Better half decided we were going to have some chickens now we have a lull in the work on the farm.
We have quite a few stone/pine Martin’s and cats on the farm so I built a pen for them in one bay of the car port, so they can be shut in at night and when we are away. The ramp goes into the back paddock for during the day.
Meet Wilma, Bella and Jessie. Dolly is not impressed at all .
We have 4 hens and 2 cats - they are wary of each other but roam the garden together without problems. Martens - and of course foxes and birds of prey - and the neighbours’ dogs if any - are likely to be the main problems, but as long as you lock the chickens in at night they are generally OK.
Each of ours is a different breed - including an ‘azur’, a leghorn cross I believe that lays very attractive blue eggs.
And that means securing their roost as well as the pen, as predators are very ingenious at climbing the grillage and pulling off the chicken’s heads, leaving the rest of the decapitated corpse at the scene of the crime.
Two of our independent-minded free-ranging hens insisted on roosting on the roof of the poulailler, spurning the shelter beneath, and paid the price of their stubborn refusal to bed down safely when required to…
We also have chickens and cats and have done so for about fifteen years. At the moment we have four of each but whatever the mix they have always roamed freely together without any problems.
You would probably imagine that the chickens have more cause go be wary of the cats than the other way around but it often seems to be the opposite.
We have had a preference for the ‘soie’ breed as they are cute and quite comical but years of experience and vets bills has led us to believe that they are more susceptible to various illnesses and, to be brutal, if the primary purpose of keeping chickens is to farm eggs, then they are not the best performers.
Fairly tough life for a chicken. We gave our last one away last week (not much point having just one IMO), flock of 5 (copper marans) slowly dwindled down by buzzards and goshawks. In the past, lost the whole lot to pine martens. I’ll get some more in the spring.
We have quite a few feral farm cats that keep our bird and mouse population well in check going by the bits of carcasses we find lying around about and the previous owners said the stone martens were partial to the odd chicken so I am not taking any chances
The cottage and stables are set up for the stone martens and owls as the hay used to be stored above them in the lofts and they kept the mice in check, all the interior and exterior walls have diamond or round holes with wooden flaps to let them have the run of the lofts, hence we have never been troubled with mice.
Dogs are not a problem as we have too much land and rivers between us and any neighbours farms.
I had a flock of 22 hens and one cock until a 2-legged fox drove up in his van one week-end when we were out and stole 21 hens and the cock. They were so tame, so easy to catch - my children did their prep with one on a knee, for example. Only Henny-Penny escaped, she who refused to acknowledge her hen-itude, slept in the dog’s basket with the dog and spent all her time sneaking into the house, she tyrannised the cats and the dog, ate first out of their bowls etc.
I regularly loose chickens. A fox even broke into the coop which I thought was fox proof The most annoying was a neighbours dog that they don’t have fenced in or tied up (they have an electric collar which doesnt’ seem to work as it should). It got 5 hens whoed just started laying. I haven’t had an egg for 2 months as a result.
This is definitely the case, my cat Oscar knows who the bosses are!
We have 5, 2 Speckledeys and 3 (new) Orpingtons, the Speckledeys were brought from the UK, but having lost our aged (9.5 yrs) Orpington recently we restocked the flock before winter and the possibility of ending up with only 1 hen.
Older girls havent really laid eggs since the heatwave in 2019, and the new girls havent started yet.
They have a henhouse and plenty of cover within an electrified fenced area of around 100m square, but do come out and potter when we can be with them in the garden to supervise. We have seen foxprints in the snow go right past the electric fencing but it does whack out 10,000 volts which seems to be enough to keep them safe. Apparently buzzards etc tend to be less interested in black chickens.