Thursday, June 11, 2009

Catch Up Part Three

Chickens. Ah, where to begin. We've been having problems with our chickens recently. I went out of town for five days at the end of May, and when I got back I had six chickens (out of sixteen) left. I had gotten a little lax about shutting the hens in at night (stupid me, yes, all my fault and I know it), and never asked Simon to do it while I was away.

So, when I realized what happened, I sorta freaked and locked the chickens in the coop, intending to keep them locked in until we can get rid of whatever is eating them. Whatever it is is leaving bits of chicken spread all around our yard -- a tuft of feathers here, a wing there, a head there. Not particularly pleasant. Especially for the chicken.

The next day I go outside and walk toward the coop to let the chickens out into their fenced-in run for the day (the gate to which I kept open during the night, not thinking that I would need to lock it, since the coop door was shut). And I see the hen door wide open. And I have a sinking feeling in my gut. I walk inside and see the scattered feathers of my last barred Holland hen all over the floor. I now have five chickens left.

The thing is a raccoon. Smart enough to open a latch. I heard it purring in the upper level of our granary/garage one day last week. I think it's got kits. The picture below shows the hen door, with the old non-raccoon-proof latch in the center, and the new hope-to-god-it's-raccoon-proof latch on the right. If the little $^%@-er figures out how to work a carabiner, we'll try a combination lock. Maybe a thumb-print ID panel. Or a retinal eye scan.

So now we have one Delaware hen and one California White hen (first picture), a Welsummer hen (second picture), and a Ameracauna hen and rooster (third picture). We're getting about one egg a day, since two of the hens are three years old and not laying so much anymore. That, and probably the trauma of seeing their chicken friends get et by a marauding night fiend has probably scared the eggs right out of them.

Fortunately, we have reinforcements. On Monday I picked up a box with thirty-five baby chicks at the Post Office. A quick trip to the fleet store on Tuesday brought in ten more. So now we have forty-five peeping fuzzballs in a kiddy-pool in our basement. It's amazing how fast chicks grow. In two weeks I'll have to set up a cage for them outside in the coop, and by the time they are two months old they will be big enough to mingle with the old timers. Five months from now we will (hopefully) be inundated with eggs from the new hens. And ready to butcher a bunch of the roosters for the freezer. But that's a whole other story, one I'll save for later this summer.


Karen said...

I can't believe that one racoon can kill that many chickens in a five day span!!! Isn't it that darned rooster's job to protect them? What good is the man if not to take care of the hens??? It's not as if he needs to be fertilizing anything... Threaten him with becoming soup next time he "chickens" out!!

Jo said...

Roosters aren't very good protectors, and are basically worthless unless you are raising the eggs to hatch. And then sometimes they're still worthless...

But I like the sound of their crowing, and they are pretty to look at.

I could make some analogies here with the males of other species, but I will show great amounts of willpower and refrain from doing so.

Frustrated Farmer Rick said...

My old rooster is pretty good at alerting the flock to hawks. But he wouldn't stand a chance against one. I am told geese make decent watchdogs but are otherwise kinda mean.

Karen said...

I kinda want to hear your analogy to men and their similarities to roosters...! Rick kinda skipped right over that comment of yours, Jo!!

Kathy said...

I don't want to read the butchering story that you've got planned for later. You can skip it.

Alec's mother had a problem with animals breaking into her chicken coop and eating chickens. She decided to put one of her German Shepherds in the coop to sleep at night. Hasn't had a problem since. Would you like me to have her set aside a puppy in her next litter? They are really smart and easy little puppies to have! Always stay around. Dexter is already potty trained. Hasn't destroyed anything yet. You should get one!

The new kitte is very cute, by the way!