Tag Archives: hens
1 Sep

Yesterday started out like any other………Wake up before dawn, have coffee, check the news.  When the sun comes up let the girls out so they can free range, check food, check water, the good morning routine.

I had a million things to do before the sun got too hot, so I didn’t visit with the girls like I usually do.  Giving everyone a good eyeballing, the head count, a little hand feeding, I just didn’t have time.

I went out into the pasture and leisurely made a 60 foot row for the squash plants Kenny had purchased 2 days ago, to replace the last of our seeds that I failed to get started (they were a little old to begin with).  I took my time because I don’t like rushing through the planting process, I wanted to get the paper nice and tight, and it was early morning — a time that I greatly enjoy being out playing in the dirt.

Halfway through getting the paper down nice and tight I heard a strange “thud” noise.  I immediately went to investigate due to a recent pecan limb that fell on top of our brooder house/pen…….

photo (57)photo (59)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lovely, right?

As of today, the limb is still where it landed for a couple of reasons: 1. the end that broke off is stuck in the crook of the two main trunks of the tree approximately 15 feet up in the air.  2.  About a week ago I put 15, 7 weeks old babies plus Georgia inside this pen and I’m not exactly ready or have a place to relocate them.  Georgia has not yet enticed the babies up the ramp and into the house, therefore catching them would be most traumatic for everyone.  I will have to get the little boogers into the house to make catching easier.  3.  I’m afraid that whilst taking down the limb the pen will be damaged or destroyed and so must “move the entire flock” before removal of the limb.  4.  and finally I’m waiting on some big hulking, strapping son-in-laws to come visit to get the job done.  5.  Kenny and I both checked the security of the limb and it’s pretty much there for the long haul so I am thinking I have time to figure out where and when to move the whole brood.

So I hear the “thud” and my first thought is great another limb fell.  I get just close enough to check out the area (visually), see nothing out of the ordinary and go back to my squash row.  I vaguely recall seeing Stella’s head poke out from the laundry room, looking at me (like, what mom?).

Squash row completed, planted and watered and I was one beat old woman.  Hot, tired and sweating like all get out.  I go into the house chill out, get a bit to eat, have coffee, and watch a movie.

Now, normally on any given day the a/c is turned off and the back door is left open.  Stella likes to go in and out with every sound she hears, or cat she sees across the street.  Doesn’t matter that she can’t ever, ever, ever “get to the cats”, whenever she sees one across the road, she absolutely has got to be outside to bark at them from 500 feet away, behind our fence. Like somehow that is going to scare them away.  They of course could care less and don’t even react.

Movie over I tell Stella it’s time to get back outside.  Kenny is watching a movie in the other room so I tell him I’m headed back to the garden.  As I exited the house the thought struck me, who closed the back door?  When I got to the back step something was off.  There were no chickens.  I scanned the yard wondering where they all were.  At that time of day they are always under the maple tree.  Then I spied “Red” our one and only RIR, and 1 Leghorn.  Okay good, so where is Beatrice?  She seems to always know when I am on that back step and comes running from wherever she is to say hi and see if I have any treats.  Dread filled me as I made my way to the back of the yard, past the brooder pen, and the old barn, no chickens anywhere.  As I rounded the corner of the brooder pen and got between the new chicken house and the old barn my heart hit the ground.  There were dead bodies EVERYWHERE!!!!!

Death toll:

Beatrice     my favorite Dominique, the chatter box and flock busybody

4 EE’s         hatched on our farm, 1 found with no head

3 Leghorn     rescued from an abandoned home, 1 found with no head

Rooster Jr.     hatched on our farm

1 Leghorn completely missing, no body found

IN BROAD DAYLIGHT!!!!!

Whatever is was came through the fence that surrounds our entire property (8 acres), very easy to do as the fence is predominantly a 5 strand barbed wire fence. Then came over the 4 foot fence that encloses our back yard which is welded wire 2 inch by 4 inch squares and no there are no holes underneath, as the fence was installed with the chickens in mind and not wanting them to go “under” the wire.

We have seen several different “tracks” in the garden, among those are fox, raccoon, coyote or very large (very large) dog.

As we were “cleaning up” Kenny commented that he found it curious that Stella relieved herself next to one of the dead chickens.  He thinks she was “marking” another animals scent.  Just wish she could tell us what kind of animal she was covering up.

To make our day even better, a couple of hours later I entered the chicken house (for about the 5th time) to check on the 2 EE’s that were hiding in there and found, of all things, a chicken snake!!!  Ugh!!!  I have no clue why but for some reason I ran for the house to get the hubby instead of grabbing the hoe that was easily within my reach.  So of course by the time we got back the dang snake was gone.

Before locking everyone up last night, I put the 4 remaining hens inside of one of the quarantine pens that is inside the big chicken house.  This pen originally had 1 EE that had decided to go broody and was sitting on 3 eggs.  Four hens and 3 eggs inside of a quarantine pen, door closed and locked, inside of a chicken house with all door closed and locked.

Trap set outside the run.

Got up this morning, went out to the big chicken house to let the girls out, feed and water and explain to them they would have to remain in the chicken yard today as I just couldn’t let them free range (yet).  Trap was empty as I suspected it would be, raccoons rarely attack in the day.  What do I find in the quarantine pen:  4 hens and 2 eggs.  No eggs shells, no baby, no nothing.

What the hell?

Freedom, but at what price?

1 Nov

I keep reading posts from other chicken bloggers that have prompted me to write this story.  Having lived through a chicken massacre, chicken security is a big issue with me.  Beware of things that go bump in the night?………………………….The days my friend, are just as dangerous.

I love my chickens, not as much as my husband or my children, or even my dog Stella, but I do love them.  I make sure they have good food, abundant water and kitchen treats, and they in turn give me those wonderful eggs.  Sad to say, but they are also like a good dose of therapy — no matter what is happening in my life, a visit with the girls has the ability to lower my blood pressure and bring a smile to my face.

There was a dual purpose for our chicken adventure.  Namely bug control in the garden.  I have watched my husband fret over tomato horn worms for years now and even helped pick those little buggers off his precious tomato plants more times than I can count.  Chickens of course would help alleviate this problem, less work for us is always a plus.

Having had chickens in the past I met with a considerable amount of resistance from the man.  He had his fill of chicken security and didn’t want to go there again.  It would be different this time, I encouraged him, we actually  live here now that’s gotta make a difference.   Assuring him that I could come up with predator proof living arrangements for a flock of defenseless animals took some doing.  Then of course there was the statement that had to be made that I wouldn’t “spend a fortune at the Vet’s office” if one of “my” chickens got attacked by something.  Not an entirely true statement, but I had to make it anyway and of course if that ever happens I’ll definitely get the “I told you so” statement in return.

When you live on a farm that has been in the family for multiple generation, the raising of animals (like chickens) comes and goes with each generation.  Many years ago, my mother-in-law (Nana) decided she missed having chickens on the farm and wanted to get her own flock.  Being the good son he was, my husband obliged her by building a 6 foot tall enclosure attached to the old chicken house.  He even went so far as to bury two feet of wire in the ground for their added safety.  Several hens were purchased from the local chicken lady and all was well.   So enjoyable were these new hens we added ducks and turkeys to her flock.

Nana and Maw (her mother) were happy, the chickens were happy, the children loved collecting eggs, we loved eating the eggs–all was right with the world.

NOT!!!

Peace is always disturbed by a phone call, don’t ya know.  The first one came and it didn’t really ring a huge alarm, in my head.  (It’s just a dog after all.  We have dogs, you have dogs, everybody has dogs in the country, except of course Nana and Maw. Chase the thing off and it’ll go home.)  Sure enough after making the short 1.02 mile trip to the farm, no dog.  Unfortunately the phone calls didn’t stop there, they became more frequent and more frantic.  Each time warranted a trip to the farm, inspection of the coop and run, long conversations in the yard–a retelling of the events by Nana and Maw.  One particularly bad incident required 48 stitches to a turkey breast.   Finally, the great white hunter had enough and decided it was time to go a hunting.  Seriously now, he would get all dressed up in his hunting gear and even cover his face with camo paint, then he would go hide himself in various shrubs and bushes at the farm.  He would hunt at dusk, he would hunt at dawn, he hunted so much I forgot what he looked like.  Then one glorious day he returned from the hunt cussing, damn chickens, damn dogs, damn those stupid chickens….Not to be left out I came back with- what the hell happened now?   He proceeded to tell me how he had gotten to the farm at 5 a.m. that morning, went into the kitchen, told Maw morning, got a cup of coffee and then settled himself downwind from the chickens.  He sat in that same spot for near 2 hours and was about to give up and come on home when he spied the culprit down the street.  He watched that dog as it made its way down the driveway headed for the coop.  He got aim on the dog as it paced back and forth along the fence, eyeing the hens, calculating its next move.  When that dog began to dig a hole underneath that damn fence, he popped off a shot and sent that dog running with a butt full of bee-bees.

Oh crap, I said, did you kill it?  Then of course, I got that “have you lost your mind look.”  No I didn’t kill it, he said, But somebody’s gonna be making a trip to the Vets office and I hope it’s costs them a fortune!

Peace returned to the farm…………………………………………or so it seemed.

About 2 months later we went to the farm for Sunday dinner.  We’re in the kitchen having a good time, talking about this, that and the other.  All of sudden Nana says, “Oh something got one of the chickens the other day.” WHAT!!!!!  She had gone out there to feed one morning and collect eggs when she found its body.  Literally just the body inside the fence, no head.  Since there was nothing anyone could do, she just bagged up the carcass and put it in the trash.  Lovely, just lovely.  The great white hunter of course calmly and sweetly read her the riot act.  How on earth could he possibly figure out what “did that” if he has no carcass to inspect.  GROSS!!!

Whatever it was revisited the farm several times over the next 6 months, taking out one bird here and one bird there.  And always the same MO, ripping off the head and leaving the body behind.  According to the great white hunter potential murder suspects included:  raccoons, owls, and weasels (including ferrets, fishers, mink and martens).  My love for animals no longer includes those from the disgusting animal category.  Periodic hunting “trips” were unsuccessful.  Didn’t really matter though, carnage would come soon enough.

The call came bright and early on a Saturday morning.  Frantic doesn’t even come close.  No time for hunting gear today.  It took him less than 2 minutes to grab what he needed and shouted over his shoulder he’d call us when it was done.   This time the weapon of choice held a bullet.  The dog had brought his friends!

I stood at the door in shock and watched as he floored the car down the road.  This is bad, I thought, real bad.  My husband is normally a calm, cool, collected, calculating sort of person.  Mulling every situation around in his head until a solution can be found, to the point that his “procrastination” drives me insane.  You would know the one time he actually answers the phone himself I have no clear picture of what’s happening.  I grab the phone and dial the number for an explanation.

A pack of dogs I’m told have attacked the farm.  They are all over the place!  TEN by head count!  The ruckus was so loud the neighbors called the police, fearing one of the ladies was being mauled in the yard.  They arrived on the scene within moments of each other and quickly surveyed the situation.  The 6 dogs that remained stood breathless and bloody as dead and dying birds lay everywhere.  I can not tell you what went through my husbands mind when the policeman informed him there was “nothing he could do unless he saw an attack with his own eyes”.  As if on cue the lead dog made a mighty jump and landed inside the pen, grabbed a bird and jumped his ass right back out!  (I kid you not!)  The two men eyed each other and words did not need to be said. A service revolver was pulled and shots rang out, injuring the dog who never stopped running with that bird in his mouth.  They pursued him across the street and found him behind a downed log, shots rang out again as the officer finished his job.

I remember getting to the farm and seeing these two men crossing the street as I turned into the driveway, thinking why on earth are y’all over there?  My husband gave me an angry look as I exited the car and shouted for me to get the kids in the house immediately.  When I passed the kids off to Nana and Maw they just shook their heads in disbelief of the morning.  I didn’t have to walk far past the back door to see what carnage lay before me.  Words can not describe the massacre.

These were no feral dogs, my friend.  We’re talking about well fed dogs with collars and tags.  This atrocity was not done out of hunger, this was pure and simple sport!  Anger does not even come close to how I felt about these irresponsible dog owners that thought nothing of letting their beloved pets roam free.   Oh yeah, I forgot, the dog that was shot with our hen in his mouth belonged to a friend of the policeman!

No words could be said as we cleaned up the destruction left behind.  This lovely “pack of pets” left not one bird unscathed!  Of the few that were still alive, their injuries were so severe we had no course of action but to relieve their suffereing.  Damn dogs wiped out our entire flock!

So yea, it took some convincing to get a flock again 10 years later.  Yep, I’m paranoid about security.  For now my girls will have to settle for their extra large coop and their extra large enclosure with it’s 1/4 inch wire fence and chopped greens and weeds from the garden.  I long for the day when we have completed our stock panel fence, as it will encompass not only the 1 acre yard around our house, but the coop and the smaller garden as well.  Crazy me, I am even in the process of planning to hang avian netting “above” that garden so the girls can roam “hawk and owl free”.

For all those chickens lovers out there that “let your girls out” and then “leave to go to work”, you are so much braver than I am, I just can’t take that risk.   I implore you to rethink this practice.

Chicken rescue

19 Oct

A few days ago, I received a phone call from a friend (M.) that does home health care.  Seems her patient, a woman with early Alzheimer had, well basically been taken advantage of by some jerks.  She had allowed them to live in her rent house free of charge PLUS paid them $100 a week to take care of her, run errands and cook meals.  In exchange they had every so nicely ripped her off of around $30,000 writing checks on her account she did not authorize.  Nice people huh?  While they were living fat off the hog, they also talked her into building a chicken pen and letting them keep chickens on another piece of adjacent property.  I don’t know the entire story, however these users disappeared some time ago, hence the need for my friend to come in and take over the job.  Yes, M. works for an agency and let me tell you, she takes care of her people.  Lovely as these people were, they of course left the chickens behind.

That’s what the phone call was about, the chickens.  They had been left for several weeks with nobody coming back to feed and water.  M. had been doing her best to help when she made her home visits.  But let’s face it, 20 some odd birds eat and drink a lot and her main concern was with taking care of her patient.  The birds had to go.

As they were waiting on a call back from animal control I was contacted as a second option for a new home for these poor birds.  As I pondered how many I could take on myself, I made some additional phone calls to potential homes as did M.  We soon learned Animal Control  would charge for removal and I suspect put down all birds as there are no facilities for unwanted fowl.  Unfortunately that’s life.

Adding new birds to an existing flock when you have no idea of their health condition, is not an advisable adventure.  For one thing you could be introducing disease into your own flock, for another you mess up the entire pecking order and you may find yourself with a few injured birds on your hands.  Fortunately I have two separate pens and could use one for quarantine.

Now I have rescued animals before and spent oodles of money bringing them back to health.  We even rescued a puppy once, only to find out the poor thing had distemper, $400 and several trips to a vet later the poor thing died in our laundry room anyway.  So I am a little hesitant to knowingly bring disease onto my property.  I made the decision to “take a look” at this flock of unwanted birds.

I arrived at the location to find 20 chickens and a rooster in a pen probably 10 feet by 10 feet, 3 waterers bone dry and not a morsel of food to be found!  I do not understand people at all!  Somehow the birds looked pretty good, skinny as all get out but “clean”.  No doubt in part from M. periodically bringing bird seed and giving water when she made her home visits.  Since she had found another home for the birds in addition to myself, I decided to take the 6 Leghorn as I do not currently have this breed.  I caught each one relatively easy  and quickly assessed they were all in need of a good meal.

I also noticed that every comb was very dusty looking?  Supposedly these are “young” birds, not yet laying eggs according to M.  Since there are absolutely no eggs or even egg shells in this tiny pen I have no reason to doubt her assessment.  But why the dusty combs?  I’ll have to research that one.

They are now happily ensconced in our small pen.  Good food and vitamins applied, I will be making a health assessment over the next couple of weeks.  Later they will get a good worming and a dose of antibiotics for good measure.  I don’t normally medicate my birds unless absolutely necessary and since I don’t know what the previous owners did I’m not about to “over” medicate these scrawny little things until they have had a few good meals under their belts.

LOL, these are some of the most skittish birds, let me tell ya.  They are as frightened of me as a mouse of a cat on the prowl.  I can only assume it is due to lack of human contact.  Perhaps in time they will come to trust me and greet me at the gate like our other flock.

New Chicken Yard

6 Jul

I’m waiting on a batch of boiling hot (220 degrees) fig jam to cool off a little before I ladle it into the jars and start canning.  Actually I am waiting on the lids to boil cause I forgot to put them on, so we wait.  I got a lot accomplished today and that always feels good, ya know.  I started my day bright and early working on the new chicken yard and spent 4 hours in there weed-eating the jungle of grass that has grown up since the first time I cut it (right before we started the project).  It was so tall I had to go over it twice and rake up the cuttings in between.  Yea I know that’s pretty tall.  The girls didn’t like it much either.  This may sound nuts but I want to plant some bushes and maybe one or two dwarf trees in there to give them shade and an interesting place to live, plus plants bring bugs and chickens love their bugs don’t ya know.  Once that was completed I spent another 2 1/2 hours worked on getting a tarp over the whole thing to give them some temporary shade until I can do the landscaping (okay that cracks me up–I am going to do “landscaping for the chickens”, really?).  It took a fishing pole and about 20 or 30 trips back and forth, and inside and outside before I got  the job done (by myself).  I’m pretty pleased with the way it turned out………

What do you think?  I left some of the grass tall just to give them something to hide in or play in or whatever chickens do in the day.  In the middle there are several nice size pieces of a fallen tree, nicely rotting with bugs and stuff.    Ooooh, gotta go…….be back shortly

Lids were done so I had to go ladle out the jam and get them in their hot water bath.  I still have figs left so I thought I would make a second batch since I am already in the swing of things.  Got that started and didn’t have enough figs………..You know what I love about living here, that I could just go out there and pick enough ripe figs to make enough for a second batch of jam.  How awesome is that?

We recently joined a Farmers Market to sell whatever produce we have on hand.  Somehow I am the coordinator, not sure how that happened but hey it’s all good.  I went to the first one a couple of weeks ago without produce mainly because I wanted to get a feel for what went on behind the scenes at one of these things and also because all the produce we had at the time was like needing to be “put up”.  Last week I went with tomatoes, cherry tomatoes eggplant, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, fresh figs, homemade chili sauce and homemade salsa. Okay so like I need to be a little more organized next week cause it was a pain in the butt getting set up, other than that it was pretty fun.  Visiting with other small farmers, talking to customers, yep a good time was had by all.  We did pretty good selling for our “first” farmers market, and my chili sauce was a pretty good hit.  Of course it helped to have samples out for people to “taste test”.  At first I was a little nervous you know cause what if somebody tastes something you literally spent hours making and they hate it. What do you do?  What do you say?  It’s a dilemma.

Well while I was trying to write this post I’ve made two batches of Fig jam and I have to say it’s damn good.  I might just label it “Damn Good Jam”.  We’ve already decided to have homemade biscuits with warm fig jam for breakfast, yummy!  Checking out for now my people, have a very Blessed night and sweet dreams!

Georgia

18 Jun

When we moved here there were no chickens.  As far as my family was concerned that was just fine with them.   Is it really “a farm” if there are no chickens, I think not.  To fully appreciate the farm experience you have to have a flock of chickens running around.  It’s just the way things are.  It took me the better part of a year to convince the hubby that we could, in fact, have chickens without it being a major pain in his backside.  During that 12 months I was having a conversation with a new neighbor down the road when the subject of chickens came up.  Being the good neighbor that I am, I wanted to make sure that having a flock in the area was not going to be a problem for anyone.  Heather, the new neighbor, was all a gaga over this information.  She had been raised on a farm and had loved the flock of hens they had growing up.  Our conversation turned to city ordinances and proper housing for a small flock of hens.  I left satisfied that she would not be complaining about our having chickens and didn’t think another thing about our conversation.

Months later 15 day old chicks arrived in the mail and I got wrapped up in my new charges.  The one plastic bin brooder I made soon turned into 2, then 3 and finally 4 as the chicks grew.  Move out day finally came and our little flock was put in their brand new chicken coop with a nice spacious run.  Life on the farm was great!  As silly as it sounds nothing pleased me more than to watch the chickens run around chasing a bug.

One day my husband comes in from work and says one of my chickens is loose.  There are feral cats across the street so I race outside to catch my escape artist hen and put her back where she belongs before she is kit kat dinner.  Now my hens are Dominique, which means they are black and white sort of striped looking.  I get outside and low and behold there is a “red” chicken in the yard.  Sometimes I wonder if I stripped down naked and ran screaming through the pasture would the man even notice.  I walk up to this chicken real careful like and it just sqwats down for me to pet it.  About that time I notice another red hen and a Dominique.  I quickly remember my conversation with Heather months before and figure these must be her hens.  Sure enough I walk on over to her house and there in the backyard is this teenie tiny fenced in area about 3 foot square with a crate full of hay for a nest.  I knock on the door to let her know her hens have flown the coop and have wandered way down to my house.  Heather tells me she started out with 9 baby chicks, three are left and she thinks the rest are all out in the woods.  As nicely as I can, I let her know that I suspect the other 6 have gone to chicky heaven and that if the cats didn’t get them the racoons surely did.  I offer her some chicken wire to enlarge her pen and put a top on so the girls can’t get out, my work here is done so I leave.

For the next several months “Heather’s hens” made daily visits to our yard.  They had the same routine every day, hop down out of the tree in front of Heather’s house early in the morning, make the rounds of the house, venture on over to the business across the street to sit on the window sills and watch the people work, cross the street “again” to peck around the east side of our property, followed by the south and west.  At this point Heather’s little flock of hens and our flock of hens would have great conversations through the fence.  Once they got bored with that, across the back of our yard and off to Heather’s house they went.

Now I fully admit that I completely enjoyed watching Heather’s hens in “my” backyard.  On more days than one when I was outside feeding our girls Heather’s hens would make a B-line for our backyard, so I started throwing out a little scratch when I noticed them come to visit.  I also noticed the big giant orange male cat that would wander over here from the business across the street.  Every now and then I would stroll on over to Heather’s house on some pretense or another so that I could warn her about the cat and to again offer some “free” chicken wire.  About the third trip over there I began to get annoyed.  I met Heather (in a way) on the day her childrens chihuahua got hit by a car because it was running around in the street.  Now you would think that after this little incident Heather would have learned a valuable lesson here, alas I have since learned (from her husband) that Heather is one of those people that believe animals should be free to do their own thing.  Wish I had known that a long time ago.

One Saturday I get up early to run some errands and do a little shopping in the next town over at Wally World.  When I get home my husband informs me that “one of Heather’s chickens was attacked by that orange cat in our yard”.  Well that’s just great, where is the chicken, I ask.  I have no idea I was too busy chasing off the cat, by the time I looked around it was gone, I have too many things to do to look for somebody else’s chicken, he replies.  Well you know I didn’t have anything else to do that day(insert sarcasm) so I went off in search of one wounded hen.  An hour and a half later I found her cowering way back in the bushes.  By this time I am calculating that this poor chicken was attacked some 3 to 4 hours ago, her comb is as pale as all get out and she is panting.  And yes, I am cussing Heather out in my head!  I manage to get the hen out and look her over.  She has at least 4 different areas of puncture marks (all still oozing blood), and there is absolutely not one feather left on her rear end, plus some of the skin is missing!  We clean her up, put her in a crate and offer her some water with electrolytes and vitamins.  She drinks like there is no tomorrow.  Eventually I have to tell Heather; I am secretly hoping she decides she has no means of caring for this hen and just lets me have her; but NO she rushes over to collect her “poor baby” and takes her home.  Again I offer FREE chicken wire!

Several weeks later I look out the back window and there are Heather’s hens, all three of them.  Number one I can’t believe the hen survived and number two I can’t believe they are again running loose.  Some people never learn!  I would like for you to meet Georgia.  A wonderful little hen I mysteriously found wandering around our backyard.  Poor thing has the strangest tail feathers all cocked to one side, like maybe some of them are missing or perhaps grew in crooked or something.  If only she could talk and tell us what happened to her.  It was very easy to catch her, sweet thing that she is, I just took out some scratch and she ate right from my hand.  Fits in real well with our hens like she’s known them for a long time.  We have had her for about a year now, she lays one egg about every 2-3 days.  This spring she decided to set some eggs and successfully hatched 6 out of 11.  At the moment she is not especially happy with me as I removed her and the nest into a temporary pen prior to hatch day.  We are in the process of relocating and enlarging our chicken coop/run so she and the babies will stay here until that is complete.  Then we will freak everyone out and relocate the whole bunch of them at one time, should be barrels of fun.

As for Heather’s two red hens, I’m not exactly sure what happened to them, but one day while I was walking to the pond I found a bunch of red feathers here and there, so I have a pretty good idea.