We added some critters to our homestead…and it has been a journey!
This spring, I drove to our neighbors house to check out their chicken set up. What I found was the ideal set up is a brooder shed with outdoor fencing. Currently, that is not an option for us but we got creative and so far, we have happy and healthy chickens!
My Dad was kind enough to start building me a coop but unfortunately became acutely ill and decided purchasing a coop was the right decision at this time. It is a darling coop and the chicken love it! We started out with 6 hens….they were a little hesitant and didn’t know if they should trust us (they had good instincts unfortunately). My good friends from Colorado got naming rights and came up with the names below (thanks ladies!) My 6 year old approved them and he got to working on his chick coop sign!
WELCOME: Wilma, Ruthie, Sparkles, Henrietta, Ella and Lucy!
We have a beautiful 13 year old bird dog that is mostly blind and can’t hear. Harmless…right? We knew she should not be left alone with the birds but she mostly keeps to herself anyways, never causing much problems…
Unfortunately, without sharing the horrific details, she managed to get them excited, fly up and out of the coop and into her mouth. It is a great thing that Owen’s mother is a therapist because there were lots of discussions surrounding this horrible accident! This of course prompted a call to the country vet. Now, after being in Denver for 6 years, we were very spoiled with our vet. They only saw “indoor pets.” You know, the ones that make it on family holiday cards? Apparently in the country side, vets are more used to this kind of thing and didn’t feel it was “a tragedy” like I did. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Hi there, um, my dog just ate one of our chickens. Not a chick, but a chicken with feathers and pretty decent sized one.”
Vet tech: “okay, what do you want us to do?”
Me:”Oh, I am sorry, I said my dog ate a whole chicken. Like swallowed it whole. Chicken gone. No more chicken.”
Vet tech: “Okay, ma’am, you will need to boil a chicken with some rice and feed that to your dog for 5 days. Anything else?”
Me: “I am sorry. Did you say feed my dog a chicken? She just ate a chicken! I am sorry I don’t understand what you are saying.”
Vet tech: “I see the irony. Yes, buy chicken breasts, do not boil a whole chicken, and feed it to your dog for a week. If she survives this you will know in 5 days. Anything else we can do?”
Me: Silence until I believe I hung up the phone.
Feed my dog a chicken when she just ate a chicken made no sense to me. I proceeded to call two more vets who told me the exact same thing but in kinder words. So off I went to the store to buy….chicken meat to feed my dog! I am happy to report she did survive this and we have a new rule at the Kaspar House: If the chickens are out of their coop, our dog is not to be outside!
Unfortunately, I did not follow my own rule.
It was a beautiful Saturday and my in-laws were out on the farm as well, doing work that needed to be done. Everything was calm and peaceful. We took our eyes off of our dog, Mia, for a few minutes. I went to go check on the chickens and did my counting….only this time we were missing another hen. “NO WAY!” I thought to myself. I quickly ran to go find Mia…licking her lips around the corner, gut very full. My heart sank! Not only did we lose another chicken but I am pretty sure dogs have less lives than cats and I am starting to think her days are numbered.
I took one for the team and explained to Owen that due to Mom’s lack of care giving, a chicken got out of my sight and a critter must have took it that evening before I put them to bed. I did not have the heart to tell him his beloved dog ate another chicken. So off to the grocery store I go to buy another chicken breast…to reward/save my dog? I also felt so guilty that I ask my mother in law to pick up 3 more chickens at Tractor supply to bring out the following day. I know this is “farm living” but I know we can do better than this, this had to be a fluke I reassured Dustin.
These three chicks were doing just fine…except one acted totally different. This chicken would always get out, had way more energy and seemed a little more aggressive than the others. I thought…maybe it’s a rooster?
“There’s no way to tell,” I was told. A few weeks passed and behold….Rudy was born!
I am so thankful my mother-in-law was accidentally given a rooster. This guy has no fear and I think will protect the flock if danger presents itself again. Even though he is “boss” he is the kindest rooster. He allows us to pick him up, feed him out of our hand and will follow me around the yard “whistling” at me. He adored his two other sisters…and did do his best to protect them from the next unfortunate critter that came onto our yard…..
Stray black cat. This cat was beautiful but not welcomed anymore. I think he visited my compost at night and then found himself with a dilemma…why have compost when young chickens are around? Poor Rudy’s sisters were picked off in a matter of two days. I know Dustin wanted to say, “I told you so” and I am thankful he didn’t. We have that coop locked up like fort knox at night but little did I know during the day I had to worry about domesticated animals! For those of you keeping score: 6-2+3-2=5.
We have been happily free ranging 5 chickens for several weeks now…until this weekend when a chicken hawk came in and took a hen. And then there were four……(Palm slaps forehead).
They are curious and enjoy flying out of their coop into the tree line and the garden, so I did clip their wings to help stop their adventures. They still manage to get out but they have limited their “outside the coop” bonding time and mostly take cover in the pumpkin vines, compost bins, and their coop.
We do have much love for these feathered friends and are hoping they keep their smarts about them and stay close to their coop. I am hopeful to report only positive things moving forward including some egg production if I can keep their stress levels down! I think overall they are enjoying free range farm life. They have taught us many lessons and I hope we can master the art of keeping them happy and safe in the months to follow. Stick around to find out!