Thursday, February 17, 2011

Time to Lock the Nesting Box

We have been keeping chickens now for about two years.  You can read about our initiation into the world of backyard chickens here.  We had a few problems early on in our chicken keeping venture with chickens escaping the coop or run while the dogs were outside.  We subsequently developed fortifications for the coop and run to make sure chickens couldn't get out and dogs couldn't tear the wire.

As time went on the dogs became accustomed to the presence of the chickens and have more or less ignored them for months.  Our small dogs are actually great with the chickens and can share the yard with them, but our big dogs still have to be kenneled if the chickens are going to roam freely in the yard because they have a hard time controlling their hunting instincts.

As I said before, I haven't seen the dogs so much as look at the chickens for the entire winter.  This afternoon I'm sitting in my kitchen and I keep hearing this banging sound.  I have a fleeting thought that it sounds like the kids opening and closing the nesting box, but both kids are inside.  I decide the neighbors must be up to something, I can hear that their kids are playing outside, and that must be where the noise is coming from.

I wish that had been true.  The chickens were making some noise and I thought they must be hungry, so I go out to feed them and collect eggs.  To my horror, I find all 70 pounds of my dog, Max, inside the chicken coop.  Actually, by this time he is in the run and several curious chickens are poking their heads out the coop door and staring at him.  He had managed to lift the nesting box lid and wedge his body through an opening approximately 12x12 inches (there are two nesting boxes, each this size, divided by a barrier).  When I discovered him he had gone through the coop and was in the run, hanging his head in shame.  There was one fatality.  Of course, though he was smart enough to figure out his way into the coop, he had not figured out a way out (that or he did not want to go back the way he came and deal with the 11 nervous chickens that were now all inside the hen house).

Max (left) and his brother Sammy
My first thought is to put a latch on the nesting box lid, but I actually wouldn't be surprised if he figured out the latch, so I think we are going to have to lock our nesting box!  This is the kind of nonsense that warrants the construction of a dog run area.  I have been suggesting this to my husband for months but he thinks the dogs need more room to run.  I think it would benefit us greatly to construct a large run area for them on one side of the yard, which would free up the rest of the yard for chickens to roam safely, reduce the area that we have to patrol for doggy poop, and we can expand the growing area for edibles without having to fence everything in.  Honestly, the dogs almost never actually run around the yard, they just sun-bathe, and the dog area would still be big enough for them to run the length of the fence if they wanted to.  My husband will just need to take them running in the evenings, it would be good for them all!

In happier chicken-related news, we have officially had our first dozen eggs of 2011 from our girls!

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