Predator News

We found a couple of additional game trails with telltale feathers here and there, showing that chickens had been taken that way by predators, and we set some more snares. So far we’ve caught a large raccoon in addition to the previously reported bobcat, and predation seems to be down.

I should mention that I learned predator control partly from the local Federal trapper (courtesy of the USDA-APHIS Wildlife Damage Program), partly from the instructional DVD that came with the Dakotaline Snare Package I bought to get myself started with my own snaring, and partly from Hal Sullivan’s excellent book, Snaring 2000 read more...

Didn’t there used to be more hens around here?

I recently fell into the free-range chicken farmer’s nightmare: missing hens. A few scatterings of feathers where hens had been nabbed, but obviously a lot more hens are missing than that.

Couldn’t happen at a worse time — during the upswing of the farmer’s market season. Demand for free-range eggs is increasing and I have a sharply reduced supply of hens, and therefore eggs.

I’m rounding up the usual suspects: tightening up the electric fence, finishing up the field mowing so there’s less cover for predators, setting snares on the obvious predator trails into the woods, asking around if anyone has some spare hens or started pullets to sell, ordering more chicks, and giving pep talks to the hens to lay six eggs each every day until the crisis is resolved. Except for the snares, all of this amounts to closing the barn door after then horses have escaped. read more...

Why Chickens Should be Fed Outdoors

A lot of the biggest problems we’ve ever had on the farm were related to unwanted critters trying to get at the chicken feed. Recently, we put some pullets into a pasture house and put a feeder inside the house with them as part of the transition. Since this was an open-front house, the local crows started coming in for lunch, which scared the pullets. Moving the feeder outside didn’t get rid of the crows, but there’s a lot more room outdoors, and their occasional presence didn’t terrorize the pullets. read more...

Update on “Slow Cornish” Broilers

[Edit: Never mind. This batch was a bunch of “Fast Cornish” broilers, which isn’t what we ordered. The real “Slow Cornish” have been far too slow-growing for us, and we have reverted to the faster-growing birds.

Lesson learned: if you tell the hatchery that it’s okay for them to make substitutions, always look at the shipping invoice to see what they actually sent you!

The rest of this article reflects my thinking at the time, when I still thought we had Slow Cornish broilers.] read more...

Coccidiosis on pasture? Impossible!

Man, I thought I’d seen everything. But this one’s weird. The life cycle of coccidiosis is interrupted if you move the chickens to a new patch of ground every day. Coccidiosis is a in intestinal protozoan parasite, and it depends on infecting and reinfecting the victims through feces. Not just any feces, either — feces that has been aged enough but not too much. The coccidia in the poop aren’t ready to reinfect the birds until they go through a life-cycle change, which takes about three days. With daily-move pasture pens, you leave yesterdays poop behind before (to get technical about it) the oocysts can sporulate. read more...