Sunday, December 18, 2016

From Thirteen to Four

Four hens -- that's all we have left.  Out of our flock of 13 hens and two roosters, we now have four hens and two roosters.
One of the victims. 
We lost some of them to some mystery disease or the cold; but not all of them.  Some of the chickens became lethargic and, after a few days, they died.  Some of them had bloody necks and you may remember that I found drops of blood on Calvin's comb a few times -- and accused him of playing a part in the hens' death.  It seems he did play a part; but not the one I thought.

He was trying to protect the hens, is my guess.

Today was very cold.  Last night we had a hard frost (temperatures below 28F for more than five hours).  This morning, the frost was so thick that it looked like snow.  I used a big piece of wood to smash the ice that had formed on the horses' water troughs.  We did the chores quickly and then scurried back into the warmth of the house.

I spent the afternoon baking Christmas cookies.  My kitchen window looks out over my garden, to the chicken area, and the dressage court further out.  As I was baking, I heard the chickens squawking and looked out the window.  I called to Brett, who was watching football and eating peanut butter toast, in the other room.

"I think the chicken who was ailing must have died.  The rest of the chickens are huddled in the corner, squawking like mad -- just like they did when the first chicken died."

Brett went out and, sure enough, the chicken was dead.  But she wasn't in the hen house, in the corner where she has huddled for the past week.  She was laying outside, and her neck was bloody.  We hoped that the other chickens hadn't pecked her much; since if the chickens are getting sick, we don't know if it is contagious.

I continued with my cookies. Brett continued with his football.  Kersey slept by the wood-stove on her bed.

Not even an hour later, I heard more squawking.  Looking up I could see grey furry ears and chickens flying around their area.  I slipped on my clogs and went out the door.  There was a bobcat in the chicken area, and it had one of the chickens.  When it saw me in the garden, it turned and went up and over the fence -- by the gate, where it isn't covered.  I came back inside the house and got Brett.

Meanwhile, the bobcat jumped back into the chicken area and went back to the chicken it was planning on having for dinner.  It gave me a dirty look as it climbed back out and walked towards the girls' pasture.  It wasn't a large bobcat; about as tall as Kersey.  It looked like a large domestic cat; with a bobbed tail, spots, and very long legs.  Just past the bridge, it paused and looked over its shoulder at me.  Brett came around the corner, by the hen house, with his gun.  The bobcat took one look, and disappeared into the pasture, and then under the fence into the blackberry bushes.

The chicken was almost dead - we thought it was dead at first.  Brett killed it and then removed it from the area.  It had the same bloody neck that two of the other chickens have had.  So, it seems that Calvin has been attacking the bobcat and running it off.  Maybe he's a good rooster after all.

Meanwhile, the remaining chickens are closed up in the hen house.  Brett has his thinking hat on; the one that figures out the details of projects on the property.  We will replace the flock in the spring, but need a way to cover the chicken area completely and keep them safe.  Three quarters of the run is covered now, leaving the area right around the oak tree open.  Clearly, that needs to be covered somehow as well.

I have to admit that despite being a very self-sufficient girl, who isn't overly sentimental, and isn't in the least bit girly --- my heart went all fluttery watching Brett stalk that bobcat.  After he took care of the second dead chicken, and put his gun away, I gave him a hug.  "What was that about?" he asked.

"You were so manly out there." I said.
Words cannot express how much I love this man.


All photos by Steve Neely

14 comments:

  1. I was thinking the same thing as you described the incident. That's when you're happy you have a good man! I wouldn't want to deal with bloody, dead chickens and bobcats, I could, but I'd rather not. It's good to have a help-mate. I'm sorry about your chickens, but building a full enclosure will probably solve your predator problems.

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  2. Predators always find a way! I'm glad that you found the predator. But disease and the cat those poor chickens!

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    1. Thanks Lori, sometimes you gotta do what you have to do.

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  4. So sorry about your flock. We have a lot of wildlife here and while they are beautiful and interesting, sometimes I wish they were not so close so I don't worry so much about my own critters.

    I must admit I snickered at the 28 degrees. It was minus 26 here Sunday morning.

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    1. I figured my readers in Montana, New York, the Midwest and places where it gets really, miserably cold in the winter would snicker. I was born and raised in Southern California so this feels really, really cold to me. (Yes, I know, you are laughing again).

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    2. Well, I do understand. I grew up in Alabama and have lived in Texas and Arizona as well as several less-warm locations. It took me several years to adjust to Minnesota!

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  5. Over the years we've lost some (or all) of our flock to heat, cold, and predators. Finding them dead is always a shock, and keeping them safe is so, so hard. I'm sorry for your loss. :(

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  6. Whoa - the chicken drama quotient is rising fast.

    So sorry to hear about your flock's misfortune. I know they're "only" birds, but I've become quite attached to mine. There is no doubt that Brett will have the predator situation sorted in no time.

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  7. An American in TokyoDecember 20, 2016 at 6:58 PM

    Glad to know you finally were able to find out who was the culprit!
    You are so lucky to have a wonderful man like Brett!
    I hope I can find someone like that! I can't even handle cockroaches!

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  8. I'm glad he didn't shoot the bobcat!

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.