It’s a bird, it’s a plane….it’s Captain Chickenman!

Chickens are threatened every single day by predators of all sorts. It is your responsibility to  become their hero and make sure you protect them from a gruesome death. You must become Captain Chickenman!

Fortunately for you, I am an expert on being a chicken superhero. I have decided to share my knowledge with you in order to protect the greater good of the chicken world.

First we must focus on predator identification. There are quite a few predators that would love to sink their teeth, claws or talons into your birds. Before taking any preventative measures you need to know what danger is out there. Depending on your geographical location, you may be facing one or all of the following predators:

  1. Dogs: Dogs definately love to go after chickens. Domestic dogs usually kill aimlessly or even accidentally. A chicken who has been killed by a dog will have been mauled, left with a broken neck and nothing will have been eaten. The bird will usually be left where it has been killed. When the bird stops struggling, it usually means game over for the dog. This is common almost everywhere. Check out this recent article from The Sudbury Star titled Owner fears for her chickens.
  2. Foxes: Foxes are sly and will stake out a chicken coop for weeks before making their strike. They are also quite good at what they do. They can dig like a dog and climb almost as well as a cat, getting over fences you never thought they could. When foxes get into coops they usually clean house. As the chickens get worked up, so does the fox. The result is that every bird the fox can get to will usually be killed. The fox will take as many birds as itcan and take them with it.
  3. Coyotes: The coyote is a chicken predator that will find a way into your coop a lot like the fox, although they aren’t as good at climbing. They will more likely tunnel under the coop. It is hard to tell the difference between a fox and coyote attack but how they gained access may be a clue. The deaths are similar though, chickens are missing, necks are broken and feathers are scattered.
  4. Raccoons: These masked bandits are sly chicken predators. With the added gift of an opposable thumb, they can be quite the burglar. They can often figure out latches and door openings. If a raccoon gains entry it will probably kill multiple birds. Most of the time you will still find their bodies in the coop because the raccoon will have trouble carrying them out. It will usually kill by ripping into the chicken’s neck. Raccoons are also good at stealing eggs.
  5. Large Birds: Considering chickens don’t often look up when searching for danger, large birds often have a high kill ratio, when they do decide to attack chickens. Large birds normally stake out the best opportunities to launch their attack. Most attacks happen during the day when the chickens are free-ranging as opposed to much other attacks which happen at night. An attack by a large bird will look different than other predator attacks. Some birds will be missing and others will look cut up, as if they were cut with a knife, since large birds have sharp beaks and talons.
  6. Bears: Bears can tear into small wood structures such as chicken coops and will get as many chickens as possible. Bears are looking for a quick meal. Chickens themselves do not attract bears but things like easily accessible  garbage and chicken feed does attract them. Once the bears get this close to the coop most will just take the birds too. They are not as sly as foxes, they break in obviously and take what they want. Since they are heavy, you should be able to see footprints.
  7. Skunks: Skunks are more of an annoyance than chicken predators. They will go after baby chickens and eggs but will rarely attack an adult bird. They are usually nocturnal and have very poor eyesight. If they gain access to the coop they will go after the eggs first. If they do get to a bird, it will have its neck opened up and the head will be eaten.

These are some of the most common predators that  pose the largest threat to your flock. I’ll let you study these descriptions for a while and next week I will give you the details on how to defend yourself against these vile creatures.

Take care fellow chicken heroes, remember the future of your chickens rests on your shoulders!

So you want to keep chickens…

April hanging out in the backyard.

A lot of people these days are concerned with the amount of chemicals that go into their food. More and more people have started to grow their own vegetables, so the next logical step seems to keep two or three hens in your backyard.

You will soon learn that it is surprisingly easy and very pleasurable to keep chickens. It is becoming increasingly popular, probably  because hens make such charismatic and endearing family pets. It is a hobby that children can easily become involved in. You can also be safe in the knowledge that hens are not unhygienic. On the contrary, they will spend hours cleaning themselves.

As you get to know your chickens you will soon discover that each one has an individual personality or characteristic. At the end of a hectic day there is nothing more relaxing than to stand and watch your chickens strutting around the backyard, fending for themselves.

Before you go out and buy your first hens you will need to be aware that you must devote a certain amount of time each day into looking after them, just as you would with a dog or cat.

Rose hanging out in the backyard.You will need to consider where you are going to keep them, whether you have a friend or relative who will feed them when you are away, and how secure the site is against foxes, raccoons and other predators. Even if you live in the middle of a city this is still a major consideration as there are a surprisingly high number of urban predators these days. I must also note that there are certain city by-laws that prevent people from owning chickens (I have had no trouble to date).

Your neighbors will be another consideration because there is no point in causing unnecessary trouble if they are adamant they do not want to live next door to any livestock.  You can always entice your neighbors by offering them some fresh eggs every now and then.

Your hens will soon pay for themselves. For example, if you have three hens you can expect them to lay as many as 600 eggs a year – they will be large, extremely fresh and would have cost far more to buy.

Bernie (Alex's dad) loves his chickens!

Beginners always ask how much space a chicken requires. The rule of thumb is to allow 4 square feet inside the coop for each chicken and 10 square feet outside. Always allow your chickens to roam freely if you can, provided you have a safely fenced-off yard. Hens usually like to stay fairly close to their coop and as long as you provide them with regular food and water they shouldn’t look to wander.

If you are considering keeping chickens, here are couple books that can help you decide:

Back In Business

Rose in the coop after laying her egg. Notice the egg on the top shelf.

This morning, Alex and I woke up to the sound of a chicken squawking. We thought something was wrong so Alex ran out in his boxers and noticed that Rose AKA “Ugly” was making all the noise. Everything seemed fine though, and all the other chickens were worm hunting around the yard so we thought nothing of it.

Later on around the kitchen table, we noticed Rose had gone into the coop alone. That’s when it clicked: “I bet she’s going to lay an egg!”

We waited while she did her thing, then Alex ran out to pick up the egg.

It was smaller than it used to be, but that’s to be expected. We broke out the frying pan, cracked the egg and made ourselves a mini sunny side up breakfast snack. Delicious!

Hurray! Our hens are back in business!