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Joined: 11 Jun 2009
Posts: 73
Location: Highlands
PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 11 8:12 pm    Post subject: Starting Chickens Reply with quote

I feel an overwhelming urge to have some poultry pecking around. My neighbour has a big old coop that seems abandoned out in the woods. I'll offer her money, but I suspect she'll give it to us.

Is this a good time of year to establish hens?

I'm after layers primarily. Might eat some cockerels later down the line, but with small children in the equation I think I might become very unpopular if I start murdering the livestock indiscriminately. They will be free roaming in woodland. If they're not back in the coop at lights out, they're probably going to go to the fox. Evolution in fast forward.

Any advice or tips gratefully received.


Joined: 06 Aug 2006
Posts: 8407
Location: South Cornwall
PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 11 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Foxes aren't completely nocturnal.
In the summer when they have cubs to feed they will hunt day & night & once they find an easy source of meat it will be bye bye chickens.
Electric netting or a shotgun armed sentry is my advice.


Joined: 11 Jun 2009
Posts: 73
Location: Highlands
PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 11 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The estates around here are quite actively managed, and I've seen no scat in my woodland yet. I don't anticipate to many predation issues, but will change my strategy accordingly if I run into problems. And yes, a shotty is on the cards.


Joined: 09 May 2009
Posts: 1508

PostPosted: Sun Sep 25, 11 9:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You will probably get your chickens a bit cheaper as people don't want to feed them over the winter. Youngsters might not lay this year. As long as they are most of the way grown, well feathered up they should be fine.
If you can, buy from a place that free-ranges their chicken, so that the youngsters have already been taught how to forage by mum and what predators are. Other than that, there should be a lot of food for them in the woodland floor at this time of year.

Foxes - well, we went for cheap chickens - nice but low price cross-breeds at market (didn't know then about advantages of mum raised free-rangers). We got lucky in what we bought and started with a very good silkie cross broody, who raised some very sensible free ranging dedicated food hunters. We've spent about 20, 25 in total on our starter chickens, don't have to spend vast amounts on their food and when we loose one to predators are sad - because they are all distinguishable characters - but financially it is not a big loss. The egg production is lower than buying a productive strain from a traditional breed, but so are the costs. Get what you pay for obviously.

I wouldn't clip their wings - some of ours manage to fly up into trees with the kind of stimulus provided by foxes or a marauding dog.

Oh and chickens have poor night sight. On a dull, foggy day predators can creep up on them more easily. We have ours in a large outbuilding, so on very dull mornings feed them indoors and keep them in an hour or two longer, hoping the day will get lighter.


Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 2943
Location: North Herefordshire
PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 11 6:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In woodland it's not just mr Reynard to worry about. Badgers take more hens than foxes round here.


Joined: 11 Jun 2009
Posts: 73
Location: Highlands
PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 11 10:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks to all contributions.

@WS: Well, I've recently found out that we have our fair share of pine martens round here - which could be interesting...

@Mutton: I've been thinking the same thing about the wing clipping.

Found a local supplier of chicks, and he'll even lend us a brooder box to see them through to fledging. Of course, they wont get the benefit of having mother hen show them the ways of the world, but I suspect a lot of their behaviour is pretty instinctual anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I think I'll go and see him today.


Joined: 16 Jul 2005
Posts: 19856
Location: Ceredigion
PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 11 6:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good luck. My hens did quite well free ranging on a very tightly run estate. One of the drives came to the edge of the garden. There were no foxes and far too many rabbits.

Here though as woodsprite said, badgers are the problem, if anything gets shut out by mistake or decides to go and brood her young in the rough ground they are gone in the morning.


Joined: 13 Aug 2006
Posts: 35934
Location: The Hive of the Uberbee, Quantock Hills, Somerset
PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 11 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sounds good. I miss the gamekeepers around here.


Joined: 29 May 2010
Posts: 2156
Location: Here
PostPosted: Mon Sep 26, 11 7:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

We have foxes and a badger in our garden The foxes prefer early morning but the badger comes in any time during the day

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