Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘losing chickens

No Idea

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It’s a complete mystery to us, and an entirely unexpected circumstance for the demise of another chicken. I fully expected it would be a predator killing and running off with our next victim.

Jackie found an ominous scattering of black chicken feathers inside the barn yesterday afternoon when she arrived to tend to the horses.

We leave the bottom half of the split doors closed all day to dissuade the chickens from getting inside and leaving their calling cards all over the barn. They are certainly capable of hoisting themselves high enough to get up and over the half doors, but we have yet to catch them doing so.

Our first question is, then how did she get inside? Did she come in of her own accord?

The scattering of feathers were generally confined to two separate spots. What caused the loss of feathers?

Eventually, the trail of feathers led to the discovery of a body, curled up like a little napping kitty, back behind a stack of rakes and shovels leaning against the wall. The deceased hen was completely intact, with no visible wounds.

What was the cause of death?

We have no idea.

Did it get inside on its own and then have a panic attack? Did a predator chase it inside? Carry it inside?

Would a potential predator leap over the door? A cat would.

Did the chicken come inside and then surprise a predator inside? Most likely guess would be a neighbor cat that was trespassing in our barn.

This would have happened sometime in the middle of the warm sunny day yesterday. Cyndie and Jackie said it was really windy around here during the day. Did that have anything to do with how or why the chicken ended up in the barn?

No idea.

We are now down to 9 chickens, three each of the three breeds we purchased. In fact, we only paid for nine. We received 1 extra chick for each breed back in March. This marks the end of the spares provided to cover for possible loss due to any hardships for day-old chicks traveling through the US Postal service.

We received other news from Jackie last night. After a couple of weeks back in classes at UW River Falls, she has decided she needs to move back on campus. Our live-in helping hand will no longer be available to provide the coverage for us like she did through the summer. Jackie has allowed us a good number more weekends away than we’ve been able to achieve previous years.

Our basement “apartment” may be back on the market for someone who knows and loves horses. Also being able to handle a diva of a Belgian Shepherd would be an added plus.

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2018 at 6:00 am

Aw Heck

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Two chickens missing at bed check last night. No evidence visible in the low light of evening to account for their absence.

We knew this was likely to occur eventually, but, of course, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Cyndie’s audit identified the missing birds as a buff orpington and a golden laced wyandotte.

A survey for any sign of feathers dropped will commence after daylight this morning.

It’s enough to make you shake your head, going bonkers…

Hunter knows how to do it. That’s his cow face.

I think he was shaking off flies when I happened to snap that photo.

Those pesky flies love the eyes.

I bet the horses know what happened to the two missing chickens. I haven’t mastered the level of communication with them that would enable me to hear their version of the story.

Well after dark last night, I thought I might have heard coyotes in the distance. Maybe it was just my mind’s effort to provide an explanation for the unknown. Coyotes would seem a logical possibility, although, a certain fox would be an even more plausible alternative.

There was no memory card in the trail cam at the time, so the culprit(s) will probably remain unidentified.

For the immediate future, the plan for the 10 chickens still with us is to confine them to their coop. There’s no reason to believe this will solve anything, but it just feels better to take some kind of action against an unknown foe.

Maybe this will spur the hens on to make full use of those fabulous nest boxes in there. We’ve still only found 4 of the small eggs associated with the start of their laying career. That leaves six who have yet to reach this milestone of maturity.

We are even more vested now in hoping the rest will live long enough to get there.

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Written by johnwhays

August 8, 2018 at 6:00 am

Last One

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And then there was one. Cyndie came inside from feeding the horses yesterday around dinner time and reported that the Buff Orpington was the only chicken under the barn overhang.

The chickens are usually eager for her afternoon chores because they get a fresh serving of treats to eat. It was uncharacteristic for the two Barred Plymouth Rock hens to not show up. In addition, it was snowing like crazy, so it seemed odd that they would be off gallivanting around the property without the Buff.

That pointed to nothing good.

I put on my winter gear and joined Cyndie and Delilah in a scouting mission around the grounds. We circled past the trail cam, and I grabbed the memory card from it.

Cyndie had picked up three eggs from the coop in the afternoon, but our search didn’t come across any tracks revealing recent activity in the vicinity.

We headed inside with a sinking feeling of more loss.

For all the multitude of empty scenes that regularly show up on the trail cam, this time we landed one positive ID out of the nine images on the card.

That little fox walking toward the fence was ten minutes ahead of Cyndie and Delilah walking down that trail on their noon trek. They never saw it, but I bet Delilah smelled the scent.

We took a tiny bit of solace in the fact there was no chicken in the fox’s mouth in the image.

At dusk, with a looming trepidation, Cyndie went down to close the coop. The Buff was in there all by herself. With Delilah, Cyndie walked one more loop around the back pasture for any sign of what may have happened.

It was Delilah who took noticeable interest in a dark spot inside the fence. Cyndie tied Delilah outside and climbed through the wires and found the proof of our worst fear.

Now we are wondering if we will be able to accelerate the introduction of our new chicks to the lone surviving chicken from last year’s flock. The poor girl must have been cold and lonely all alone last night in the coop.

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Written by johnwhays

April 3, 2018 at 6:00 am

She Survives

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Much to our surprise, our Buff Orpington appears to be functioning normally after enduring a dangerous encounter which drew blood on Saturday in a fracas with our Belgian Tervuren Shepherd, Delilah.

Yesterday afternoon, Cyndie witnessed the hen drinking water and eating food in the coop, and when I peeked in on the chickens, our hero was in one of the nesting boxes, cooing.

I don’t know how she does it.

Looking back over the whole experience of deciding to make the blind leap into having chickens, despite knowing we had a dog who would do everything in her power to foil our plan, I am in awe of these three survivors who have endured every calamity of our inaugural year.

We thought it would be good to have chickens to help control flies, but we didn’t have a coop. So, I built a chicken coop. Then we just needed to get chickens. Cyndie ordered three each of three breeds from an online site.

Therein started our crash course in caring for chickens. Absolutely every challenge that arose was a first for us. Cyndie learned how to clean baby chicken butts when several of them developed problems.

We gambled on moving them to the coop before the weather had really warmed up consistently. We basically guessed our way through training them to free range, yet return to the coop. Finally, we left them completely on their own to avoid any number of potential passing predators.

Unfortunately, the losses started with Delilah, who ended up producing our first fatality when she broke free and grabbed a Rhode Island Red by the neck. Then in June, we lost six birds all in one horrible evening to an unseen attacker.

Somehow, the three that have survived all the challenges are closing in on their first birthday next month. I feel like they are doing it almost in spite of us.

After what the Buff has just been through, she has earned the bragging rights as toughest of them all.

Here’s hoping they all channel the survival skills gained in their first year into long and prosperous lives, and more importantly, that they might teach any new chicks that happen to show up, how to do the same.

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Written by johnwhays

February 12, 2018 at 7:00 am

Tragedy Visited

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I’m home again and Cyndie has everything under control, despite trying to do everything with one arm. The only difference I notice between now and a week ago when I left is the grass is long again. No surprise there. My thanks go out to all the people who helped out around here while I was off biking and camping.

The news that I shared with my fellow riders all week long was about a tragedy that happened on the Friday night that was supposed to be my first night of camping. An as-of-yet unidentified intruder decimated our chicken flock.

These three are all that we have left.

I hadn’t planned on being home at the time, but I was. With the bike tour starting less than a half-hour away from our home this year, I was able to use most of the day to finish chores, but I didn’t plan on running out of gas. The amount of time I spent getting to town and back was enough to throw my grand plan all out of whack.

Plan B involved driving to the school where the Tour started so I could get registered, then continuing on to the next exit off the interstate, where I picked up a prescription for Cyndie. With that in hand, I needed to drive back home to deliver it to her, so I decided to just sleep there and return to the school in the morning.

My sister, Mary, was over for the weekend to assist Cyndie. As I focused on packing for my trip, they headed out to close the door on the chicken coop for the night. Uncharacteristically, they found one chicken was up on our driveway by the house.

Eventually, they discovered two lifeless bodies, one inside the paddock and one just outside that same fence. Cyndie found one of the Barred Plymouth Rocks walking near the coop and got it to go inside. The one up near the driveway, the surviving Buff Orpington, was hiding in the woods and and wouldn’t come out until the next day.

I had gone out to bury the two fatalities in a compost pile and discovered the other Barred Plymouth Rock up in a tree. I was able to grab her and return her to the coop to keep the other one company for the night.

Final tally of the nine we had: two confirmed dead, three survived, and four missing in action.

Cyndie and Mary scoured the property for signs, but found no evidence to clue us in to what might have become of the others. We lost all of the Rhode Island Reds, two Buff Orpingtons, and one Barred Plymouth Rock to an unknown predator or predators.

Never saw or heard a thing, before or since. Could have been a neighboring dog or cat, or any number of wild threats. It’s possible that the some of the four missing chickens just ran away and never made it back home. I doubt we’ll ever know for sure.

It’s a risk we take to have free ranging chickens.

This morning when I wheeled a load of manure out to dump on the pile, the three surviving chickens were doing their best to dig through the compost and eat as many bugs as they could.

We’re gonna need more chickens.

I need to go mow the lawn.

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Written by johnwhays

June 24, 2017 at 9:46 am

Joking’s Over

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Last weekend, while spending extended time with friends in our home, I came to realize from some comments that I tend to paint an unbalanced portrait of Delilah, which leans toward the harsh. As recently as two days ago I posted a picture that I intended as humorous, giving her a thought bubble that played on my tendency to trumpet her carnivorous nature.

By frequently referring to how ferocious she can be, I have been neglectful of her gentle side. Our little pooch presents with a happy-go-lucky gentleness more often than not. In fact, it is probably why I don’t tend to write much about it. Her good behavior is so common as to become overlooked. We take it for granted.

It’s the exceptional moments of craziness that grab all the headlines.

Well, it’s hard not to write about the exceptional moments.

Today, I am feeling some regret about my attempt at humor over Delilah’s interest in our chickens.

Yesterday morning, while Cyndie was cleaning up under the overhang of the barn, Delilah could hold back no longer. She lunged hard enough against her leash anchor to break the handle and bend the hook it was hanging on. The handle banged against the siding of the barn and caused the horses to jump, alerting Cyndie to go check on what happened.

In that flash of seconds, we lost our first chicken to a predator. A domestic predator.

We knew all along that having free-ranging chickens around Delilah was high risk, but we simply hoped for the best. It seemed that our gradual controlled exposure to their presence was being accepted with surprising calmness, between bouts of excessive interest.

We knew she wasn’t to be trusted yet, but there were enough moments when she was demonstrating appropriate acceptance of the chickens that we felt hopeful about the chances of further improvement.

We don’t fault her for acting on her natural instinct. Delilah has given us a chance to more closely consider the delicate balance of predator/prey relationships. She is also forcing us to renew our attention to directing her exactly in the manner we need her to behave.

It’s not the dog that needs the most training. It’s her handlers.

To her credit, Delilah’s choice of victim turned out to be the extra Rhode Island Red from the batch of 10 we received for our purchase of 9 chicks. We are now down to three each of the 3 breeds we ordered.

Maybe yesterday’s incident will help me to think twice about joking over Delilah’s carnivorous ways in the future, but I’m guessing my writing will still highlight more of her wild behaviors than her quiet moments. It’s the nature of this beast.

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2017 at 6:00 am

Doesn’t Compute

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I don’t get it. How is it that a dog will eat vomit, feces of other animals, entrails, dog food, and a mummified carcass of a cat that was buried in manure that had been spread on a neighbor’s farm, but she refuses to ingest her prescribed antibiotic meds because they taste bad?

It doesn’t compute for me.

Cyndie tried hiding it in chicken, hamburger, peanut butter, cheese, cat food, all of which Delilah rejected with emphasis. Ultimately, Cyndie succeeded by slipping it inside a pasta noodle that was then covered by some other enticement.

Wednesday night was another difficult one, and by the middle of the day yesterday, Cyndie needed to take Delilah to the vet. She was getting dehydrated. They verified that some bacteria appears to have knocked her digestive system completely out of whack.

Treatment included re-hydration and meds that taste bad. Really? Did somebody there actually taste them to find out? What the heck could taste bad to a dog? Apparently, antibiotic pills.

Meanwhile, the chickens appear to be perfectly healthy and Legacy is taking full advantage of the black mud in the paddock to practice looking like a cow.

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I was all prepared to discover that one or more of our new chicks weren’t able to survive the barely controlled environment of the brooder that we set up in the barn. Each passing day that first week was a grand success, with the chicks growing more robust and looking increasingly comfortable and confident.

It has me thinking that it feels as though the very likely —if not inevitable— scenario of losing a bird to some illness or predator grows more significant with each passing day as well. The longer time they spend with us, the harder it will be on us to lose them, I’m sure.

So, the stakes on taking good care of our chickens go up every day. The more success we have, the more important it becomes that we continue to succeed. At least until the first loss occurs. After we have to deal with that reality of raising chickens a few times, I expect we’ll figure out a way to cope. It seems like all the people we have heard from or read about who raise chickens have gotten to a place of acceptance with the harsh reality of such losses.

It’s a reality that I can comprehend, which contrasts directly with the incomprehensible thought that anything could taste bad to a dog, after the things I have seen them eat.

That just doesn’t compute.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2017 at 6:00 am