Here we go!
Ha! I’m up to date again! Wooohoo! Weather or not I’ve enjoyed the hot sunny times (not) the chickens have, and they don’t let the rain kill their enjoyment of the outdoors and their hunt for yummy tidbits. I’m actually pretty proud and surprised, because we have 10 hens and 3 roosters, and we’re getting a lot more eggs than I would have expected for the age of our gals. Our youngest flock member, Sunnyside, was hatched two springs ago, and the second youngest set was hatched three springs ago. Hens tend to hit ‘egg-o-pause’ around two years old, and lay a lot less frequently according to most resources I’d looked to for information, and while I doubt most of them are laying an egg every day, each day, I’m getting 4 or more eggs most days. So, for older gals (some would be considered ‘spent hens’ I think), I’m still getting way more eggs than I need, and am giving them to as many people as I can offload them to. I don’t want to mess around selling them, that’s just too much hassle. As long as I can keep the raccoons, possums, and other critters from snagging them, that’s great. I honestly don’t mind on the face of it, if once and a while, a coon or possum would politely take an egg or two, and eat them somewhere else, but that doesn’t cleanly happen. The problem is it becomes a habit and they’ll go for the birds too, especially raccoons, instead of just taking the odd egg or two occasionally. So, we try to discourage the critters from helping themselves to the eggs, and the feed.
I’m currently not filling their feeders because I’ve had them emptied way too fast for chickens to be doing it, something is just helping itself to as much as it (they?) can scarf, down to the dust at the bottom of the dispenser. Instead, in the morning when I let the birds out of the coop, I scatter a large scoop (I use an old gallon milk jug thingy with the bottom and a tiny tad of the lower edges cut out, so it’s not like I’m starving them!) or two along the sort of bare patch of ground near the coop. I figure they’re instinctive peck/scratch/search kind of critters, so having to look for their kibble a tiny bit won’t do anything but keep them occupied. Later in the day, if they’ve cleaned up the kibble (ok, it’s pellet, but I like the word kibble), I will either give them another scoop or half scoop if it doesn’t look like rain and it’s still early in the day, or if it’s later in the day or gloomy, I’ll give them a big scoop of scratch grains. The scratch grains are more ‘snack food’ than ‘nutritional diet’ type of food, but I don’t think a coon would enjoy licking individual pieces of cracked corn and grains off the ground. I don’t know how energy efficient they would find that to be, cost of effort versus reward seems kind of low. Also, the birds really like scratch (junk food!!!! yummy!!!) and hardly ever leave anything more than some of the cracked corn fragments, so there isn’t a lot left for the the coons and other critters overnight to come and feel like they’re getting a good feed on in the yard. Less reward, less frequent visits.
I’ve also procured a large squirt gun which says it sprays at lest 30 or so feet, and loaded that with water and a hefty lacing of some essential oils (peppermint, lemongrass, and eucalyptus) which I’m hoping will smell sharply strong enough to be irritating without being actually lastingly harmful for the critter if I do spot another one up a tree within range. I’ve tried ‘wrist rocket’ style sling shots in the past, but I can’t hit a coon up a tree, plus I worry that if I use something hard and dense enough to fly well (like gobstoppers or marbles, or iron balls), even if I aim for the fleshy bum, I might hit an eye or a tooth, and actually maim the critter. I would be really upset! I don’t want them to be dying slowly because of an infected tooth or eye socket, or whatever, I just want them to get the move along message! I was using gobstoppers last year because they fly well, they’re round, they’re cheap, and I can’t imagine they wouldn’t biodegrade so I’m not leaving random iron balls or glass balls all over the woods. We’ll see, hopefully I won’t even have to use the squirt gun.