Bringing chickens on our homestead (and how we lost most of them)On September 7, 2019 by Vlad4 min read
One of the core reasons why we chose to start a homestead is that we want to grow our food or at least part of it. And raising chickens for eggs and meat was always part of the plan. So we got a flock of baby chicks from my grandmother. Little did we know that raising chickens has different challenges than gardening.
Back in Spring, I asked my grandmother to give us a flock of baby chicks. I knew she was brooding hundreds of new chicks every year, so I asked her to get us started with a small flock. A few months later, I got a call from her letting me know my baby chicks were ready for their new home. I was thinking yellow baby chicks, but she had the foresight to raise them for a few weeks, to make sure they are big enough for us not to screw things up. But we did…
Clearly not prepared to raise chickens
Before bringing the chicks over, I had already built a chicken coop for them. We’ve put it in our orchard and we’ve set-up a small fenced enclosure around it with some chicken wire. Now, this might be a good time to disclose that our back-yard is not fenced in yet (we’re working on it). Our property is also at the edge of our village and we’re about 20km away from the big city, so wildlife is abundant.
We got the baby chicks on a Sunday. The baby chicks were small enough to fit through the chicken wire holes. We fixed that with another layer of smaller netting all around the fence. Nothing bad happened the first night, so we were kinda relieved. But when we got back from work on Monday, we rushed to check on our baby chicks, and that’s when we saw it…
At the centre of the scene, a fox. It stopped for a brief second, checks us out, then turns around and runs away. Already dreading what happened, I start noticing feathers. Feathers everywhere. The hen mother was gone. No chicks in sight.
Greti’s eyes filled with tears the second she realized what had happened. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I expected predators to be tempted by our chickens, but they had only been there for one day. Ragar was less than 10 m away in the front yard, most probably barking hopelessly at the massacre. Yet the fox wasn’t intimidated. How did it have time to get one hen and 16 chicks? This made no sense.
I looked inside the coop and found two scared baby chicks huddling in a corner. I was glad we had at least a few survivors. Armed with new hope we started looking around for more survivors. We were able to find nine more hiding in our neighbour’s yard after a few minutes of searching around.
After seeing this carnage we moved the coop to the front yard, where the fox couldn’t get and where Ragnar has access to protect. We figured if we had to choose who to trust between the fox and our dog, we’ll chose the latter. So until we finish fencing in our back-yard, we’ll keep our baby chicks where we can see them.
Soon after adoping Loki, we had our first inside job. By this time the chicks were pretty big and they were able to jump the fence. This turned out to be a bad life choice for one brave chick. When we got home, Ragnar was proud to show us that he did it! He stopped the chick from running! He caught it, and held it in place until we got home, but of course the baby chick didn’t survive.
We need to train our dogs around the chickens
After that we went and bought a coop from a local business that laser cuts stratified wood and makes some really cool chicken coops. Sturdier and much more visually apealing than our DIY coop. A few days after we got it, two chicks found their way out by squeezing underneath it. Loki got them both, the only thing we found when we got home were feathers and a happy dog with a full belly.
As you saw in our last video, all the other chickens survived. We now have 6 hens and a rooster that recently started crowing. We also started training Ragnar and Loki around the chickens by letting them roam around the yard while keeping a close eye on the dogs. We’ll keep doing this for a few months, gradually giving the doggos more freedom as they learn to ignore the chickens.
In hindsight I think an electric net for our chickens would have also made sense, but we’ll hold off on any other expenses until we learn more about all this. We’ve now been raising our chicken flock for two mothns. We’ve been feeding our chickens everything. From ground corn to cut grass and food scraps and a lot of other crazy stuff. We also add store-bought feed to supplement their food.
Now I’m sure we’re not the only ones with a crazy story about how we failed with our first chickens, so if you have a story of your own, please leave it in the comment section bellow.