The main interest of having free-range chickens at our organic farm was, to have real and own organic eggs as food nutrition and the chicken dug for soil fertilizer.
How to start?
But as we were – without knowledge about raising chickens. It was a completely new experience.
First, of course, we were talking to local people about what chicken’s needs are. Most feed them with corn (GMO grains or amendments) or “Balanceado” how they call it, the industrial produced fodder for chickens. So we decided to start with corn and organic matter from the kitchen.
Free-range onto busy streets!
Most chickens, in Latin America, running around free, not like we used to see – behind fences. So, chickens are even walking dangerously on to the road, because people just have their houses there. Poor chicken, without knowing of their chances to run over by a vehicle.
Fence yes or no?
For the start, we decided to put them behind a fence because people also told us there are wild animals which eats chickens. And as our farm is a bit outside in the Amazon region, there are wild animals living and having their home at our farm. The spot, is not fare from our house, above the shower, with a little tree to give them shade. And the tree gives them also a place to sleep when they climb up for bedtime – when the sun gets down around 06:15 p.m.
So our 1.50m fence was built and a ruff house out of wooden and bamboo piece was there too a little water pot from the hardware store – ready!
Time to get chickens!
Now it’s time to buy chickens! The first two, where given for free from neighbors. An other one we bought somewhere. Two others we bought again from someone else and two little ones have been joined a bit later too.
The first thing which I noticed about chickens was, they all have their own characters. And second, they had a hard involving time to the new mixed clan because there were too many strangers around. They were fighting about the boss role and because the rooster was still too young, to take over this role, the hens where trying hard to get this position. Which was a busy and unsettled atmosphere.
The second thing was, they escaped over the fence. Just flew over and one disappeared in to the woods without turning back. One less! From there we made the fence double the height. So people advised us, rather to cut wings for less escapes by air. Which we did, except for one. The one, which is still alive today, but more about that later.
Time passed but no eggs.
We were now caring well for our new folks but they did not lay eggs! What did we wrong? We asked for advice. We have to give them more free space; they don’t lay eggs when there behind fenced. Well, in Europe or other countries they are also behind fences and do lay eggs – but anyway let’s try it. It might not hurt, we thought.
Free range, the wolf wasn’t far.
So we let them out watched them happily picking around and thought; well then, let’s leave them for a while outside. But not much time passed and our dog, which we had to give away because of this problem, started to hunt our chickens! First, he attacked the little one. Later he found a way to enter, in to the fence and every morning, we saw him inside the fence, with his greedy eyes, by the chickens! Because we cut them the wings, it was very easy for him to finally hunt all the chickens one by one. One morning there was only one chicken to see which was outside the fence – escaped! The escaped one which we did not cut the wings survived with a big shock!
Electric fence for the wolf
From that day on, we connected the fence with electricity and bought a few new chickens. Let’s start from scratch, then! The fence worked! crying voice of our dog was to hear when he touched the fence. But that wasn’t a big deal for him, if not at home then I go to the neighbors and hunt what I can. He killed like 30 chickens around the neighborhood and we had to come up for the mess, which wasn’t cheap. At the same day, we sadly had to give him away because we did not wanted a dog who is hunting all the time or has to stay forever at the leash! We found a new family for him and the busy days got calmed down!
What’s the treasure about having chickens laying eggs?
But we still didn’t figure why our chickens do not lay eggs. It was more like every now and one there was an egg in the nest but not like others experiences are talking, one egg per hen. We kept them in the fence and continued feeding them well. People advised us to give them more corn and onions – then they start laying. Well we did that but not much changed. Then we thought, it might be the nests they don’t like, it might be too small for them? We designed a new house with bigger nests and renewed it. What an effort for these chickens!
Challenge of the new chicken house.
But then we had the problem that they didn’t figured the way in because to enter the house they had to excess from the bottom, below the house. Which they weren’t used to do it. We tried to help with little stairs but didn’t helped. We pimped then the house, closed the holes below and made a new big entrance from the side. That was much easier. They started to enter, with the help of spreading corn.
New house but where are the eggs?
But still, there was not much encouragement on laying eggs. But then, one day, I talked to another neighbor, she has also chickens and I was wondering what’s the missing part. She showed me then, that she had always one egg left in the nest. Doesn’t matter if real or a dummy, just has to be the same size and shape like an egg. Must be something psychological, I thought. So we bought some of these cheap eggs and placed 3 in two of the boxes. And viola, it worked! What a success! One just started with her production, that worked well.
Meanwhile, we have two dogs which are not hunting, and we thought you know, now we could actually give it a other try and let them out, free-range. Every morning, we open their gate and they walk happily around. Worked very well! The rooster in front and the clan behind – which is a good sign. The clan has a good vibration they know each other now. Once because we bought them from the same neighbor. Except the one which survived and another one who had promising potential to lay eggs. They told us, but until now not really productive. Anyways, we have happy chickens and even a Jung one from our own breed!
Chicks – YEY, one survived!
There was a time, one of our hen started to sit permanently on her eggs. Just for food she left her nest and we realized that there is a potential for chicks. After about 20 days the first young chick hatched out of the egg. So exciting!
On the end there were four chicks but only one survived. One drowned in the water pool we had set up. One just in the nest and another one behind the chicken house. Was kind a frustrating because we did not know what occurred. But the only one which survived is still alive and is growing well to a hen! I hope they breed again!
oh dear – bit of a disaster. We had similar disaster with our chickens. We bought 4 chicks we thought were egg laying chickens but turned out to be some breed modified for meta production. Turns out 3 were male anyway. One got attacked by neighbours dog at our daughters birthday party, another got killed by a hawk. Another just disappeared and we were left with one male who was nasty and would hide in the bushes and then attack your ankles if you walked passed. He also attacked the daughter who was 1 year old at the time, launched with his claws out, knocked her over flat on her belly then pecked at her head 🙁
We didn’t get a single egg, so seems you are doing better than we did