End Of The Year - Assessment

So What do you think?

Not a particularly great way to end the year.

2018 was a decent year all in all. 

There were plenty of eggs to be collected and shared.  Lots of entertainment, and perhaps most important for us on our little patch in the woods, is the chickens did a remarkable job with insect control.  The year was noted in several news articles as being particularly bad with the high numbers of ticks.  A walk in the woods here and talking with neighbors confirmed the presence of high numbers.  We also contend with chiggers, spiders, and numerous other creepy crawly bugs here and in our garden.

Early in the season, the chickens began their free range expansion beyond the clear areas and into the fringes of the woods.  First we noticed the far fewer number of spiders, and then the fact that we were not getting any ticks crawling on us when we walked outside.  The mud dobbers and other wasp populations were also down, likely because they too feed on the spiders.

Garden pests were still in abundance, particularly the tomato horned worms, but toss those out to the chickens and they were a tasty snack quickly pecked to pieces and eaten.  Converted to eggs, kind of like magic.

But the memorable event of the year of course was the mink attacks.

We had increase our flock size up to 57, knowing that we would have some predator losses in the winter months and tried to allow for that.  Past winters have seen the predators come by for some fast fresh chicken dinners and they have had some success.  And for the occassional loss to a predator, well that is expected when free ranging.

But to lose nearly the entire flock in such a short time frame, and in the coop during the night was a shock.  We certainly learned the coop was not nearly as secure as we thought, and that there are more varmits out there that like chicken than we ever imagined.  Enough to cause us to take a pause and rethink our whole approach to the free range chicken.

So our first action was to clean out the coop, remove the roosts, nest boxes, etc., and identifying every area we could that might allow a varmit or other critter intent on chicken dinner, and securing that area.  The entire area around the base of the coop has been cleared out, and wrapped in 1/2 inch hardwire cloth, with coming down into the ground and extending away from the coop for a foot or so, overlapped and buried.  The overlaps are also tied together so a mink cannot weasle its way in between the overlap as it did with the chicken wire we had down previously.  The hardware cloth should also help keep the snakes out of the coop as I think they were just slithering through the chicken wire.

Also, we are sealing off the under side of the rafters where they extended beyond the walls.  Those had been left open for ventilation.  While not enough space for a raccoon or opposum, doubtful a mink would have a problem getting into that space.  Where the metal roofing is attached, we will be sealing off those ridge spaces with expanding foam.  Still to come is a concrete pad under the doorway, so when the door is closed, it will close against a ledge to keep the door sill area secure. 

I’ll try to add some photos later to show all the imporvements.

Next post, I’ll go into more details on the plans for the new year.