Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘losing chickens

Empty Coop

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It wasn’t long ago that we were renovating the coop in preparation for housing the two groups of chicks at the same time when we moved them out of their respective brooders.

Now the coop stands empty. On Sunday, my brother and his wife stopped by to pick up the three survivors of the massacre that took out 22 chickens.

The ghost predators that have been taking advantage of us for several months will not find one more chicken dinner here this year. Maybe that will provide incentive for them to move on to some other property.

We will take a year off to mull over the possibility of trying again. At this point, it feels like our methods will need to involve something less than free-ranging given the increasing priority of not experiencing any more losses like we’ve endured this year.

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Written by johnwhays

July 27, 2021 at 6:00 am

Poignant Reminders

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Buffalo Bill’s feathers were always so photogenic. These few still are, though he is now gone.

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Written by johnwhays

July 20, 2021 at 6:00 am

Three Survivors

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It was hard to avoid the harsh reality of our decimated flock of chickens when we returned to Wintervale yesterday afternoon. It was the first opportunity I was able to spend any time in daylight to finally see some of the areas of lost feathers marking where 22 chickens had been snatched.

As I was cleaning up three days of manure in the paddocks, I spoke out loud to myself when I spotted the distinct feather markings of Buffalo Bill. It looked like he didn’t give in without covering a bit of distance.

The poor horses must have seen this whole attack unfold. I hope they weren’t overly stressed by the incursion happening within their fenced confines. Maybe they were able to recognize only the chickens were being targeted.

We had asked our animal-sitter to keep the three surviving pullets shut in the coop until we returned after the weekend so she wouldn’t have to fret over their vulnerability.

Now we are faced with deciding if we are going to continue that practice or not. It’s sad but neither Cyndie nor I seem to have much will to invest any more hope toward an imagined future for them with us. I hate to think this way, but part of me wonders if it would have been easier if these three didn’t survive.

Cyndie buttoned up the fence boundaries of the coop courtyard in the two places where we had created the openings for those couple of days of free-ranging before the attack. We let the three prisoners out into the fenced space for a few hours.

I wondered if the coyotes were skulking around the edges of our property watching to see what we were doing. The last four times we have lost chickens happened shortly after we had gone back into the house. That can’t be by chance. The predators have to be watching to see when we are out and when we are not.

If I thought it would help, and if we somehow decided to have chickens again in the future, I’d make it a practice to always come back outside and check on things a few minutes after having gone in the house.

I wish we could offer the three survivors some consolation for the trauma they endured. Standing within the fencing with them yesterday, it was easy to see the new anxiety they exhibited over sudden movement and unexpected sounds. They were very jumpy birds.

Maybe these three had honed their emergency response hiding tactics better than all the rest. It’s sad that I had just written about the flocks’ impressive rush for emergency cover a mere two days before the massacre. I suspect that would protect them better against an assault from the air than the packs of fangs coming after them on the ground.

If those three survivors could talk, I wonder what they would have to say about the traumatic events of last Wednesday around dinner time.

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Written by johnwhays

July 19, 2021 at 6:00 am

Nice Distraction

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My hope of forgetting about the distressing loss of 22 chickens in one quick event didn’t really work but yesterday’s attempt sure was a nice try. I have to laugh (though it was more like a whimper) now when I look at the images I posted just a few days before the attack, showing all those birds and me sitting among them. That didn’t last long.

Our nice distraction yesterday of friends flying in for a day and the wonderful summeriness of dining on the deck and playing in and on the lake was quintessential lake life. We paddled kayaks and stand-up boards around the island and into the nearby bay, pausing to visit with folks on a neighboring property.

We soaked in the luxurious water and absorbed oodles of solar energy while chatting away the hours. It goes without saying that the food Cyndie and her mom served up was plentiful and divine.

One particularly noteworthy moment of the small-world phenomena came as Mike and Barb were headed down the steps toward Marie’s car for the short drive to the Hayward airport. We had invited a neighboring Wildwood member, Julie, to join us for dinner since she was here alone this weekend. Having visited all day and through the meal on first-name introductions, it wasn’t until we were leaving and Cyndie and Julie were inside cleaning up after the meal that Cyndie mentioned Mike’s Architecture firm does restaurants.

Julie asked what his last name was and then rushed out to re-introduce herself using her last name to reveal Mike and Julie had been working together, albeit, remotely, on one of her restaurants.

Surprise, surprise. And an electric moment for all.

Marie and I watched Barb and Mike’s plane lift off into the hazy air as they departed on their return flight to their lake place in Grand Rapids, MN.

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Mike reported the visibility as “Hayseeee.”

Their visit and the grand day at this lake place were a really nice distraction. Unfortunately, the reality I want to be distracted from remains a cold, hard fact… Still.

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Written by johnwhays

July 17, 2021 at 7:50 am

Thinking Positively

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It makes simple sense to me. Repetitive thought develops paths and synapses in our brains. What we are thinking grows pathways and releases chemical reactions in our bodies. When something difficult comes to us, we can simply be with the experience, but we don’t need to hold on to it. We can let it go and replace it with something positive.

We had a wonderful time with our chickens. Rocky was a great addition to our experience. Cyndie and I are working on filling our minds with the best memories of our hens and the challenge of finding their hidden eggs. We hear their calm chicken conversations and Rocky’s blustery crowing still in our ears.

We have eggs and plans to incubate some of them.

The sooner we release the tragedy of the dramatic losses that happened in such a short span of time, the better. We are noticing the flowers blooming across our forest floor. We are growing pathways in our brains with visions of a world we want to bring into being.

We are thinking positively.

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Written by johnwhays

April 26, 2021 at 6:00 am

Today’s Lesson

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Today, Cyndie and I are trying to process what lesson we might learn from the ultimate demise of our entire brood of 14 chickens over a span of two weeks when previous years have allowed us so much more time. Whether the most likely threat was coyotes or possibly hawks, we feel completely outsmarted and helpless against these forces of nature.

Yesterday, when the last four birds were taken from us, a leftover pile of feathers in the middle of our back yard, just steps away from where I was obliviously lounging on a recliner beside the fireplace, provided a particularly harsh stab of our inability to protect them.

Should we have changed something about our routine after the first attack? After the second?

It’s a moot point now. Except, there remains the probability we won’t give up trying. After the second attack, Cyndie decided to order an incubator to hatch some of our own eggs. If predators are going to keep taking our birds, we might end up just raising even more.

Evidence pointed to the latest attack playing out in uncomfortably close proximity to the horses whom we are striving to make feel safe and welcome. For now, our focus of attention shifts much more in their direction.

They provide both solace and distraction from our grief over the decimation of the chickens. We are learning how to frame our recent experience losing chickens and trying to soothe the angst of relocated rescue Thoroughbreds.

It may be today’s lesson, but I sense it is going to take a lot more time than a single day to fully absorb.

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Written by johnwhays

April 25, 2021 at 9:39 am

Sickle Feathers

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Well, it happened again already. Predators paid another visit in broad daylight, still ghosts to us, but deathly real to the chickens. This time we know that Rocky was right in the middle of it. Once again, chicken feathers were spread far and wide around our property. Rocky’s were close to the coop.

Tail feathers on Wednesday.

Minus tail feathers on Thursday.

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Cyndie found the intact bodies of two Light Brahmas. We lost the last Domestique, the two-year-old Golden Laced Wyandotte, and one of the Barnevelders. Another five down, leaving Rocky and three hens as all that remain to keep flies at bay, just at the time we brought horses back onto the property.

We can only hope that Rocky dished out as much abuse as it looks like he endured.

Cyndie picked up Rocky’s sickle feathers. We can only imagine what the fracas must have been like. I was at work and Cyndie never heard a sound. Most likely the horses would have been unsettled by the energy of predators on a killing spree. When Cyndie came out, everything was calm and collected.

I guess we should find solace in the fact our animals don’t appear to fret over the past. Everyone seemed just fine when it was over, albeit short some feathers, in Rocky’s case. Wish I could say the same for us.

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Written by johnwhays

April 23, 2021 at 6:00 am

Unpleasant Reality

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Today’s post is one I don’t really want to be writing, but it’s the story to be told. The ever-present risk of free ranging our chickens played out yesterday afternoon between the hours of 2 and 4 o’clock. We had stepped back into the house to dry off from hours of being out in the rain or slogging away on tasks in the barn.

An unidentified foe or foes, invisible like the ghost of almost every previous such incident we have experienced, attacked our chickens and left us down four hens. A fifth, the old Buff Orpington, was injured and cowering in one of the corners under the barn overhang.

Two of the Light Brahmas stood around her, appearing to offer both comfort and protection. The wide spread of locations where bursts of feathers revealed shadows of the violence that occurred presented a complicated picture of how this incident must have played out.P4090007e

Near the coop, two or three eruptions of feathers. On the other side of the back pasture fence near the round pen, two more, all looking like feathers of a Domestique and the only New Hampshire hen. Near the barn, another Domestique. In the middle of the large paddock, it looked like Buff’s feathers.

Way over on the far side of the barn and around the hay shed, up onto the pavement of the driveway, one more Domestique.

Cyndie picked up the Buff and placed her in a safe space in the barn. There was some blood from her injury. The hen accepted some water with supplemental iron and enzymes. She survived the night, but when Cyndie checked on her this morning, it was obvious she was in distress. While grasping with the difficult decision to end the Buff’s suffering, Cyndie ended up witnessing the sight of the hen’s final spasm of death.

We are down five hens, leaving eight survivors and Rocky. There is no way of knowing what our new rooster may have achieved during the fracas, but one version is that he saved eight. In fact, it’s possible he kept the Buff from being killed and carried away, which is interesting to contemplate since he was usually busy trying to excommunicate her from the group whenever possible.

P4090001eHe shows no evidence of having any of his feathers ruffled. The attacker(s) left behind the fully intact body of the New Hampshire, which means the only missing bodies are the three Domestiques. It is hard to imagine it was a lone fox carrying these three off from such a wide span of distances. Much more understandable if we envision two or three coyotes.

We know coyotes exist in the area, but in all our years here, I have yet to see even one roaming on our land. Even when predators pay us a visit in broad daylight, they remain unseen ghosts for me.

We are granted the privilege of living with whichever chickens they allow us to keep. We still have one hen of the Domestique breed left. While the surviving chickens were wandering around later in the day, I noticed that Domestique trailing far behind the rest of the group.

Poor thing probably wonders where her mates had gone. I was thinking she probably shouldn’t stray far from Rocky’s side. Her breed appears to be a favored one for the local marauders.

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Luck Ends

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Our surprising run of luck with keeping our latest eight free-range chickens in the wilds of rural Wisconsin farm country ended yesterday in a very similar fashion to our first attempt a couple of years earlier. In the waning hours of daylight, when Cyndie went out to close the chicken door on the coop, there were only three hens on the roost.

A cursory survey of the surroundings turned up one body and one pile of feathers. No other clues were found.

Some predator or predators had a good meal last night. It, or they, made off with four gorgeous hens.

It was a real joy while it lasted. Unfortunately, it is not joyous at all when lives come to an end. The cycles of natural life can be harsh.

The unwelcome drama made for a pretty crummy end to an otherwise rainy, gloomy day.

And then there were three…

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Written by johnwhays

April 29, 2020 at 6:00 am

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