Chickens eating everything I don't want them to

singcharlene(Zone 5)January 18, 2010

Hi all,

Happy New Year! Just pouring over the last page of threads to see what everyone's been up to.

We still have the foster baby girls now 13mos. & 2 1/2yrs. It's moving toward adoption but it's a lonnngggg process.

Chickens....yes we have our chickens! We got five of them as babies in July (2 Black Australorp, Easter Egger, Red Star, White Plymouth Rock) and they started laying eggs for us in October. We only have four chickens now because one disappeared (one of the australorps) while free ranging? I'll get a few more hens in the spring. We're now averaging four eggs a day. The problem started last fall when we let the girls out to free range for a few hours everyday. They eat everything in my pots and in my new planting beds in the front of my house. I hate to have to contain them. I like the idea of them free ranging for a few hours everyday but they've torn the mulch up and eaten the dormant plants down to nothing. I can only imagine what damage they'll do in the spring! Do you have any brilliant ideas sans keeping them locked up that will keep them out of my flower beds and pots?

Thanks!

Charlene

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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

How about some cute little chicken size collars and leashes! ;-)

Welcome back to RMG, Charlene. Nice to see you around here!

Skybird

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 10:27PM
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Dan Staley

If you let chickens wander, that's what they do. Long time ago I had a great class called where one day we had a couple doing an organic apple orchard, they tried chickens and decided ducks did the job better, eggs tastier too from the slugs they ate.

Dan

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 9:41AM
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digit(ID/WA)

Hi Charlene!

I was humored to read this yesterday evening but too tired from repair work in the greenhouse to gather my thoughts and comment. I hadn't gone out yesterday to work in the greenhouse, supposedly. I'd gone out to build a chicken fence.

DW pointed out that the hens were digging around the rhubarb plants now that the ground has thawed a bit. There isn't a whole lot that they can get into in the backyard and they can't get to the frontyard. You'd think that they'd leave alone a plant that is, at least, slightly toxic.

I've lost 1 chicken in the recent years since I've had a flock of laying hens in the backyard. That was the day that they discovered rhubarb and one (or more of them) ate an entire leaf! She seemed fine that morning but I think she gave herself such a bad tummy ache, she just gave up and died that afternoon.

Anyway, there are some Canterbury bells and foxglove (another toxic plant) that I've protected with chicken wire. The fat hens are too clumsy to do any flying and the wire "kind of" blends in to the background. Still, I want to replace that with some portable fence panels that I can move around. I want the birds out a little enjoying the activity and eating a little bluegrass and clover. They also like to dustbathe under the deck in the afternoon sun. It's hard to keep them cooped-up where they only have their sunporch to enjoy the fresh air and larger world.

I may get some more birds . . . but even if there are a few youngsters around for awhile, ultimately, I don't want more than 4 laying hens.

Steve

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 11:29AM
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billie_ladybug(5b)

I put hog fencing up to block the barn door and such where I dont want them. Maybe short chickenwire would work? Unfortunatlly if they can see the top of the fence, they can land on it and fly over. That is why my hog fence works, it is only bars.
I have heard stakes with fishing line works. They run into the line and cannot see it to go over, so they go around. Don't know if it works, I keep mine cooped when I dont want them out.
B

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 11:30AM
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highalttransplant(z 5 Western CO)

Hmmm ... I have chicken envy, LOL! Our HOA doesn't allow such things. Anyway, people have dog runs, you just need a chicken run. Free range doesn't mean no boundaries. You decide where the "range" is, you da' boss : )

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 1:22PM
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billie_ladybug(5b)

Didnt think about it when I was on earlier, Google chicken tractor. It is a portable house for your girls that keeps them from getting into everything, but still allows them to "free range" while you keep your plants and sanity

I feel like such a Blonde!! Oh wait, I am one! LOL

B

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 4:01PM
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david52 Zone 6

I know some people who have chickens in HOA's, and they refer to them as "exotic parakeets" if anybody asks. They do have opaque fences around their back yards.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 7:24PM
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Dan Staley

They make these big "portable" cages you can move every day and then herd the chickies back into the coop at night, don't need trailers but you do need a healthy back and all that. I imagine there are kits with 1/2 in conduit and nylon netting that are lighter weight. I have friends in CA who claim the have kind of trained their dogs to keep the hens out of parts of the garden, but there's a lot of scratching evidence.

Dan

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 7:36PM
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singcharlene(Zone 5)

Good to hear from everyone :)

We have a covered, secure outdoor run for the girls attached to their coop but it's only 8'x6'. They, of course, love to free range and with over two acres I wish they'd just stay away from the immediate perimeter of the house as that's the only place where I have issues with them. My veggie garden which is right next to the coop is fenced. I might try some low rabbit/chicken fencing around the perimeter and if that doesn't work then I am going to look into making a chicken tractor before spring.

If I see them out the kitchen window in the new garden (with plants mostly from Skybird and the swap!) just outside I run out after them like a crazy woman!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 9:07PM
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treebarb Z5 Denver

Charlene, it's really a question of your priorities. What's more important to you, the plants or the chickens? I live in the country and a lot of folks let their chickens free range. They lose a lot of chickens. Dogs, cats, hawks, coyotes, foxes and more love the free meals. It's tough to balance out your desire to let them roam with consideration for your yard. I don't see how you can have both. I like the portable enclosure idea. That way they get some freedom of movement and you can limit the destruction to the areas you choose. Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 9:22PM
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digit(ID/WA)

Finished the greenhouse repair and moved on to the chicken fence - cutting all the boards for 4, 64" panels. That was as far as my bundle of 1x2's went.

Charlene, I have Australorps and a Barred Plymouth Rock. They are too heavy to fly much of anywhere. I've never seen them 3 feet off the ground even in panic. I said that they can't get in the front yard but that isn't really true. One thing, they could actually crawl under the gate . . . they've just never done that and neither did the other hens I've had.

They are fairly timid creatures and aren't really out long enough to be too adventuresome. They ALWAYS get a treat when they are put back in the coop - even if it is just a little handful of something. Therefore, whenever they even "think" that there's a chance for a treat - they are ready to run home. The only exception is if they are "deeply" involved in a dust bath. Then it may take some coaxing.

I may use the panels just for a portable pen. It would be very small but I'd probably still use the only-out-for-a-couple-hours schedule. The concern I have is that it's only 32" high and they may decide that they could clear that. Still, the gate is only 36" and the chicken wire around the bells/foxgloves is only 36". Of course, if they tried to fly into the bells/foxgloves, they would crash into the greenhouse wall . . .

I really think that treats are powerful - altho' just like with kids, they can have too much of a good thing. But, if they "think" they can have a piece of cheese or something, and since there isn't a rooster with his own agenda, you could probably guide them into any enclosure that you want to use for them.

They could take a stroll around the yard with you out there with them, then go into a portable pen for a few hours. Anyway, that may be Plan B for me this year. Alternately, there's Plan C and that is to buy more 1x2's and another can of paint.

Steve

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 9:52PM
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billie_ladybug(5b)

Well, I'm thinking, from the list Charlene gave us, at least two of the chickens (easter egger and maybe the red star) can get their tail feathers off the ground. My Americanas can land a 6' enclosure and still have some left, hence the roof on my coop. I tried the clipping one wing thing with them and they just got mad and could still fly, just encase you are visiting that idea. They also sqeeze under, over and through anything with a big enough hole.

A funny to go with the topic, my chickens don't explore too far, within 40' of the barn usually, the ducks however are another story. I came home one day to discover that all of my ducks and geese were missing (a flock of around 40). How do you loose 40 birds? My daughter had been letting them out, with my approval, to eat the grasshoppers around the barn and in the garden. The flock had discovered that the pond out back had water and had proceeded to a nice hike followed by a bath in the back 40. All I could see was a bunch of white dots in the pasture. As the sun went down, they came marching back home. They did that every evening until the pond dried up. I estimate that the pond was about an acre of surface in size.

B

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 10:44PM
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singcharlene(Zone 5)

I think a few hours of free ranging everyday is worth the risk to me. I always leave my dog out there with them who is half Australian Shepherd and she keeps a good eye out.

Steve, I agree that the chickens can be out free roaming when I am outside, especially in the summer when I am out there so much and can supervise them. I also try to give them a treat every time I go out to lock them in. The Easter Egger hen is the friendliest. So friendly! She'll leave the others to follow me around talking the entire time and spreading her wings for me to give her a scratch on the back. She lays green eggs. I'm quite fond of her. Who knew my family and I would get such a kick out of these chickens :)

Billie, your ducks sound so cute! I've not seen my girls jump or fly yet but that doesn't mean they can't!

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 11:51PM
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jclepine(8b)

What a fun topic!! I'm enjoying reading about all the chickens and ducks...so silly!

I sure hope the adoption process goes smoothly and a little faster, Charlene. Those babies fit right in with you guys and that littlest one looks just like you!

I don't think I have the energy or time to have chickens but our neighbors have them. Last summer we were talking about how although she wanted a rooster, she was not going to get one as a courtesy to all the neighbors. Well, a little hen grew up to be a rooster. Thankfully, he is so lopsided time-wise that he crows in the mid-afternoon. I'm not sure if he is just being gracious or if he has no idea when the sun comes up. Cracks us up every time we are home and he decides to crow.

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 8:16PM
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billie_ladybug(5b)

My roosters crow at all different hours. If I go out in the middle of the night, they crow at me then too. I have 5 roos in with all my hens. I had more, but they were beating up the hens too much. I figure they defend the hens, so what is the little bit of food they eat for the self sacrifice they might need to make to protect the hens?

Note, two winters ago I had gotten rid of my geese because they had become aggressive and vowed not to replace them. That winter, I lost almost half of my ducks to predators. The following year (2008) I started replacing the geese and have not lost a duck to a predator since. Long story short, coyotes, dogs and hawks don't like geese, they bite (and do have teeth!)

B

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 11:31PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

:-)
Skybird

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 11:30PM
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singcharlene(Zone 5)

Thanks, Skybird! That's my girl. She just started walking! I love that little person so much:)

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 2:23PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Uh-oh! If she's walking, does that mean she gets to pick a number at the next swap?

;-)
Skybird

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 7:16PM
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jnfr(z5b CO)

Pretty baby!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2010 at 12:32AM
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treebarb Z5 Denver

With that face it must be hard not to spoil her. She is gorgeous! I hope both children are yours officially soon.
I guess you can just buy flats of whatever plants the chickens like most, then you can enjoy the chickens and get your gardening fix in, too!

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 8:56AM
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