Saturday, December 18, 2010

Haying the chickens

For those who are wondering, we give the chickens hay in the winter. Chickens don't like to walk in the snow so they need to have boards, or hay or something to walk on if you want them to go outside in the winter.

Here's the inside of the coop. As you can see the turkey gets the highest perch, in this case, the door. This picture was taken during the daytime so not all the chickens were on the roosts. They just like to perch when they're not doing anything. (Chickens who are hurt or sick often perch to avoid being picked on.)

In the winter, I let the chickens in the brooder room. I have the saw horses there for perches so they can perch in here if they want.

Danny spotted and photographed this hawk perching on his beehives. I think it's a female goshawk, which worried me a little since I've had trouble with goshawks and Cooper's hawks getting my younger chickens. Luckily, I think she was just passing through.

Mom and Danny spotted this hawk. I'm not sure what it is. Any guesses? I'm guessing it's in the Buteo family, meaning it's related to red-tails and rough-legged hawks.
In the background, you can see some of our calves grazing.

Here's an older picture of a rough-legged hawk.(note the feathers on the hawk's legs)

When it comes to chicken eating varmints, I generally consider hawks one of the least dangerous predators. Unlike most mammals, hawks and owls aren't the type of animal who gets into a chicken coop and slaughters every last chicken. Around here, we mainly have long-eared owls, great horned owls, kestrels, red-tailed hawks, and rough-legged hawks. None of these species have ever killed any chickens. (Though I have no doubt the great horned owls would eat a chicken if one was sleeping outside.) The best way to protect your chickens from hawks is to have lots of cover (like trees and brush) for the chickens to hide in. Owls shouldn't be a problem since chickens should be in their coops at night where they are safe.
The only chickens I've lost to hawks have been young ones who were lost when the goshawks and Cooper's hawks migrate through in the fall. Luckily, we've never had one of those take up permanent residence here.