Don't you imagine it must be nice to keep a few chickens in your back yard? Crowing at dawn and to announce visitors? I know having chickens is no big deal for some of you living in more rural areas, but for most people living in my part of NJ, it's something of a novelty nowadays. Growing up I didn't know anyone who had chickens and I still don't have any neighbors with a coop in the yard. The closest thing to outdoor farm animals in my area are hutch bunnies. ;-(
So when my oldest brother Kevin moved to the country (or what passes for *country* in these parts) and joked about it, we got him a baker's dozen of baby chicks for Easter one year. I don't think he's forgiven me yet.
Giving animals as gifts is never a good idea. Giving chickens is really, really silly.
It's been seven or eight years since that first batch of chickens and Kevin and his wife have recently built a fancy new coop to house their growing population, so I guess they must have found something to enjoy about them. There have been quite a few problems with predators though, as those of you with chickens know is inevitable. There have been raccoon issues and opossum problems, and of course there have been hawks who visit the flock.
Kevin sent me an email a few weeks ago with pics of this photogenic hawk, wanting to know what type it was. He had some great shots of it to help with ID, but this one was my favorite.
I'm not certain how many chickens have been lost through the years to hawk attacks, but from the stories he tells the problem is more often a raccoon or a neighbor's dog. I was really surprised to hear that dogs would be a problem to chickens, but it happened. A few winters ago before my brother rebuilt the chicken coop he had hawks that were getting inside the coop to attack the chickens - imagine that! I guess late winter is a lean time for predators and they are desperate for food.
The original chickens we gave them were Bantams, who make little tiny eggs, but I'm not sure what variety he has now. He collects the eggs and lately has been using them to make a Pennsylvania Dutch Specialty - pickled beet eggs - yum! A recipe is available here. I love to visit when there are baby chicks, who will follow you around peeping. My brother lets them *forage* for bugs in his vegetable garden and feeds them raspberries from his bushes. He also turns over logs and rocks to help them find crickets to eat, but that's another story! He used to have one really nasty little rooster that liked to attack people, so you had to carry a stick out in the garden, just in case he cornered you. I think they must be begging for breakfast in this last pic, just outside the back steps. Wouldn't that be a nice sight first thing in the morning?
a return Visit
2 years ago