Sunday, February 24, 2008

Our owl is back.

The first year we were here, she had babies who hung out in the trees around the house. They were very talkative and liked to be where they could watch us. I've never been able to get a good picture of the momma owl (and I'd love to - she is a *huge* owl), but I got some good ones of the babies.

The momma did not have babies last year, so I'm wondering if she will this year. She's been quiet for a few months - I don't know if she was gone or just uncharacteristically quiet.

Every evening now we can hear her calling and if she starts hunting before dark, we get to see her hunt. Between our three fantastic barn cats and our owl we don't have a mouse problem here anymore. We had quite a few mice when we first moved here.

It's because of this owl, the local hawk population, various feral cats, and rumours of skunks and weasels in our area that we cannot have our chickens be free-ranging. Even pens pose a problem if you're not careful. One of my friends here told me a story about a night that she was trying to get her chickens to go in the coop for the night. Strangely, they refused to go in. She finally lost her temper and started picking them up and pushing them in. She locked the coop for the night and went in the house. The next morning she went to let them out and the place stunk like a skunk. She was glad she'd gone to the work to put them away since it was obvious a skunk had been hanging around and would have gotten a few of them if she hadn't put them up. She opened the door to let the chickens out and a skunk ran out. They lost all of their chickens - the ones the skunk didn't kill outright had to be put down because of injuries.

I'd love to have our chickens be free-ranging if it were possible. We have a horridly large earwig population here and chickens love earwigs. But my owl loves chickens....


Farmgirl_dk: said...

Beautiful babies....they practically blend in with their tree house! There is something so exotic and mysterious to me about owls - I know they're around, I hear them frequently, but only see them on very rare occasions. It feels like a present when I do.
That's too bad about not being able to let the chickens out, though...does the owl hunt during the day as well as at night?

green said...

I'm wondering about the day hunting also.

Also, is it possible to localize where the chickens are pseudo-free-range at any given time? You might be able to make a movable pen out of some wire...

Pichinde said...

The owl doesn't hunt during the day unless she has babies and is *starving*. My worry is gettting the hens back into their pen in time since the owls start hunting at twilight. And how to train barn cats not to hunt my chickens...

Green, I've been looking at the books Day Range Poultry, Chicken Tractor, and Pastured Poultry Profits to get some ideas about a moveable pen. Our pastures are bumpy, so a pen would have many holes near the bottom. Still working on the logistics...

green said...

Herding chickens can be a lot like herding cats... maybe Jake has a new job?

I've scratched out a rough idea for a mobile chicken tractor. I'll send it later.

Christy said...

I'd love to have an owl around but I could see how it would be a pain with the chickens.

Twinville said...

We, too have owls here (your owl photos were gorgeous, by the way!) and we have hawks and eagles, too.

Our chickens may not be technically 'free-range', but they have a much better life than those commercial egg-layers.

I've been told by a number of people, who look down at me for keeping my hens inside a coop. They tell me that my chickens are still living in a cage. It's just outside. They try to convince me that my chickens would have such a BETTER LIFE if I would just let them out to be free.

I completely and absolutely disagree!

I may have only paid $2.00 for each chicken, but I have invested much much more to get them from chick stage to laying stage.

From costs of henhouse/coop, feed, feeding/watering supplies, to all the time and attention, they are worth far more than $2.00 each.

In our area, farmers sell egg-laying hens for $15-$25.00 each.

If I even allow one of my chickens to live a 'better life' by giving our local predators a free meal, I might as well just throw $20.00 bills out into the wind.

You know, I might live a 'better life' living in the African bush, free-ranging for my food. I'd be surrounded by hungry predators who can easily pick off my slow domesticated body.
But, at least I would have enjoyed my free-range life while it lasted.

Let me add one more thing, because all the hooplah over free-range has been weighing on me for a very long time now. Please feel free to delete my post if you think I'm a nut taking over your blog.

I like my chickens. They are more than egg layers to my family. Each one is special and valued to us. Losing even one would make me and my family very sad.

When I brought these chicks home, I took on the responsibility of raising them and keeping them safe.....just as I did with my own children.

Sure, my children would love to go rollerskate on an asphalt road with cars, or run free at the grocery store or department store. But there are dangers in both places.....dangers that could hurt them , kidnap them, and possible kill them.

So, I don't permit my children to free-range.
And I don't permit my chickens to either.

That being said. I do make sure my chickens have plenty of fresh air, abundant sunlight, spacious room to move about and exercise, and buddy chickens to snuggle and play with every day.

Sounds like a good life to me.