Sunday, September 19, 2010

Chicken Coop

I want to get two or three chickens. I want fresh eggs and that "I'm almost a farmer" feeling one gets from raising an animal for food.   If you allow your chickens to roam your yard freely your eggs will be higher in Omega-3 fatty acids and lower in cholesterol, among other health benefits.  I want a chicken tractor/coop like this one that a local Apopkan makes, that can be dragged around the back yard so my chickens can free range in the safety of a cage.  An egg-laying chicken will provide other valuable functions besides being a loved member of the family: they're tick-eating, mosquito-eating, and fly-eating  fertilizer machines.

Alektorophobia: Fear of chickens.
I do not have a fear of chickens.  I  fear what may be attracted to a chicken coop.  Our home backs up to the woods of a state park, the home to bears, foxes, bobcats, opossums, raccoons, owls and hawks.   These are just a few wild animals that come to mind; some want the chickens, some want the eggs, and some want what the chickens eat.

Melissophobia: Fear of bears.
I am not afraid of bears.  I am afraid of the havoc a bear can create in his search for a meal.  A bear  can smell food from two miles away.  Chickens eat cracked corn.  Corn is like crack to a bear.  I can do things to protect my hens from the other animals, but a bear will just tear a door off, crash into, or knock over the whole coop to get to a scattering of corn the hens may have left behind.  Once inside the coop, a bear may take advantage of an eating opportunity and go for chickens and eggs, but fruits and vegetables are their main food interest.  I will have to keep our chicken feed in the garage.  That, and maybe get an electric fence to go around the coop.  An extension cord to a simple electric shock fence may ward off all chicken-eating critters.

Chicken Varieties: If you've ever been attacked by a mad hen (as I have before) a docile chicken is a must!  Other requirements would be one who is a good layer,and  tolerant of Central Florida's summer heat.  I am fond of the Easter Egger, who fits the bill, plus they lay pretty green or blue eggs.

Spent Hens: Chickens that are past their prime as egg-producers.  The older they get, the fewer eggs they lay,  usually 3 years old.  Will I be able to get rid of a useless chicken?  "A hen in the pot" just doesn't appeal to me, especially if that hen has been my little buddy. 

My mother just called and told me about the horrors of raccoons.  When they had chickens, daddy had to kill two raccoons, one in a tree that was eating their young guinea hens (they're great guard dogs, "pu-tawk, pu-tawk, pu-tawk!") that roosted in the oak tree, and another one that had gotten into the hen house and was killing newly hatced chicks.  I cannot imagine Mark or me with a gun.  Maybe a pellet gun, but stinging a hungry animal wouldn't be a permanent fix, now would it? 

As I type, my mind is ticking and I'm thinking of a comment my neighbor Kyle said, as she showed me her two horses and mule on property she and her husband have two miles from our neighborhood.  She said they used to have chickens there, but they wandered away.  I wonder, would Kyle like a coop co-op?  There, they could run free during the day and enjoy the protection of a closed coop at night.

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