a client whose family kept poultry - chickens, turkeys and guineas - that were not penned and roamed freely. The guineas had quite a range. These animals weren't pets. And I am sure that my client's uncle had no idea how many of them there were. Sometimes an animal died or disappeared. It was no big deal.

    My grandparents and aunts/uncles farmed. They kept their chickens and ducks the same way.

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