A lot has happened this past year at my coop in southwest Missouri. Our green-roof coop and birdhouses were featured in a local magazine (417 Magazine), Better Homes and Gardens (Country Gardens spring issue 2015) and Capper’s Farmers Magazine! You can read about how I incorporated the living roof as part of my chicken coop (including step-by-step photos) here: Living Roof Coops
As a gardener and a chicken keeper, I’m always trying new ways to coexist with my free ranging flock. I want to take advantage of the benefits of having backyard chickens (free fertilizer and pest control) and at the same time protect my gardens from their foraging frenzy!
Early in the spring of 2015, I incorporated a picket fence around my butterfly garden to keep my free ranging flock from destroying the plants and garden paths. View more photos and read about this project here: Gardening with Chickens and Picket Fences
Sadly – this past year I lost a couple of my favorite hens, a sweet Buff Orpington and a skittish (but beautiful) Golden-laced Wyandotte. Both hens were victims of predators. Because I allow my flock to free range, I know this is a risk I’m taking. I live in a wooded area and have only had a few instances where predators have been a threat. Perhaps it’s the border collie that guards the coop, but I know that I could lose my entire flock if a raccoon or fox wanted an easy meal. The smartest and safest way to protect your flock is to keep them in a secure coop and large run that is protected from predators from reaching in, digging under or attacks from above.
However – I still let my flock free range… I love watching them forage for insects and worms in the yard and come running to me for a treat. I always secure them in their coop at dusk and hopefully I’ll not regret letting them out each morning. This summer I decided to add a few new pullets to the flock. – I wanted another Buff Orpington and Golden-laced Wyandotte and I also chose a Light Brahma and Black Australorp.
It wasn’t long until the young pullets had manged to figure out our automatic or treadle chicken feeder. It’s rain and rodent proof, holds about 6 pounds of feed and it’s basically an awesome contraption. Our feeder is now going on 6 years old and is still working wonderfully! You can read about the construction of this feeder here: DIY Automatic Chicken Feeder
I purposely purchased the chicks at 4 weeks of age to avoid the chance that one might be a cockerel instead of a pullet. I had my doubts about the Wyandotte from about the time it was 8 weeks old.
She He had developed its comb and wattles much earlier and redder than the other young chicks. I posted my concerns to the Community readers on our Facebook page and even though most chicken keepers suspected it was a rooster, I still held onto my hope it was a pullet until I heard a undeniable cock-a-doodle-do!
I’m not a big fan of roosters… They are generally too aggressive to have roaming around and I prefer not to be on guard every time I step out the door. However, this guy has been behaving and as long as he keeps his good temperament, I’ll let him stay. I would love to let a broody hen raise a batch of chicks this spring. Hopefully 2016 will be another year of new additions to the flock!
What are your plans for the coming year? – Are you considering entering the world of backyard chickens or adding more breeds to your existing flock? Share your thoughts, plans or dreams in a comment below!
To view what else is happening at our Southwest Missouri property visit: the garden-roof coop
If you enjoy bird-watching (in addition to chicken-watching), I invite you to follow my Facebook page: Rebecca’s Bird Gardens