If you’ve had chickens for a while, you loathe raccoons. If not, you will. Here’s why:
A while ago we started losing 1-3 chickens a night. Some were completely eaten, others barely touched. This is one of the more infuriating aspects of predators: they don’t have an “off” switch. Instead, they keep killing until they run out of targets.
In the wild, their prey scatters and the predators only get one or two victims. But a fox or a raccoon that squeezes into a closed henhouse will kill your entire flock.
Karen and Dan were moving a batch of pullets from the brooder house onto the pasture one evening, and saw three rats scurrying around. You know what that means: if you see three in the open, there must be thirty in hiding somewhere!
We usually don’t have much trouble with rats on the pasture. Our chicken feed is in big galvanized range feeders outdoors, and we move the feeders each time we refill them. Any rats who take up residence in tunnels under the feeders have their tunnels exposed when the feeders are moved. Something — probably owls — takes care of the rest.
If you’re wondering what kind of grass is best for grass-fed chickens, the answer is, “green grass.”
What I mean is, lush green grass is loaded with vitamins and is has lots of available nutrients, but as it fades to brown, it becomes more and more useless to chickens. Chickens aren’t ruminants and can’t digest cellulose, so it’s the soft, green, palatable grasses that count.
Lush spring pasture is the best, of course, and that’s easy enough. The trick is providing green grass year-round, or close to it. Cool-season grasses will stay green all winter in mild climates, and warm-season grasses will stay green all summer when the cool-season grasses have all browned off.
Sure, you want to buy baby chicks this year, but what if you only want pullet chicks? None of those nasty crowing roosters? If so, you’re like a lot of people. Corvallis, for example, has an ordinance forbidding roosters in town, but hens are okay.
The problem is that the feed stores normally have straight-run chicks. That is, boys and girls together. What do do? Time’s a’wasting, since the baby chicks will hit the stores in a couple of weeks.
Learning chick sexing is difficult and disgusting. See this video from Dirty Jobs if you don’t believe me!
When I went to the Corvallis Indoor Market this Saturday, there were some young people out front with “FREE HUGS” signs. Their product quality was excellent, considering the price, and they reported that they were getting an 85% success rate.
It’s nice to see that Oregon is still Oregon!