Sunday, January 8, 2017

Crying Over Chickens

I've seen bobcat tracks in the snow around the chicken pen and, even after the snow was washed away, Kersey was sniffing around the perimeter in the mornings.  We were feeling kind of smug about it; our chickens safe inside and the bobcat pacing outside.

Until this morning.  We found one dead chicken and the carcass of another.  Picked clean.

I looked in the hen house and the two remaining hens were sitting on the highest rung of their roosting ladder.  Our beautiful black Andalusian rooster, Lord Byron, was a few rungs down, severely wounded.  I don't know if he will make it.  Calvin, the other rooster, was making quiet clucking noises from his perch on the nesting boxes.  When I opened the door, he went out into the run, spread his wings and crowed for all he was worth.

The two hens that were killed were favorites: Dixie Chick and my last Cuckoo Maran.  Plus the wounded rooster, Lord Byron, who is so beautiful and sweet.

I am certain it was the bobcat.  Brett has wire panels covering the sides and the top of pen, and chicken wire going partway up the sides.  The panels on the side have very small openings; four inches square.  On the top, the new panels are also 4" square but there are some older panels with larger openings, 4" x 6".  I think the bobcat climbed the side and squeezed through one of those larger openings.  It took him a few weeks to find a way in, but he was ultimately successful.

I moved the water bowl into the hen house and waited for Calvin to go back inside.  It took awhile, he wandered around in the rain for quite awhile before a thunderclap and heavy downpour drove him back inside.  Dixie Chick and the Cuckoo Maran were his hens.  I closed the door to the hen house, and the little pop-up door as well.

I don't cry often or easily, but I found myself fighting - and then giving in - to tears.  We have worked so hard to keep our chickens safe and I feel like we failed them.  Brett feels badly about the larger openings on the top panels; but we both agreed, at the time he installed them, that no animal could get through.

Between the loss of the tree and the loss of the chickens, its been a sad week at Oak Creek Ranch.

19 comments:

  1. Oh I am sorry. Since I was in tears over the loss of my barn swallow chicks I totally understand. Could it have been a weasel or something? I hope you can secure the pen! ((hugs))

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    1. We don't have weasels in our area and given the way the bobcat has been lurking around, I'm pretty sure it was him. Brett went out in the storm yesterday to buy supplies to reinforce the pen. When he's done, nothing larger than a mouse will be able to get in.

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  2. I don't blame you one bit for crying!! I never cried so hard in my entire life as when my bottle-fed goat, Starsky, died of urinary calculi. A friend came over to my house unannounced, and my husband told her I was out in the goat house, so she opened the door and found me on the floor bawling. She sat down and gave me a hug--she'd come to tell me she'd lost her horse! We both sat there and cried and did not judge each other for the thing we were crying over. We are their caregivers and we do our best, but sometimes that isn't enough to keep them alive. Living on a farm teaches us those hard lessons over and over and over and over. My heart hurts for you. You and Brett are the best caregivers out there--rest assured--and you went above and beyond to keep them safe.

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  3. :( Sorry to hear this Annette.

    If it makes you feel any better, the entire season's worth of pullets I lost was because I didn't double check the hardware cloth perimeter before I moved them from the brooder. I had inadvertently left a tiny part unsecured, and it took the coons only one night to find that weakness.

    Around here you have to sink hardware cloth six inches down into the ground to discourage coons and opossums digging under. I reinforced that barrier by laying 2x6s up against the walls. Also I have small hole (1 inch) poly chicken "wire" covering every inch of the walls and roof. It's easier to work with than the metal wire, doesn't rust and lasts years. Snakes can still get in and steal eggs though...

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    1. Brett bought the exact same poly chicken wire. We haven't had too much trouble with snakes (knock on wood) so far. Its squirrels that take the eggs usually. It makes me feel better knowing I'm not the only one who thought they had a secure pen, only to discover it wasn't. I know you are as thorough as we are on that stuff.

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    2. I forgot to mention that I tried this anti-predator system recommended by the company I get chicks from. It's solar powered and easy to set up. Can I prove that it works? Hard to say, but there has been no sign of predators since I began using it, and it's not terribly expensive.

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    3. The system looks interesting. I'm curious about how much light it throws. Is it like having a flashlight on or is the brightness much less?

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    4. Not bright. They flash in random patterns, resembling the way light reflects off of animals' eyes at night. They're supposed to make predators think there's another predator around the chicken coop. The units are small - three x four inches.

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  4. Oh what a shame. Once a predator finds prey they just won't stop. You must be just sick. I love my ladies so much and would also cry if they were gone. One thing I have learned with chickens is just to give them your best and enjoy them each day. I believe you guys did just that.

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    1. I was surprised at how upset I was/am. I didn't cry over any of the other dead chickens, and we've lost chickens from time to time over the years and I never cried. I think the combination of thinking we had it secure (and feeling like we were somehow responsible for not doing a better job), losing Dixie Chick, and my beloved rooster -- I was attached to those two chickens the most.

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  5. Oh, that's a shame. I would have cried too. We become so attached to the animals in our care. It wasn't your fault, there are just predators with agendas that don't give up until they get what they want.

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    1. Yes, you are right. The predators don't give up. We briefly discussed throwing in the towel because we know the predators will always be coming back -- but we love having chickens, and we love the eggs, and (at this point) we have spent a fortune on the chicken pen. We can't walk away from it now...

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  6. Ugh, that's so hard. We've had similar problems with raccoons and our chickens - we try so hard to keep them safe but those darn predators are just so wily. :( Hugs.

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  7. This is so sad :( I'm so sorry

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  8. An American in TokyoJanuary 10, 2017 at 12:15 AM

    I am so sorry to hear about your chickens. They are part of your farmily and so I'm sure they mean a lot to you and Brett.

    I hope there is a good solution for the bobcat...and soon.

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  9. What a week :-(. I too have cried and cried over the loss of animals...and trees. So frustrating. And infuriating. {{{hug}}}

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  10. I am upset for you, as well. It somehow seems worse when you thought all was safe for them. Would an electric fence be a solution?

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Thanks so much for commenting! I love the conversation.