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  (Fort Walton Beach, Florida)
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Babe and Fidel the Daily Dog- Rooster Battle

This entry will start with a disclaimer.  It is about the daily dog-rooster battles that occur at our ranch. Please do not contact us to complain that this is cruel to the animals.  Neither the dog or the rooster has ever seriously injured the other and this battle has been going on for at least six months now. We do not pit them against each other.

Each day either the blue heeler- Babe, or the Buckeye rooster- Fidel will lie in wait for their foe, behind the woodpile, on the other side of the chicken coop, around a bale of hay until the other competitor comes along and then pow!  The fray begins.

 Each round lasts about 3-5 minutes and both rooster and heeler sometimes win depending on the day- which means the other backs off from the fight and seeks shelter. We have many roosters but only Fidel goes at it with Babe.  And she does not antagonize the other roosters, just Fidel.



When the Buckeyes Crow

How are the NCAA men's basketball tournament and a small ranch in northern Michigan connected? Read this post to find out.  [Read More]

Chickens, Chickens, Everywhere!

Most folks are going to be inclined to buy "free range" or "pasture raised" chicken or eggs, if they are available and reasonably priced.  I think customers want their food animals to have good lives and humane care.  We have had our chickens loose since we got our first flock.  This is not as easy as it sounds to accomplish, though.

Our main problem has been keeping our birds safe from predators.  They can be killed in an instant by everything from a visiting friend's dog to area coyotes, raccoon and fox. We have found a number of things help but we still have to start new flocks constantly to replace birds lost to predation.

Fencing has not been much help for us because we have the birds to eat fly and other insect pests and keep that population from pestering our cattle. We close up the birds that will go into the coops at night.  Auracanas like to live in the trees though as long as it isn't snowing.

We have a blue heeler that will not leave our property but chases off predators. We also have donkeys in the cattle pastures as predator guards and they seem to keep the coyotes away from the farm in general pretty well.

 We keep an old battery run transistor radio playing at night in the chicken coop, or all the time if attacks have been occurring during the day. We have owl and crow decoy birds up on fence posts.

The breeds that seem to stand up the best are the Auracana's becasue they fly well and are very smart, and the Heritage Breed Buckeyes.  We have found keeping roosters with the flocks helps too.  We have had several roosters killed defending their flocks including one gorgeous Golden Polish.

If you completely enclose your bird yard and then monitor it for fence holes and dig in areas you should be able to have the best of both worlds.  This just doesn't work for us because we use the birds for integrated pest control.

Free range also means they range into my salad beds and into the garage to look for things like styrofoam- one of their favorite things to eat for some reason.  So while I would never keep birds in boxes, some days it does seem like it would be a heck of a lot easier.




Chickens, Chickens, Everywhere

Today we have more open ground than snow covered turf and the chickens are out of the coop and back at work.  Reddy was out in the front pasture before it was even fully light this morning.  I don't think she trusts that the snow won't come back and so she isn't missing any opportunity to get out and scratch and dig.

 The hens are all working and turning the ground, doing an excellent job of de-thatching the lawn after its been packed down under the snow and ice for the last five months. We have ten acres that run deep from the frontage on the road to the back cattle pasture and my flock cover every inch of it. The Rhode Island Reds take the prize for being the widest ranging so far of all the breeds we've tried.

This year's new flock will be Buckeyes and we have not had them before.  They will be going into the mobile coop that will be stationed inside the back fenced pasture with the cattle. They will have a fence around them to keep the cows out of their coop but I expect they will range well beyond it's confines once they mature.  We had Ebony Star constantly climbing into the chicken coop or removing the stairs last year so we will put up a fence to keep miss cat-like-cow out of the in pasture chicken year this season.

We decided to try Buckeyes this year because they are on the threatened list and need to have breeding flocks established and so I am going to try to do that this year.  They are heavy feathered, brown egg layers and good at mousing and foraging by report so I think they should be perfect for our climate and scenario.  We shall see.  They are also the one breed of American chicken started by a woman.

Our wild birds are back too and I can't wait till it is warm enough to start opening the windows in the morning because our acreage is alive with sound again.  It is such a contrast to the quiet of winter.  The chickens are constantly calling to each other about each worm they find, and the pine tree tops each sport a red winged blackbird setting up territory for the season.  There are grackles and chickadees and downy and hairy woodpeckers too.  Ahh, it is spring!

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