Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Getting Started with Backyard Chickens - Part 6

Once again I have learned so much since starting with the chickens earlier this year.  As 2014 ends, I am taking time to update on where I am raising chickens.   I am learning by trying new things.  I started with shredded paper in the nesting area then went to wood shavings, and now I am trying shredded leaves.

As the year passed, I found that I did not need to cap the food at night or close the door to the coop.  I saw no signs of any critters doing anything at night.  However, things changed this fall the night before I came home from working out of town.  I found one of my Dominique chickens had her tail feathers ruffled  and torn away and was visually stunned.  I just knew she was going to die any minute.  She could barely reach down when I tossed in treats they love.  After two days she was getting back to her normal behavior.  Before this traumatic event she would stay right in front of the door. Afterwards and still today, all the chickens stay in or near the nesting boxes opposite the door side of the coop. 

I started closing the door at night and covering the feeders.  I thought I forgot to screw on the top of one of the feeders since it was off in the morning.  After the second night I discovered that the critter was unscrewing it to get the food.  I reinforced the pvc piping tube on the top of the run with black plastic U shapes I screwed down and used Velcro strips with the barb and loop connection point under for the free sides of the screen.

I found that the critter was still getting in so I boarded up the top and sides that connect to the coop.  The first night the side board was ripped off which was a sure sign of how the little guy was getting in.  I reinforced the board so it could not be removed.  I was amazed to see that the feeder was being turned around and unscrewed but from outside the run.

I decided to invest in a trap.  The first night I put the food on the trigger which was not far enough back so the critter escaped.  The next night I put the food in a clay dish on the back side of the trap and finally caught one of the animals, an opossum pictured above.  My neighbor Rick released it in a natural area several miles away.

Earlier this fall I raked leaves while Isaac mulched them so they would not take up so much space.  I put them on the floor of the run and found it was an excellent idea.  The chickens love to scratch thought it and it blends well with their poop.  After 3-4 weeks as the floor cover, I remove it, add it to the raised beds, throw in some additional earth worm, and cover with landscape cloth. 

I also made a chicken poop box and placed it below the nesting boxes.  I add to it each day when I clean the coop.  I have added earthworms to help decompose the materials.

No comments: