Monday, February 27, 2017

The Birds! The Birds!

We can't have roosters, and while there are a lot of benefits to having one, we do okay with an all girl flock. There's always a head hen to keep everyone in line; chickens have a very complicated pecking order (see where that expression came from?) The biggest benefit to our flock in having a rooster would be in keeping the girls safe from predators. The other day, I heard an indignant squawk, and I turned around to find one of my hens staring down a chicken hawk that had landed on the ground in front of her. I don't know who was more startled, me, Beatrice, or the hawk! While I wasn't too worried this time - the hawk was about half the size and weight of my chicken - there are other very real threats to my flock we have to look out for.

Remember these guys? The sassy Leghorn, and the perpetually thwarted Chicken Hawk?

Without a roo, we've looked to other methods for keeping our girls safe. We built a very secure run; we keep the coop free of food and make sure all holes are covered. We set out traps for rats and raccoons. We make sure everyone is locked safely in the barn at dusk. And we've been fairly lucky so far, losing only two birds.

We do let the flock free range nearly every day, though, so keeping them safe from aerial attack is my biggest worry. Where we live, we get frequent flyovers by eagles, hawks, and falcons. That chicken hawk is the smallest thing by far we have to worry about! 

So what to do when you don't have a rooster to keep an eye on the sky for you? Well, you could drape your property in bird netting. It's expensive and nearly impossible if your space is any larger than a dining table. Scarecrows and streamers only work until the birds get used to seeing them. Our dog is as much a threat to our flock, if not more so! 

So we turned to the locals for help.

We have a rookery nearby. During the day, the various crow families spread out in the surrounding area and set up shop, looking for food, defending the area, and making fun of all the silly humans. The benefit to us? These sharp eyed, raucous birds can't stand aerial predators on their turf. They keep a closer eye on the neighborhood than the granny across the street who's always peering through her curtains. Any bird of prey that comes anywhere near the rookery gets hounded, buzzed, and screamed at until they leave the territory. This is perfect for us. 

While we don't want wild birds associating with our flock for health reasons, we do want to encourage these tree top neighbors to stay in the area. We occasionally leave treats out for the crows in the front yard. Not too often since we don't want them moving in, but often enough to keep them stopping by on their patrols. It's working great so far! I've heard them sound the alarm several times, and looked out to see them hounding a hawk or an eagle out of range of my girls. Nothing like being on good terms with the neighbors!

Looks like they stopped by early today!


  1. Our rooster didn't help with predators...but he was attacking us so he got rehomed recently. I just bought a pair of guinea fowl. We'll see if they help. Found you on The Fewell Homestead meet.

    1. Some roos really are terrible! Any meanies definitely end up in freezer camp here; I have no room for chickens that can't get along. I've heard good things about guinea fowl, but only when you have one or two. In big numbers, they can be pretty annoying! Hope they help!

  2. Forgive my non-homesteading ignorance here...but why can't you have a rooster? A city/noise thing? Also...I learned something about crows today that make the seem a lot more useful than I'd guess. Thank you! :)

    1. Zoning laws. Our neighbors two doors down had a rooster, and someone reported them to the city. They had to pay a hefty fine. We live a block inside city limits, and, believe it or not, we actually want to be good neighbors.