Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘layers

Close One

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That was a close one. Yesterday afternoon, our crew of one, Matthew, who is brushing on a fresh coat of sealant on the logs of our house, was taking a break for lunch when he spotted what he calls our “yardbirds.” He was watching our three chickens moseying their way through the trees between the house and the barn.

Then, he caught sight of a fox!

The report I received was that he rushed toward it and started screaming like a madman. Cyndie said he came to the house to tell her there was a fox in our trees. When she arrived on the scene, all she found were the black feathers of our last Australorp. A LOT of black feathers, spread across a significant distance.

About that time, I received a text message indicating we had lost a hen to a fox.

A couple of hours later, my phone rang with a call from Cyndie with a correction to the previous message. The Black Australorp was still alive!

She had returned to the coop where Cyndie found her nestled into one of the nest boxes. Given the near-death experience, Cyndie granted the hen a free pass to stay in the box for as long as she wanted. There were no visible signs of trauma.

Much later, at dusk, I checked on the three chickens while closing the coop for the night. Much to our surprise, I found the Australorp perched on the roost beside her trusty companions, looking fit as a fiddle.

In addition, I found she had laid an egg while recovering her wits in the nest box.

That’s one tough hen.

Logic tells us that fox will return, so we may need to confine the birds to quarters for a while until we figure out some kind of plan.

We were already intending to install a fenced-in run area outside one of the coop doors in preparation for the new chicks. They are due to arrive today and will spend their first month or so in the brooder with supplemental heat, so we thought we had some time before needing to reconfigure the coop.

That schedule will change now that the fox is paying visits in broad daylight. Free-ranging may need to be curtailed for a while until we build a protected space where they can do some not-as-free-ranging.

Meanwhile, we have returned to arguing with ourselves over whether to get a rooster for protecting the hens, or not. That is an unlikely solution for us, but we occasionally revisit the idea to make sure we still feel the same way.

Our precious layers deserve some support in terms of protection, so if not from a rooster, we’d like to figure out a viable alternative.

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Written by johnwhays

July 17, 2020 at 6:00 am

Exceptional Effort

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Last week I wrote about one of our Buff Orpington hens who we suspect scrapped with the possum that had gotten into the coop, and has been behaving oddly ever since. It is not clear whether it is a result of exclusion by the rest of the brood, or an act of her own choosing, but she has become a loner from the rest of the bunch.

In the coop, she has taken to staying in one of the nesting boxes, day and night. There is no obvious sign that she is being picked on (pecked on?) by the others, but she repeatedly sets herself apart.

For the most part, the chickens have remained in the coop for over a week while the winter has raged, first with an epic Arctic chill and then subsequent days upon days of snow. More than once, we have opened the chicken door when the harshest temperatures eased.

They’ve showed little interest in dealing with the snow, …or so we thought.

Yesterday, Cyndie came upon a most unusual trail of animal tracks in the deep snow. She worried that it was evidence of a fox stalking our chickens. She checked the coop and counted hens. There was one missing, but there were no obvious tracks, even though the door was open.

On her way back to the barn, she spotted it.

That loner Buff Orpington was sitting by the paddock fence, almost as if stuck in the snow.

The weird trail was the path that hen had traversed through the deep powder snow. She must have almost been swimming to make forward progress. It had to have taken a monumental effort to get as far as she did. I suspect she stopped out of exhaustion.

Cyndie couldn’t get to the hen without first getting a shovel to make her way through the knee-deep snow. She picked up the loner and held her close to warm her.

It’s hard to imagine what drove that Buff to attempt crossing the deep snow toward the barn overhang, other than this ominous behavior of isolating herself from the rest of the brood.

Cyndie put her back in the coop, setting her up on the roost in hopes of re-training her to not spend the nights in a nest box.

That didn’t last, as, by evening, the Buff was back in a box again.

A bit of research turned up a variety of possible internal maladies that may be the cause of her isolation. We are going to let time dictate an outcome, while doing whatever we can to keep the poor girl comfortable.

None of them are laying eggs of late, due to the shortened hours of winter daylight, so it’s difficult to pinpoint egg related issues, if that is what’s ailing her.

Meanwhile, the last visit of the night last night turned up new tracks in the snow that, this time, looked suspiciously fox-like. It is no surprise that the deep snow cover we now have has challenged predators to seek easier prey.

There is plenty of drama to be interpreted in the fascinating markings vividly appearing in all this new snow blanketing our fields and forest. We would prefer that it not involve the taking of any of our animals, but nature will take its course.

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Written by johnwhays

February 14, 2019 at 7:00 am