Little is known about poultry keeping in the Alpine regions of Switzerland. The village of Adelboden in the Berner Oberland is 1'350 meters above sea level in a very mountainous valley.
Of course, poultry for consumption is a very easy commodity to buy - readily processed. But it is quite uncommon to see any livestock being kept in gardens or farmyards. For some reason, it is rare to find poultry kept by families and smallholders in the mountains.
Just a small handful of houses in our valley of Adelboden keep a few hens for household use. But apart from that, people mainly keep dairy cattle and grow vegetables on small family plots.
What are Natural Predators of Chickens?
There may be a number of reasons for the lack of poultry keeping in the valley. Firstly, there are a number of predators in the area that make keeping poultry more trying.
You have to make a more secure coop and run for fear of the normal predators such as overly optimistic cats, foxes and stoats. But also the more unlikely predators of pine martens and eagles that swoop clearly in the valley. Unfortunately when we first had our chickens totally free range we lost a small chicken to an eagle, so now have completely enclosed the run.
And then there is the Mountainous Terrain...
Another reason locals do not have chickens is the demanding landscape. The mountainous region in the Berner Oberland has very hilly and difficult terrain to firstly design and construct a chicken coop that fits the steep gradient, but also to maintain day to day animal husbandry.
We have our chicken enclosure just down the hill past our garden. This sounds like a lovely, idyllic stroll to go see the chickens on a sunny evening. However, it is not so fun or easy to maneuver on when it has been raining heavily - or when there is 3 foot of snow!
Many a time I have slipped over on a muddy slope with chicken food flying everywhere! Also, the terrain is very difficult to access for chores like cleaning out, moving them on to new grass and leveling out the house and coop.
The Alpine terrain in most of Switzerland is the main obstacle putting people off when it comes to keeping their own batch of chickens. Personally, we keep three chickens in our garden for eggs. We really enjoy chicken husbandry, and it helps us to be more self-sufficient.
My advice: Give it a go!
My advice to anyone who has a garden and lives in the flatter parts of Switzerland is to give keeping chickens a go – they are easy first step into homesteading! Also, there is nothing like having fresh, still warm eggs for breakfast from your own hens...