At 11 weeks old, the flock is growing and still doing really well. We sent 6 hens, 2 of each variety to Nikki's Aunt's farm to help bolster her laying flock, as well as to relieve the crowded feeling the pen was getting now that the birds are bigger. We currently have 20 birds, including 3 roosters.
We feed them and move the pen first thing in the morning. When I get home from work, they are lined up, ready for some action. I let them out When I'm working outside and can keep an eye on them. It reminds me of little kids running out to recess when I let them loose in the afternoon. We have still been fortunate enough not to lose any to predation, but we have had some close calls lately.
Two days ago, the flock was out running around while Nikki and I were taking care of some yard work. I happen to be walking up toward the house, when I saw a bird in my periphery. I suddenly realized that it was a large hawk, wings swept back, diving toward the chickens. I shouted like a crazy man, and the chickens scattered. The raptor veered off behind the garage out of sight. Heart pounding, I ran around the corner just in time to see it leap off the ground from next to the garage door and off to the North.
The very next day was much more traumatic. Once again, the flock was roaming free while I took some pictures in the lasagna gardens. I head a squawking commotion and ran up to see a large Red Tail hawk, wings flapping, circling around the big pine tree about 8 feet off the ground. The hawk screeched defiantly as I bellowed my best angry cave man impression and waved my arms in the air. The determined hawk flew up and stopped about 6 feet in front of my face and screeched again; then faster than I could think, it pivoted and flew 20 feet over to a small pine where half a dozen hens and the gold rooster were hiding. I hollered and ran toward it, and it flew away.
The chickens were totally freaked out. I spent the next 45 minutes or so collecting the silent birds and putting them back in the pen. On of the araucanas was so riled up that I couldn't catch her. She ran from the little pine tree to the big one and circled the trunk away from me until I gave up. She didn't come back to the hoop coop until sundown. As I put the rest of them in the pen they ran and hid behind the brooder and wouldn't even come out to eat some fresh crumbles.
So we still have all the birds (knock on wood) but I am really anxious to get some more tree and shrub cover for them. And as the attacks are happening just when the leaves are dropping, I am seeing the value of including some coniferous cover in the food forests.
The temps are starting to drop, and I need to construct a heated version of out water bucket very soon. Will also be insulating the hoop coop with straw bales and parking it for Winter. We will be switching over to the deep litter method for the season, and begin a rotating paddock system in the Spring.