Rural Lifestyle

Life in Rural America

Tag: raising chickens

Leaving a Rat Snake in the Chicken House

Texas Rat Snake

This may seem counter-productive, but two rat snakes have been allowed to stay in the chicken house. Usually, if a rat snake (aka chicken snake) is caught in the chicken house, it is dealt with with extreme prejudice.

However, awhile back a good size rat was spotted in the chicken house. For those of you who do not know, one of the worst creatures that can be in the chicken house is a rat. Not only will they eat the chicken feed, but the will kill chickens. Yes, a rat will kill and eat part of a chicken.

When it comes to pullets, which are chickens less than one year old, a rat can easily kill and eat one. Then there is the egg issue. Rats will eat whatever eggs they can.

Simply put, a rat in the chicken house can wreck havoc.

A live trap was put in the chicken house to catch the rat, but it kept getting out of the trap. Poison is out of the question. Old style spring loaded rat traps are also out of the question. What’s the next best thing to do? Let nature take its course.

In other words, let rat snakes do what rat snakes do.

Rat Snake in the Chicken House

Rethinking Buff Orpingtons For My Prepsteading Chicken Flock

Buff Orpington Chick

There have been some events which have caused me rethink the Buff Orpingtons for my prepsteading chicken flock. Buff Orpingtons have been part of my chicken flock for around four years, and during that four years I have noticed a common trend.

When new chicks are bought from the local feed store, they are brought home and put in a six feet X eight feet brooder house. The house has perches, plywood walls, screened in floor, heat lamp… everything the chicks need to be safe.

The chicks are usually kept in the brooder house for around six weeks, and then put in the main chicken house. A lot of it depends on outside temperatures, and how feathered out the chicks are.

Buff Orpingtons

Three Broody Hens in The Chicken House

Broody hens

Three of my hens have gone broody and are sitting on eggs. One of them even hatched out a chick.

For those of you who do know, broody means a hen has gone into a mothering mode and is sitting on some eggs. The eggs are called a clutch. Some chicken breeds go broody more than others, and some breeds rarely if ever go broody.

What gets me:

Two of the hens are Barred Rocks, which rarely go broody.

One is an Australorp, which has a reputation of going broody.

My first set of chickens was back around 1987 or 1988. My wife and I butchered out that first set of Barred Rocks when they were around two years old, and I did not get any more until 2012.

So in the seven years I have kept chickens, only two barred rocks have gone broody.

Losing Chickens To Predators

Over the past couple of weeks I have lost several chickens to predators. Several of them have gone missing, with just a few feathers in the chicken yard. From the trail of feathers, something drug the chicken from the chicken house.

It is not a chicken hawk, because there is no body. Chicken hawks do not eat the bones.

A trail camera in the chicken yard showed a couple of raccoons and an opossum.

Opossums will not drag a chicken off. It will eat the chicken in the chicken house.

Spent Day Cleaning Out Chicken House

Chicken house

My chicken house is a mess so it is time to do some cleaning. About a year and a half ago I set up a water barrel system inside the chicken house and is a 35 gallon drum going to a stainless steel pan with a float. The chickens have been getting on the drum and pooping all over the top of it. When I fill the drum up chicken poop is all over the place.

Then there is the metal trash can I store feed in. It is next to the water barrel and close to a corner of the chicken house. The chickens get into the corner and lay eggs, right where chickens get on the feed barrel and poop.

There is barely any room between the feed can and the wall, but enough room for the chickens to get into.

I decided to rearrange everything.

The water barrel is getting moved outside.

The feed can is getting moved away from the wall. Now I can get in there and clean out.

The chickens are getting a laying box put in the corner.

Lessons learned

Farm update June 9 2015

Farm update June 9 2015100% 1 Votes Things are moving along nicely, but rather slow.  The new chicken yard is working out well, the new chicken house is nearing completion, a large pen oak fell on the property so I need to cut that up, still need to clear fence rows for the cattle field, […]

Chicken flock update November 24 2014

Since we got the new chicken yard built losses have greatly reduced. In the original yard the chickens were either bored, cramped, or just wanted to forage. They would jump over the fence, get out of the yard and either the dogs or some other predator would get them.

The original chicken yard is 35 feet wide X 75 feet long.

The new chicken yard is 100 feet wide and 200 feet long.

Part of my chicken flock on Chicken flock November 23, 2014.

In the picture left to right:

  • Golden Laced Wyandotte rooster
  • Barred Rock
  • Jersey Giant
  • Rhode Island Red
  • Barred Rock
  • Rhode Island Red
  • Barred Rock

Chicken flock November 23 2014

Mr Man has passed away

Kristy and I knew it was just a matter of time, but we held out hope. We hoped that somehow Mr Man, Kristys Buff Orpington rooster would recover from his stroke. We held out hope that one day he would be back on his feet protecting his girls.

That day will never come.

It started the morning of Sunday, July 27th. Kristy and I walked out to the chicken yard to check on the flock. We found Mr. Man laying on his side unable to walk. We thought that he was suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke. He was brought inside to cool off. By Monday morning he had not improved.

He was not eating or drinking on his own. So Kristy and I started giving him pedialyte, gerber baby food and water with a syringe, but with no needle.

After a few days of force feeding Mr Man seemed to regain some of his strength. He was kept in the bathtub so his poop was easy to clean up. By the end of the first week he started growing, however so weak he was.

All Of The New Chickens Are Gone

Chicken flock November 23 2014

I need to explain the title in a little more detail. When my wife and I moved to the farm in July – August 2013 we brought with us 13 hens. These hens were a year and a half old.

Between February – March 2014 my wife and I bought around 20 chicks. These chicks were only a day or two old and were bought from local farm supply stores here in Jasper Texas.

We are back to 13 hens and one rooster. Some of the original chickens disappeared, and the new ones took their place. But we are back to the original number we started with.

Between a chicken hawk, fox or coyote, and my dogs killing the chickens, the ratio of new chickens that have died sits at 100 percent.

My wife and I loaned a rhode island red rooster to my cousin, he is doing good. My wifes buff orpington rooster had a stroke. Those are the two extra chickens we have left out of the new we bought.

Update on the New Chicken House

Outside of chicken house

Awhile back I started building a new chicken yard. Now that the yard is pretty much complete (for now), the time has come to build the new chicken house.

The size I decided on was 16 feet by 16 feet. 16 X 16 = 256 square feet. I figured 256 square feet was enough to accommodate roost, laying boxes, storage cabinet, water barrels and batteries for the solar power.

The laying boxes will take up 6 feet on one wall, and the roost takes up around 12 feet on another wall. The laying boxes in the new chicken house will be modeled after the laying boxes of the old chicken house.

An 8 foot wide leanto will be built off one wall. Which is where the solar panels will be installed.

Inside the house is a steel storage cabinet 36 inches wide and 18 inches deep. This is for tools, nails, screws, paint, chicken feeders, waterers, just your usual stuff.

Buying chicks in the summer

For the most part buying chicks is a springtime activity. The local farm supply stores start getting their chicks in around early to mid February. Then there are the Easter colored chicks. Please do not buy colored chicks for Easter. You do not know what breeds you are getting, what sex, and the “new” quickly wears off.

You may think that after the feed stores stop selling chicks in the spring that there are no more on the market. That is simply not true. Some hatcheries sell chicks all year long. Where do you find these hatcheries? On the internet.

My wife and I had never bought chicks over the internet. We had always gone down to the local feed store, bought whatever chicks they had in stock, then went home. After buying our first set of chicks over the internet, I doubt we will ever buy from a feed store again. The process was easy and straight forward.

Update on the chicken flock

Buff Orpington chick about 6 weeks old

When my wife and I moved to the farm in august 2013, we arrived with 13 hens. The hens were a little over a year and a half old. Those 13 hens were laying around 9 – 10 eggs a day.

With that 9 – 10 eggs a day I tried to estimate how many chickens and eggs my family would need during a long term SHTF situation. In a previous article we got an estimated number of around 75 chickens or so to satisfy our egg and chicken meat production needs.

In the past 3 months something happened that has thrown a serious kink into my chicken flock plans.

Out of the original 13 hens, only 8 remain.

Out of the 24 chicks my wife and I bought in February 2014, only about 12 remain.

In other words, we have lost about 1/2 of our flock in the past few months.

Lost a Rhode Island Red

Rhode Island Red

Monday April 22 one of my best Rhode Island Red hens got out of the chicken yard and the puppies tried playing with her. Lets just say things did not turn out too well.

A couple of weeks ago the puppies tried playing with the same hen. A lot of the feathers on her neck were pulled out. Besides a couple of small bite marks she was otherwise ok. It looked like she was going to make a full recovery. Then Monday came along.

After my wife and I got home from work I opened the chicken yard for the chickens to free range until dark. The puppies were roaming free while the chickens were in their yard.

Maybe around 6:30 or so I opened the chicken house and that is when I saw her. She was in the nest with a broody Australorp. I knew right then something was wrong. She was missing feathers around her vent and she acted scared.

One of my Silver Laced Wyandottes died

Silver Laced Wyandotte

The day start out as any other. I woke up, threw some clothes on and went out to the chicken house to let the chickens out. This has been my daily routine for 2 years.

Today was different. When I opened the door, one of my Silver Laced Wyandottes was laying on the floor dead. I opened the door to let the chickens out, then grabbed the Silver Laced Wyandotte to get it out of the chicken house. The body was cold and rigor mortis had set in.

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