Chicken Update – Keep Your Electric Fence HOT!!!

I think something got into my chicken yard and caused a bunch of problems.  There were not any eggs left, just shells and one of the hens looked pretty tore up, I’m not sure she will live.  We have been getting a lot rain lately and it has been hard to keep the electric fence up and running.  The GFCI breaker that the fence charger is on keeps tripping when it rains.  The electric fence is what protects my birds from ground based predictors as I have more of a shelter than a fully enclosed coop.  I’m going to have to be more diligent about making sure fence is on and hot.

My fence charger does have the option for a 12v input so maybe I should start running it off of a deep cycle battery.  But then I have to worry about periodically charging it.

Chicken Watering Via Chicken Nipples

We got some watering nipples that just snap onto 3/4″ PVC pipe.  We have a ball valve in the end that can be used to fill up other containers and this is feed from a IBC tote at the highest part of the property.  We just have 1″ irrigation pipe laying on the ground to feed this and a short piece of regular hose to be more flexible and as a way to feed the PVC pipe.  Doesn’t work in the winter, but for 9 months out of the year I know they always have at least access to a water source.

Electric Fence Door

20160709_193622.jpgWe use the portable electro-net fencing to keep our chickens in (more or less).  I think more importantly it keeps the ground based predators out.  However I don’t want to always have to cut the power to get in and out of the Critter Fence.  My dad built what is in effect, a portable door out of 2″ x 2″ boards.  Originally we also ran a wire from the electric fence over to the metal fencing that filled in the door.  However that has fallen by the wayside as it didn’t appear necessary after a couple of years.

We do have coyotes in the area and this has worked for me for about 5 years now.  I don’t believe I’ve ever lost a bird to a ground based predators.  Ariel predators on the other hand have been a source of continuing aggravation to me.

Moving Chicks – Maybe Too Early

Our Black Australops are about 2 1/2 months old so we decided to move them out of the fully enclosed coop to the area with the rest of the flock.  This may have been a mistake as the didn’t seem to have much trouble going through the electro-net fencing.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow when they can see the whole enclosed area and if they will be inclined to stay in the fence.

Brooding Chicks Without Supplemental Heat

As we are coming up on spring many are thinking about getting more chicks and the question comes up about how to brood them.  Many do not have a location with power to supply heat.  I will describe what I did a couple of times now that did not require any supplemental heat.  Of course I think it is important to say I waited until a little later in the spring and had more than 2 dozen chicks to keep each other warm.

IMG_060211I used something called radiant insulating foil which looks like bubble wrap that has been coated with aluminium.  This reflects the chicks body heat back at them and when you have enough to create a critical mass the chicks can keep themselves warm.  The first time I used some straw pales to build a U shape and lined it with the foil and then used a sheet of OSB for the top, again with the radiant foil on the inside.  At night or if they got cold they would all huddle under the foil and warm up.  When they were too warm they would spread out a bit.  The second time (top picture) I just lined the inside of a cardboard box with the radiant foil, but that was late spring.  I haven’t lost any chicks with this process, but if you are doing this in very cold weather or only have a few chicks this may not work for you.

I first read about this in a post by Robert Plamondon and they have had success with this no-heat method of brooding.  Since it makes my life simpler I decided to try to and have been happy.  I need to build something more durable/permanent, but to date the quick and easy has always won out.

If you want to see my son’s “chicken report” from March of 2013 that has the first time we did this, check out the video below.


Keeping Chickens

I’ve been keeping chickens for about 3 years now and today was moving day again. For the first couple of years I moved them through the grassy areas of my property, but then I lost 3/4’s of my flock aerial predators so I started keeping them under the cover of the brushy areas of my property. This is not ideal as there is not as much greenery for them to eat, but it does keep them from being killed by hawks and owls. This does make moving them a fair bit more effort as I first have to clear brush along the path I want the electro-net fencing to run and the fencing has to be pulled up and the whole section folded and moved. When I was on the grass I could just move the fencing a few feet at a time, but you cannot do that when there are trees and brush in the way. Therefore the chickens do not get moved as frequently as I would like. If you go with the portable electro-net fencing like I did by the 80′ lengths rather than the 160′, they are much easier to move and give you more options.

Some people feel they need to provide a coop that is well insulated and completely free of drafts for the winter and some even supply supplemental heat. I have not found this to be the case in S.E. Michigan. I do what is best described as a 3-sided coop and I have not lost any birds in the winter. However I do have the coop in a place that is naturally sheltered from the wind. In some magazines from the late 1800’s that talked about farming in the mid-west talked about having large windows on one side of the coop (preferably the side opposite the wind) and just having them covered in chicken wire, no glass. The claim was the biggest problems with chickens in a fully closed coop is the build up of humidity and ammonia and having good ventilation takes care of that. While I cannot comment on if it is better because I have all my experience is with these “well-ventilated” coops, I have not experienced any problems with not having a tightly sealed/heated coop. Breed may also make a difference, I’ve had White Leghorn, ISA Brown, Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks & Australorps.

To date I’ve only lost two birds to something other than predators. One got her neck caught in the fork of a honeysuckle bush and basically hung herself, the other was an adult bird that died 2 days after we got her. Since this works for me I do not plan on changing. I’m not claiming what I do is what you should also do, however if it works for me you might want to consider it for your flock.