Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Predators of Your Birds

Your birds are constantly at risk, especially in rural, heavily wooded areas. It seems that almost every predator wants a piece of your flock, and will get that piece if you don't use extreme caution with your fowl. Be it weasels, fishers, raccoons, or raptors, protecting your flock from predators is one of the most important jobs of any backyard poultry farmer.


Raptors (Predatory flying birds, not the dinosaur kind or the Toronto basketball team) are, in my opinion, the largest threat to the safety of your flock that you will ever have to face. They can quickly swoop in and kill your birds, and will easily just carry off young birds and small breeds of bird. Their quick attacks make them hard to protect against, and their flying abilities make them hard to shoot down or otherwise subdue them. One way to prevent raptor attacks is to string twine or fishing line above the areas your birds roam. Raptors, with their incredible vision, see the string and doesn't recognize the area as open, scaring them. "Backyard Chickens", a fowl-raising forum, recommends using owl figurines to deter prospective raptors. Another strategy offered by the site is to crumple up tin foil and spread it around the raptors' hunting grounds; it is said that the glare makes them wary and less willing to attack your flock.

Image result for hawk attack chicken                      Image result for owl attack

Another menace to your prized poultry are predatory mammals, like weasels and fishers. While they may look adorable, like skinny cats or the such, they are savage beasts. Many of my personal Black Runner Ducklings have been torn apart by these vicious killers as well as other young birds. These predators are mainly nocturnal, attacking your birds when they are the most vulnerable: in their sleep. This makes them especially dangerous, as sleeping chickens, ducks and geese are not very conscious of their surroundings. One way to deter these animals is to make their night lodgings more impenetrable to assault. Secure doors, windows, or any other points of entry. make sure there are no holes either, including vents or other air access holes. "If a hot dog can fit, a weasel can fit" says blogger MadChickensVT on the forum 'Backyard Chickens". Weasels are a very flexible animal, and can fit through holes far smaller than one would assume they could pass. Weasels are not strong enough to take down anything larger than a midsize chicken, so owners of only large birds do not have to worry as much about them. Fishers, while not as infiltrative as their weasel contemporaries, are still a danger to your flock. A fisher can easily take down a fully grown goose, one of the only animals able to do so. Lock up your birds at night, and fishers will be no problem. Coyotes will attack your birdsbut very rarely. These animals won't normally approach human populations, so you will most likely never have to worry about them. 

Image result for weasel hole                       


Friday, February 26, 2016

Getting to Know Your Birds: Geese

Geese are wonderful and majestic animals. Their long, elegant necks are topped with proud, strong heads. They are the ultimate symbol of pride and refinement. They are a joy to have, and their large eggs produce a sizable and tasty 1-egg omelet. If you have the heart to slaughter your beloved pets, they provide a beautiful centerpiece and tasty main dish for any large meal gathering, especially for Christmas dinner.    

If you are expecting a clean, quiet, and hands-off bird, these are definitely not the birds for you. While most are beautifully pristine on the outside, on the inside they are wild animals, more so than chickens and ducks. Save for the calmer, friendlier Chinese Geese, geese have nasty tempers, hissing, snarling, chasing and biting even the kindest of their owners. The only thing nastier than their personalities is their massive piles of feces. One bowel movement will produce a pile of turds larger than those of medium-sized dogs. Sometimes their feces will be liquid, somehow grosser than the aforementioned turd mountains.

Image result for goose chasing kid

The Chinese Goose (pictured below), a medium-sized breed that comes in white or brown, is a personal favorite of mine. They are far more friendly than their contemporaries, even feeding from human hands when they have become accustomed to the presence of humans. They will nip at the cuffs of your pants, begging for food like a small dog. The Chinese Goose shares many characteristics with the Mute Swan, although being far less hot tempered. They are even referred to a "Swan Geese" and "Poor Man's Swans". Chinese geese are also known for their benefits to homeowners and gardeners, gaining a reputation as "weeder geese" as they eat weeds in gardens and lawns, as well as trimming tall grass by grazing your lawn to supplement the diet of grains that is normally fed to them by their owners. A personal favorite to both them and other species of geese are dandelions, and before you know it, they will have munched down all these perennial lawn pests.

   Image result for chinese goose                             

Monday, February 8, 2016

Feeding Your Backyard Fowl

While by no means hard, feeding is a large turnoff for prospective chicken, duck, and goose owners. Many people find it hard to find the extra time and money to supply ample nutrients to their birds in return for a food product one can cheaply and easily pick up at the nearest grocery store. One just has to be smart about their feeding, however to make it monetarily feasible and requiring of only minutes of your day. 

This point must be made first. Fowl are not picky. Chickens are perhaps the least picky domesticated animal humans keep. Their tastes range from week-old pizza to leftover soup to crabapples.  They are even happy eating the flesh of their brethren! Ducks and geese, while still by no means fastidious in their food choices, are less happy with certain foods than their tasteless chicken comrades. Geese are completely vegetarian, the pickiest of the bunch. One tip to a cheaper fowl-raising experience is   limit your discarding of leftover food. As mentioned before, the birds are not picky, and adore the occasional table scrap. A favorite of the birds is watermelon, especially the red meat of the fruit. Geese specialize in the rinds, using their serrated bills to tear it apart. Ducks will vacuum up the softer parts of the melon, slurping happily as they suck away at their share. Apples, or any part of them, are a fowl favorite; however, ducks, lacking a pecking or tearing apparatus on their bills, need their apples broken into bite size chunks.


Thanks for reading. Be sure to read my other content. Happy farming!