In our early days here we enjoyed having chickens around. We kept our Rhode Island Reds in their coop but they would occasionally escape which was never a problem. They would follow me around and help me work in the garden, digging up worms and bugs as I cultivated. They would always go back home at night.
We also had a flock of Bantam chickens who were always allowed to run free. They were excellent egg sitters and we would use them as foster mothers for the Rhode Islanders who seem to have had the brooding instinct bred out of them. The Bantams nested in our flower boxes and under nearby bushes and twenty-one days later produced a new batch of chicks.
Their survival abilities were quite amazing. The very first flock of Bantams we had nested in the trees about four feet off the ground. One night a raccoon came by and picked off one or two and panicked the rest. From then on, as soon as it started to get dark, the remaining Bantams would start climbing our tall fir trees, talking all the time as they jumped from branch to branch. Fifteen minutes later they would end up twenty or thirty feet off the ground. During the night if they sensed anything climbing the tree, they would all jump, squawking the whole way down, and then lie absolutely still and silent in the dark.
When our last dog died and we chose not to replace it we saw an increase in predators. Bears, coyotes, racoons, bobcats and hawks all started to take advantage of our “food bank” but we really missed having chickens and fresh eggs so I decided to give it another go.
Here’s what I did:
Even though very strong it probably isn’t strong enough to keep out a determined bear. When we had one big male come by to take a look I realized I needed to add a strand of low voltage electrical fencing around the perimeter. There have been lots of bears since and now they will walk around the coop but they keep a healthy distance away. As mentioned in my ‘Bear’ posting, the voltage isn’t harmful – more of a surprise. I rarely turn it off if I need to do work around the coop and end up getting the occasional shock myself. Unlike the bears – I haven’t learned my lesson.