right now :: chicken guardians

There has been a fox on a mission in the neighborhood as of late. Several neighbors who keep chickens have been suffering losses on a grand scale. While I do understand that all creatures must eat in the overall scheme of things, it’s hard to bear witness to folks losing their precious birds. I understand that feeling of desperation when part of your sustenance and livelihood seems like it is being sucked down the drain. There have been years when we have suffered major losses, too, but this year we feel like we have finally, finally, provided enough protective measures to keep our chickens free from predation. So far (and I dearly hope I’m not jinxing anything here!), the villain at large has left our birds alone…IMG_7634 IMG_7636First of all, we use an electrified net fence (from Premier) around our chickens as our first line of defense. The fence allows us the flexibility to continually move the birds through the pasture, following our ruminant livestock and acting as pasture sanitizers. The continuous movement of the chickens also serves to thwart the predators as they can never get fully accustomed to the poultry always being in the same place.

As you all have seen from many of my posts over the past few months, we also introduced four Brown African goslings into the chicken scene this year. Well, they seem like they are mostly grown now and their alarm-honks are verging on obnoxious. They run through the paddock with wings outstretched… a very intimidating sight to see. Their purpose is mostly to ward of daytime predation from hawks, as a fox could certainly pick off a goose to feed her pups (and sly foxes are also known to lurk about in the middle of the day). But their noise (oh, the noise, noise, noise, NOISE.. as the Grinch would say) helps call in the dog if she is off sleeping in the shade. IMG_7656 IMG_7660Our dog, Oksi, has been on the scene for several years now and she is awesome. Once guardian dogs grow out of their mischievous puppy stage, they are well worth the time spent training. I don’t really think we even realize just how valuable she actually is. And she is so tolerant and passive that she actually allows the geese to preen her! What a hoot that is to see!!IMG_7663 IMG_7669 IMG_7670And finally, the most important factor in keeping the chickens safe is a caring and devoted farmer-guardian who has the wits to outsmart even the slyest of foxes!

right now :: flock flock goose

IMG_7257A few days ago, the young flock of pullets and their guardian geese were integrated into the adult flock of laying hens. They had outgrown their chicken tractor/brooder and were ready for more space. And I was ready for two separate chores to become one. So with a little fence manipulation and chicken herding, (and maybe some sweat and curse words) the task was complete. We are still keeping the pullets in their own paddock within the bigger hen paddock, as the two flocks are still eating different feed rations, and so the big hens don’t take to bullying the young birds. But all’s well so far and I’m sighing a big sigh of relief as chore-time gets more refined…IMG_7263 IMG_7264 IMG_7265 IMG_7270

never say never

I swore I would never ever have another goose. Not after Cyrus.IMG_6794Cyrus was a pretty white gander that came to live with me when I was living in the wilds of southern California. As the story goes, my friend and I saw the poor goose at a feed store, isolated in a cage all by himself (should this have been a clue?), where we had gone to pick up some chickens for my friend. (Mind you, I just went along for the ride. This was a point in my life when I didn’t want any dependent pets, other than maybe a dog that could be my companion and tolerate my free-wheeling life. I’ve never known chickens to be very good road-trippers!) So my friend, who lived in a crowded neighborhood in Ocean Beach (San Diego), decided to take him home along with his new chickens. He was living in a communal situation, where he and his house-mates kept a nice little urban permaculture garden in the yard, and thought chickens (goose?) would be a fitting addition to the scene. Well, it didn’t take long for his neighbors to begin complaining about the early morning honking sprees, and my friend needed to find a new home for the goose.IMG_6777I was the obvious default home for Cyrus as I lived in an isolated house surrounded by trees, just one neighbor, absolutely no traffic, and even a pond. I’m typically game for new challenges, so I agreed to take the goose (and somehow the chickens became part of the bargain as well!) For awhile, life was fairly smooth with Cyrus. It was even rather picturesque having the white goose gliding around on the pond that was surrounded by live oaks, manzanita, white sage, and big granite boulders. But then Cyrus turned mean. Anytime he would see me coming out of my house, he would basically lower his head, extend his neck, and charge me. If his incredibly deft bill was able, he would pinch the shit out of my legs and proceed with flogging me until I could free myself. Lots of well-meaning folks gave me advice on how to best deal with the situation (I was a vegetarian at the time, so eating him was out of the question), but nothing worked. I even took to carrying around a baby safety gate as a shield to ward off Cyrus. IMG_6810One day, my sole neighbor, a single middle-aged woman, was having a tea party. All of the ladies showed up with their dresses and gloved hands. Charming Cyrus was out on the pond looking as lovely as ever. When the ladies convened around the pond’s edge, giddy with excitement to admire our friend, he quickly exited the water to give them his version of a welcome. The ladies apparently had to fend him off with their purses (I wasn’t there to witness the scene, I got the run-down from my incredibly tolerant neighbor). I will admit that I didn’t feel like a very good neighbor at that point. A few weeks later, before I arrived home from work in the evening, Cyrus was attacked by a large coyote. My neighbor said she heard the horrendous squawking, opened the door, and when she saw what was happening, decided her best option was to just close the door again. I guess I can’t blame her. So that was the end of Cyrus. And I have sworn for all of the years since that geese were not for me.IMG_6813Enter four adorable Brown African goslings. Oh my. From our research, these are one of the mildest mannered breeds of geese. Supposedly, with lots of handling when they are young, these geese become quite personable and refrain from attacking the hand that feeds. I’ll say I’ve got my fingers crossed. Their purpose here on our farm is to be the daytime watch-dogs for our chickens. We do keep a guardian dog with the chickens as well, but she is most often on duty at night. During the day, she often sleeps in the shade leaving attacks from hawks completely unguarded.  As far as the handling goes, Livi has that one covered. She is always eager to visit the “goose-lings”, and will sit with them for long spells while Eric and I tend to the garden or other chores. They are kind of irresistible…IMG_6816So, as long as these little critters remain nice, and don’t try to “goose” me, their gooses won’t get cooked. I’m hopeful.