Jacqueline contacted me a few days ago to ask if I knew anyone who’d take a flock of Silver Duckwing Old English Game bantams. If you aren’t familiar with these chickens, OEG is the breed and Silver Duckwing is a pattern that is also seen in other breeds like Silver Grey Dorkings, Cream Legbars, Phoenix and Welsummers. The good thing about them is that the cockerels and pullets have different colouring and can be sexed as young chicks.
After talking with her, I realized that she really wanted to keep her chickens but was feeling guilty that she didn’t want to free-range them anymore. There are good reasons to both free-range or pen your birds. I’ve done both, neither is right. You have to figure out what works for you and your birds.
There are a couple of big drawbacks to allowing your birds access to your yard: poop and predators. If you know bantams, and especially OEGS, they are small. So dealing with small poop isn’t too bad, but there’s lots of it, and usually on your deck and door step. And pocket chickens that fit in your palm are a big target for aerial predators – hawks, owls and ravens- not to mention raccoons, mink and dogs. For peace of mind I assured her that penning her birds was not a bad thing.
I went by Jacqueline and Chris’ place to check out their coop and to make suggestions about modifying it. Jackie has no reason to feel guilty confining her birds: their large coop and two pens (one covered, one netted) are pretty sizable for 10 birds not much bigger than robins. They have plans to do some renos like painting the doors, attaching more secure overhead netting and creating more shade in part of the run.
After visiting their birds I took a tour of their place. Jacqueline and Chris came to Gabriola Island from the lower Mainland 7 years ago and live in a 1970s panabode house with a view to the ocean across the street. They built a tiny house in the back for guests, and their chicken coop 5 years ago. They also have some furry friends- 2 dogs and 5 rescue cats – that get along well with the chickens.
When I met Chris he was absorbed in getting ready for the Christmas craft fair. He crochets funky hats – so far he’s found hat patterns for all kinds of animals, including a turkey, but, sadly, not a chicken. Jacqueline showed off the sweater he crocheted her when they first were together in a long distance relationship – her in Canada and him in England. You gotta love a guy that can whomp up some great looking clothes for you.
Jacqueline invited me back for a tour post-coop fix up and I’ll post some more photos of the changes and a report on how her birds adjust to being cooped up.
All photos Bitchin’ Chicken, except Featured Photo courtesy of Jacqueline & Chris