Monday, June 5, 2017

Another Chicken Massacre

No gruesome photos.  No photos at all since this occurred at 10pm.  Lucky you.  Not so lucky us.

The chicks had a grand time on Saturday and Sunday, running in and out of the hen house and exploring the chicken run.  After the last massacre, Brett put chicken wire along the sides (sunk into the ground) and across the top.  Some teeny tiny birds squeeze through the wire, and squirrels tunnel in, but other than that nothing gets into the chicken area.

Or so we thought.

Last night I was sitting on the couch, with my feet up, working a puzzle on my iPad and thinking about heading upstairs to bed.  It was quiet outside, with just the sound of crickets and frogs drifting in through the open window.  And then, the sound of chicks chirping joined the crickets -- and then the chirping got very loud.  Odd... the chicks should have been inside the hen house fast asleep.

I assumed one had gone out into the chicken run and couldn't get back in (it is a bit of a jump from the ground to the ledge of the pop-hole in the hen house door).  I put on my clogs and grabbed a flash light, ready to find and rescue the chick.

The beam of the flashlight revealed a skunk, leaping (they don't run, they leap like deer) from one end of the run to the other, chasing chicks.  Chicks were flying through the air, bundles of white, yellow and orange fluff.  I opened the chicken run gate and rushed in (I know, I'm lucky I didn't get sprayed), shouting at the top of my lungs for Brett and screaming "GET OUT!"  It didn't; and Brett wasn't coming -- so I ran back towards the house.  I saw Brett coming around the corner of the garage.

"Are you okay?" he called.

"No! A skunk is attacking the chicks."

The conversation continued as we rushed back to the chicken area.

"How did it get in?"

"I have no idea."

The skunk was gone.  And there were chick carcasses littering the ground.  We opened the hen house door and saw more dead chicks.  We found a few live chicks here and there, and then a group of eight or so huddled in the far corner of the run.  I carried them into the hen house, and locked the door -- with the pop-hole shut.  Between counting the dead chicks as we put them in a bag, and counting the live chicks as I picked them up and moved them, we completely lost count.

I think we lost six chicks.  I counted eleven in a dog pile in the corner of the hen house this morning.  They were clamboring over each other -- so it was very hard to count.

We were up at 5am, first light, to get a better look at the chicken pen.  We discovered how the skunk got in.  It moved the mango and grapefruit sized rocks that blocked the gate, and dug a hole under the gate.  Brett sunk a board and some rocks this morning, and secured them with stakes so they can't be moved.  We like to keep the pop-hole open in the summer when the nights are warm, but we won't be doing that anymore.  At least, not until the chicks are full grown.

The two existing hens were roosting on the top rung of their roosting ladder.  They didn't move a muscle.  They are survivors, those two.

This mountain living, on the edge of the wilderness, is beautiful -- but it sure is difficult.


  1. OMG that's horrible I just played your video for my husband and now....

  2. What a rotten surprise! The barn I ride at had brought in goats yesterday, to clear weeds in the paddocks. Mamas with kids afoot were unloaded into a pen and given time to adjust to new surroundings. Mid-morning, a Coyote was brazenly watching through the fence. The goats were loaded up and taken safely home. It could have turned into a horror show.

    1. That could have been gruesome. Good that they took the goats away.

  3. Dear Lord, my heart sunk reading this. I was going to ask about that in the last post because I wasn't 100 percent sure you'd solved the past problem. Those 2 hens...what the heck?? Do they have some special charm?? Could it have been a skunk ALL this time?? I had no idea skunks were so viscous.

    1. We thought we had solved the problem -- Brett put chicken wire on top of the existing wire fencing covering every inch of the sides and tops. He even sunk the wire into the ground so we were sure (and wrong) that the pen was predator safe. And, we know it was a bobcat last time because I saw it in the pen. I'm not sure that a skunk would take on a full size chicken but the chicks... obviously, yes. Those hens were smart. Skunks have lousy eyesight and they were way up high. I bumped their roost on accident when I was looking for surviving chicks and they didn't make a sound.

  4. I can picture you in you running in like a a banshee. I would have done the same. I'm sorry that you lost the chicks.

  5. This is so hard! We feel so bad because we were supposed to protect them. I have seen raccoons be that smart and determined but never a skunk. I feel for you guys.

  6. An American in TokyoJune 5, 2017 at 5:17 PM

    Wow, I'm sorry to hear about the chicks and the skunk(!), but those two hens really are smart!!

    Is there a shortage in food that these guys keep coming onto your property and attacking the hen house?!

    You are brave! I could never go anywhere near a skunk!

  7. So sorry to hear about the skunk massacre. I lost a fully grown hen - Verna, one of my favorites girls - on Friday, to a brazen pre-dark, pre-roosting, out in the open raccoon attack. The coon was a lactating mama who was so hungry it was hard to persuade her to leave the carcass. Ended up trapping her later that evening.

    What has worked so far keeping predators out of my coop is 1/2 inch square hardware cloth - sunk into the ground 6 - 8 inches down. It is a total pain to work with, hard to cut and tears your hands up, but the critters will not try to dig near it...


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