We got started a little late with this year’s laying flock … I don’t remember the exact date, but it was at the end of spring. We needed to start over this year because our independent minded chickens took to roosting in the pine grove last year, much to the coyotes' delight. Actually, they were safe in the trees, but they were easily startled, which caused them to fly to the ground at the sight of a coyote and into the waiting jaws of the trickster himself.
It would be accurate to say that we were bummed about that chain of events, but we also know that coyotes need to eat too. So this year, we enclosed the flock in a portable electric net. They roosted in the mobile pen (I built as a modification of this plan), which was located inside the net. Surprisingly enough, we didn’t lose one chicken to anything, and the netting helped the dogs get used to watching chickens rather than chasing them.
Now that we have staked a firm claim on this formerly uninhabited farm, the coyotes give us wider berth. Our dogs taunt them some, but so far they have agreed to keep a healthy distance. I recently moved the chickens into a semi-permanent pen that’s about an acre in size. We surrounded it with welded wire that’s 4-feet high and topped that with a single strand of electric. When we installed the welded wire, we took care to give it good ground contact … not even Woodrow the Cairn Terrier has been able to squirm under the fence.
As winter approached, we were just a little blue that we hadn’t had any fresh eggs from the flock yet. And then it happened. Last week, one of the Welsummer hens began delivering some of the most beautiful and delicious eggs we have had all year. Kate says that they poach perfectly. I just marvel at the bright orange yolks, firm whites and yummy flavor. I also think the copper-colored shells are absolutely beautiful. For more on the joys and benefits of home-grown eggs, check out this article.
Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on Google+.