Saturday, December 3, 2016

Chasing Chickens in the Dark

Every evening, when the sun disappears behind the hills and dusk settles heavy in our valley, the chickens make their way into the hen house for the night.  Then we close their door and they sleep, snug and safe, until the morning when we re-open the door.

Tonight, Brett and I finished up chores before dark.  Brett jumped in his truck and headed to the feed store to get me a bale of straw.  Next week is going to be very, very cold and I want to deeply bed the goat shelter.  When he returned, it was dark.  I heard the truck pull in, and a few minutes later Brett opened the back door and called to me.

"The chickens are outside the hen house, in a corner of the chicken run, and they won't go inside."

That was very strange chicken behavior.  It wasn't dusk, or barely dark, -- it was dark, dark.  Chickens don't like to be outside in the dark.  I put on my boots, gloves and jacket, and handed the flashlight to Brett.  We walked to the chicken area, with Kersey trailing behind.

Sure enough, four or five hens were huddled with Calvin in the far corner of the chicken run.  We could hear some clucking coming from the hen house as well.  Brett stepped into the hen house, and then said, "There's a hen on the floor.  I think she's dead."  Stepping behind Brett, I could see one of the two Cuckoo Maran hens on the floor.  She was clearly gone.  I carried her to the barn where I could see in the light that she had some blood on her neck.  Brett wondered if she had fallen, I wondered if there had been a fight.

Back in the chicken run, I picked up a couple of the hens and carried them into the hen house.  I was surprised at how docile they were.  We haven't handled the chickens in this flock, unlike the chickens we had when the kids were at home.  Camille, in particular, used to pick them up all the time.
One of the docile hens (photo by Steve)

We were left with two flighty hens and Calvin.  He wasn't moving much, or trying to protect them (despite them huddling behind him, against the fence).  There was blood on his comb and his wattles.  Calvin tends to be very rough with the hens so I suspect he was too aggressive with the dead hen, or she resisted, or both.
Calvin (photo by Steve)

The cuckoo marans are the only hens that are laying eggs right now.  We have been getting three or four eggs a week.  I love these hens; they are good layers, they are docile, and their eggs are a deep chocolate brown.  The hens, themselves are a dark grey with black stripes.
One of the Cuckoo Marans is on the right, in front of Calvin, in this picture

I'm more than a bit irritated with Calvin at the moment.  We've tried banishing him from the chicken run and hen house, leaving him to roam the property at liberty.  But he crows all night long.  I'm not kidding.  All night long.  We need to figure something out, though.  We can't keep losing hens.

6 comments:

  1. Oh that is too bad. Could he have his own little hen house?

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  2. I don't keep a rooster for that reason, but if I had one who was a bully to the hens he might not last long. We lost a hen this week too - just found her dead in the coop - but she was an older bird & maybe it was just her time. On days when I babysit my "practice granbaby" I don't get home til full dark; I can hardly see the gate to the run, let alone smaller details. One morning my husband asked me why I left one of the hens outside overnight? My question was, why didn't that dumb bird go to bed with the others?

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  3. I've heard of having a little rooster "bachelor's pad" over the coop.

    I ended up with two roosters in this spring's batch. As soon as rooster #1 began to act roostery, #1 hen bullied him for a few days and then he showed up dead (headless) in the coop one morning. Rooster #2 doesn't seem to bother her as much.

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  4. Sorry to hear about your hen. Calvin seems a little aggressive but since I know nothing about raising chickens I don't know if that's normal. I'd put him in his own coop I think so he won't harm any more hens.

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  5. I'm thinking chicken stock cuz he'll be gamey. Get another roster in the spring. No need to keep a rapist and murderer around.

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  6. My dad was always picky about the roosters he kept. If they ate before the hens, he'd kill them. Maybe it's a dominance thing--I don't know. But my dad has always raised chickens and always stuck with that philosophy. Anything except noble behavior on the part of the rooster and the rooster was literally "dead meat".

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.