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Fox or Raccoon kills hens

4 March 2017
Sweetpea and Daisy have a blooming rosebush in their outdoor coop.

Sweetpea and Ginger have a blooming rosebush in their outdoor coop.

Due to human error, our hens, Sweetpea and Ginger, were killed by a raccoon or fox.

We’d let the girls out in the garden for a little sunshine and free-ranging. The wind came up and blew down a large pine tree. The door to the henhouse blew shut. We were busy assessing damage all afternoon. Twilight came and from the house, the coop door appeared shut. Little did we remember our hens were let out that afternoon.

In the morning we found them dead.

Hens, Sweetpea and Ginger were killed by a raccoon or fox.

Hens, Sweetpea and Ginger were killed by a raccoon or fox. It appears as if a fox or raccoon killed them in the night.




I am sick about this. I had nurtured Sweetpea after a dog attack and she was eight years old. That is old for a hen. Ginger was four years old and had been given to me by a neighbor. A sweet and gentle Buff Orpington.

These hens died as a result of “human error”. I will be getting 3-4 pullets soon. I will think twice before letting them out as I know bad things can happen. I feel awful!











Hatchery Chicks or Breeder Chicks for Your Backyard

3 February 2016
Six hens raised from hatchery stock.

Here are our six hens. All raised from hatchery stock.

Adding chicks to your backyard flock is no easy task. First you need to decide on the breeds you want. Then you need to decide whether to get hatchery chicks or breeder chicks for your backyard.

Seven years ago, I bought six hatchery chicks from a farm supply store. All looked healthy but all but one developed “egg-making” problems during the first five years of life. The Silver-laced Wyandotte (SLW) and the Golden-laced Wyandotte (GLW) both laid eggs with thin shells. They also had “personality problems” and were problem chicks. The Buff Orpington (BO) had a problem with eggs breaking inside her. The Rhode Island Red (RIR) just plain old laid down and died at 1 1/2 years. The Easter Egger (EE) had egg peritonitis.

The two I got as replacements came from a local farm and have been much healthier. no egg-laying problems at all. I’d like to get my three new pullets also farm raised or from a breeder but I’ll have to wait until they have the breeds I want. I am determined to not get hatchery chicks. I don’t need hens to lay huge eggs every day of the week. It means more to me that they are healthy and and live longer. Perhaps breeder chicks are best for your backyard flock.

Perusing “Backyard Chickens forum” I found this advice and I’d like to pass it on to you:

Answer from Speckled Hen (moderator):

“Take it from someone who has had 10 or 11 hatchery hens, plus one daughter of a hatchery hen, die of EYP and/or internal laying: Get better stock. None of my good quality breeder stock has died from this malfunction, not one, at least so far. That tells you something. And I mean quality stock, not just someone who bought hatchery stock and is propagating it and calling themselves a breeder.
Hatcheries do not breed for longevity. I mean, why would they? Add that to the fact that chicken hens are the only animal on the planet that suffer from spontaneous ovarian tumors just like human women and it’s a wonder any live past the age of two.

None of my BBS Ameraucanas have died from it. The oldest is going on 5 now. None of my Delawares have died from it. They are over 3 now. None of my breeder Orps have died from it, only one hatchery Buff Orp hen did. In fact, none of my breeder type Orps, both BBS and Buff, have had any egg issues whatsoever. These all came from really good breeders. It’s not the actual breed, but the quality of the stock, from my experience.

The further you get from the first generation hatchery stock, the better, IMO. Even mixed breed chickens may be better than “purebred” hatchery hens. I haven’t had any trouble out of my crosses except one, though I’m watching one right now who may have an issue.  No hen is immune, of course, but your chances are better away from the common hatchery stock.”

This make sense to me. I’m going to start looking for a breeder here on the Central Coast. Not just one who raises hatchery chicks and then sells them at a later age but one who actually hatches them. Know of one on the Central Coast? Let me know by leaving a comment. I will be grateful and so will others.

Hatchery hens on roost.

Six good breeds going to roost in the evening. These beautiful hens were raised from hatchery stock.








Hens need winter greens

25 January 2016
Two hen in flowering schrub (Calendula).

Two hens in flowering shrub (Calendula).


And, like many of us seniors, our “senior” chickens need their winter greens each day. In Cambria, where we live, we have greens growing pretty much year around. We let the hens out of their coops for a few hours during the late afternoon to pick some greens from the garden. Their favorite greens, growing in the winter is, Tendergreen Mustard Spinach (komatsuna or Japanese mustard).


Grow greens for hens and family:

Tender green Mustard Spinach is easy-to-grow. It even will grow in the winter under light snow. You’ll need to re-seed every few months to keep a constant supply. If you’d like to grow your own, for your family or your hens, see Central Coast Gardening for details on growing komatsuna.


Penelope eating greens from my hand.

A hen eats greens from my hand.



Chickens also love French sorrel which is a perennial. It stays green year-around in Cambria. Once you get this started, you’ll always have “greens for your girls”.

If you don’t have much growing in your garden now, ask your grocery if he has some loose leaves you can take to your chickens. Be sure to save salad greens for your hens. We also keep a bale of green alfalfa in their sheltered outdoor area. It keeps them busy scratching through it when fresh greens are not available.

Just like us, chickens thrive with greens in their diet and they know what’s good for them.






Update on New Hens

18 July 2013

Ginger and Penny steal raspberries off the vines.

We’ve had our two new hens, “Ginger” and “Penny” for nearly a week. We’ve kept them in a partitioned area inside the coop and put them in the henhouse at night. They’ve learned a few things in this first week:

  1. Stay out of the way of the old hens, Daisy and Sweetpea. They mean business!
  2. All food is theirs if they want it. Give it too them.
  3. The nest boxes are more comfortable to lay an egg in than sitting on the ground.
  4. The nest boxes are also fun to roost (and poop in).
  5. If we don’t get up on the roost, Don will come out with a flashlight and put us up.
  6. The old girls get to have the prime spot to roost.
  7. Don’t get too close to the old gals or you’ll lose a feather or get pecked on the comb.
  8. Raspberries are TASTY!
  9. When Don or Lee says “chick, chick, chick” you’re going to get a treat so come running!
  10. Don and Lee love the old gals but know that we are sweet and tame too. They think we are beautiful!


Tomorrow, Friday, we’re going to see if all four hens can be together all day and have worked out their new “pecking order”. If it becomes too crazy in the coop, we’ll separate them and give it a little more time. I think they are doing pretty well. They are learning “chicken manners”.





Two New Hens!

11 July 2013

Jacob brings Ginger and Penelope to their new home.

I’m happy to announce that we have two new five-month-old pullets (young hens) that joined our tiny flock of two. Sweetpea and Daisy (last ones out of our original flock of six) are now 5 1/2 years old. Sweetpea, the barred rock, still lays 5 eggs a week. Really remarkable for an old hen. Daisy, the Buff Orpington lays 1-2 eggs a week but she pecks their shells and eats the egg inside before we can save it. I know that this “bad hen” habit would be the death of any farm hen, but Daisy is so dear to me……..

We’ve been trying to think of a way to add a couple of hens to our flock this year. As some of you know, I fell in my beloved garden and broke my hip and femur in early March. I’ve been in a wheelchair with “no weight=bearing” orders until surgery in mid August so I didn’t feel that I could raise little chicks as I’d done in the past. Our junior-high neighbor, Jacob, came to the rescue and raised three chicks for a school project. One died but the other two are now of laying age. Breeds: a Buff Orpington and a Barred Rock. “Would I like to have them?” YOU BET!

Daisy and Sweetpea jump on Don's lap and keep and eye on their new "roommates".

Of course, I’m worried about the abuse that they will have to endure as a new “pecking order” is established. Sweetpea immediately went on the attack with the little Buff Orpington. She was offended that the hen was impersonating her good friend, “Daisy”. We’ve put in a temporary fence across the coop to give the old hens a chance to adjust to their new “roommates” and give the new girls a chance to adjust to their new surroundings. Don went out after dark and put the new girls on the roost with the old gals, then went out at dawn to put them outside again before they could get picked on.

Jacob had named the barred rock “Penelope”, and the Buff Orpington, “Ginger”. We’ll keep those names. They are already  tame but they will have to learn to tolerate our “sniffing” labradoodles. Our two old girls had their “beaks bent out of shape” over these “intruders” and immediately went to sit on Don’s lap to claim their territory. Watching this transition will be hard for me as I know it is not possible for everyone to get along, especially at the beginning. Adding to an established flock takes adjustment  on everyone’s part.





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