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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I will apologize in advance for all of my questions!

A little background... Last fall about a dozen chickens showed up at our farm. I saw them on my way to work; they were just hanging out, scratching around in our leaves. I didn't think much of it, just that they were cute. When I got home from work that day 7 were still at our place. They were hanging out with my horses (miniature horses) and at feeding time, they helped themselves to some horse feed. I still didn't think much of it as I figured they would go "home" at dark.

The next morning, they were still at our place. Fast forward to today (about 5-6 months later) and 6 of them are still here! I believe there was 1 rooster and he disappeared in December. I believe the rest are hens and have learned from posting pics on fb that they were young when they showed up. No red on their cheeks, no combs, etc.

Well, starting at day 2 I bought some chicken feed from the co-op. Have no idea if it was the right feed, but it was for young chicks. They've been living here ever since. They are as wild are March hares! They will have nothing of coming inside the barn, I can get as close as about 2 feet from them, they roost in a very tall cedar tree even though they could easily get out of the elements in the barn. We found our first egg on 2/17/13. It was broken on the ground of my gelding's run-in. It was likely laid on a shelf up above. That day we installed 2 nesting boxes just below that shelf and closed off the shelf to them. As of yesterday, I'm up to 20 eggs collected.

Here are some of my concerns/questions:

Are they getting the proper feed/nutrition? I'm feeding them free choice 16% layer crumbles, Manna Pro Omega Egg Maker, and oyster shell. They also eat, to my dismay, my Purina Miniature and Pony feed, Purina Cat Chow and my chopped alfalfa. They get their water from my horse buckets. Is this acceptable? Should I feed something else? Is it harmful they are eating the horse and cat food?

Catching them/housing? They live completely free range. And while I like the concept of that for their mental health, I'm not sure it's good for their physical health. We generally don't have stray dogs, coyotes or foxes because the horses kick their butts when they come around. But we do have hawks and owls. I was told to get a 2x4 and put it up in the tree, underneath their belly as they're roosting. That isn't possible. They are a good 30' up in the tree. I can't physically handle a board that long. They won't come anywhere near me. I did get to touch/pet/pick up one that was feeling a bit depressed on day on the nesting box, but the next day she was fine and back to not coming near me. Can they remain as is? After living their entire lives free, would they ever survive being cooped up (pun intended).:D

Behavior? Sometimes they fight amongst themselves. They sort of go at each other with their claws. Sometimes one will get on top of another and peck at the neck of the one on the bottom. The one on the bottom wont' fight back. She will just flatten out, and lay there...even after the dominant bird has stopped. Should I be doing anything to break this up?

Thanks in advance for any advice. I'm told they are Old English Game Hens, bantam in size, Wheaton in color. I believe they are all hens.

Here are some pics in this thread:

http://www.chickenforum.com/f47/new-chickens-advice-please-breed-2597/
 

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NC Chicken Mama
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I'm relatively a newbie too. We've had our birds about a year now. It sounds like, feed wise, what you're giving them is fine. I have read that cat food, in excess, isn't good for chickens. So you may want to look into that further. Not sure about the horse feed because we don't have horses. Since they seem to be wild, you may have a hard time catching them since they are used to roosting in the tree, especially since they could roost in the barn, but choose not to. It sounds like you may still have a rooster if you have one jumping on the back of the other one and she's flattening out....sounds like mating behavior to me.

Hope this helps. :)
 

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I think Audra shared my thoughts as well. Free range is a good thing and as long as you're collecting eggs I'd be thankful for small feathered miracles.
 

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I say keep doing what your doing. The feed is fine. The cat food is fine in the winter, it gives extra protien to help keep them warm. Since they are free range and have been I would keep them that way. If you plan to add to the flock I would get them a coop or room in the barn ect so you know your not wasting your money on chicks for them to become wild.
 

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Hi I'm also fairly new. My fear would be predators like the hawks and owls because they will eventually get them. At night birds are very heavy sleepers and are almost in a coma state, if you can catch them at night you have a chance to put them in your barn where they will be safe. I'm being completely honest about the predators, likely they will also be eaten at night when they are more helpless. If I we're you I'd try to get them while they are sleeping in the trees they will be much easier to catch then. If you can get a net you can likely get them pretty easily. Maybe have another person help and bring a ladder. In the dark I doubt they will run far or at all. But do try to catch them at night. Once you catch them you can relocate them to the barn where they will be safer. Then you can work with them to get them tamer. If they are young it should be easier to tame them than older birds. I'd say they are at least 6 months old if they are laying. You can make an area for them to sleep in the barn and an area that you would like them to graze in. I would give it my best shot at catching them. This will give them a better chance against the predators! But if you can't catch them just do your best to keep them fed like you are. If you can get them at night when they are roosted and sleeping. Just do your best. If you can't catch them and they are too wild even at night just know you have done all you could to help them. Hopefully they are in a fairly safe spot. I know a lady who lives in the mountains and she let's her birds roost in trees and has not had any problems. It just depends what area you live in. I know in my area we have lots of hawks and owls! But maybe your area won't have that to worry about. I really wish you the best of luck with these birds! Sounds like your doing everything right for them! Give it a shot at night and see if you can get them then. If you can't, at least you tried! Hope it works out well and keep us posted please on the situation. Ok? :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you all for the responses. It's MUCH appreciated!

I too worry about the hawks and owls as I said, but I'm also realistic. I'm not going to risk a broken back, or someone else's broken back, to put a ladder 20ft up in that tree at night and still try to get a 10+ foot 2x4 through the branches, under the hens and then somehow get them down without knocking them off on one of the millions of other branches on the way down. I will either have to coax them in eventually with feed and time or they will have to stay where they choose.

I'll keep hoping they decide the nice warm barn is a better choice.
 

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So true! Best to be safe and you don't want to hurt yourself! Like I said I have a friend who let's her chickens roost in trees on her property and they are just fine! I'm wishing you the best! You can only do what you can being wild birds! Who knows maybe they will come around eventually? Do you have your own chickens? Or just the wild ones? If you have your own, it's not a good idea for the wild ones to be around them, could cause disease? If none of your own, are you planning on getting any? They are so much fun! If you raise them they become really tame and love to sit on laps and be petted! It's so adorable! I never realized how much joy they would bring into my life! Well, as for the wild birds you have done all you can do. Sounds like they are happy right where they are! Have you ever considered getting your own flock? They bring more joy than you would imagine! Well take care and keep us updated on the birds. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I dont have any other chickens and these strays are my first. We are already getting more eggs than we can eat (I have to really watch my fat intake) so there are no current plans to add any. I am a farm girl though and even though I can't touch these hens, I am enjoying their antics and the eggs they so generously provide! So maybe long in the future we will try raising some that will be tamer and live, at least when we're not outside with them, in a coop.

Thanks for all the advice and well wishes!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Someone suggested that possibly I have a rooster in my midst based on the behavior or one mounting the other, pecking the neck and the bottom hen laying out sort of flat. I've looked very hard at all of them today and other than darker versus lighter coloring, I don't see any difference. Can someone point me toward what an Old English Game Rooster might look like? Different color legs, etc? Thanks!

Below is a pic of all 6. It's hard to get them all at once and also with their entire bodies showing. I don't know if this will help in determining or not. I did have 5 eggs one day so I'm assuming at least 5 are hens, but I thought all 6 were. Opinions welcomed!
 

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NC Chicken Mama
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None of them look particularly rooster like but it can also just be normal "pecking order" behavior. And as to predators, you can see by reading posts on this site that the best coop in the world does not always stop a predator. If they are happy and healthy then don't worry. And don't beat yourself up if you eventually lose one. It is the downside of having chickens but its part of the package.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
None of them look particularly rooster like but it can also just be normal "pecking order" behavior. And as to predators, you can see by reading posts on this site that the best coop in the world does not always stop a predator. If they are happy and healthy then don't worry. And don't beat yourself up if you eventually lose one. It is the downside of having chickens but its part of the package.
Thank you so much Double Oak Farm! I sort of thought there wasn't a rooster, but couldn't say for sure. And they do seem happy. They stay to about 2-3 acres right around the house and barn and they seem very happy and healthy!
 
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