Thursday, March 6, 2014

# 504 - Last Laying Hen is Gone - Bad Humor Ensues

Well, we found a log home builder that we seem to like and that has floor-plans we prefer. This is one of the plans we are considering with seriousness.

It is not that big, just at 1,600 square feet, but it has options to make it a larger home. One thing is for sure, we want to have plenty of space for our grown daughters and their own families with our grand-children to enjoy during their extended visits. We will do all we can to make our home welcoming for our brood.

However, I am sad tonight because my last laying hen is gone, The mysterious predator has now killed all of my full-grown laying hens. I am one sad Farm gal. It looks like the past year of free-ranging freedom is over.

Sgt. Dave has finishing buying all the supplies needed for a new chicken coop and he will start work on it, as soon as the rain stops. The weather has been horrible. The one sunny day we get is when he is at work. Things have not been going very smooth.

The twenty chicks are finally all feathered, but still very young. However, within a week's time, they will need to be moved to larger accommodation. My husband will take care of that chore. In a few days, they will be transferred to a cordoned area of the barn for another three weeks of growing bigger and stronger.

And our puppy, Gracie, has a nose on her that can smell anything! She finds bits of my chickens that were killed and she comes running out of the forest with a chunk --- running toward me with it, as if she's retrieved something valuable and CAN'T WAIT to bring it to me! The latest was a wing section that had belonged to Beaker. Not fun. As she dropped it at my feet, my heart sunk to that same level. Gracie could see that I was not happy...she wants to please and it seemed to upset her that I was not happy with her present. I tried to say, "Good girl," but it wasn't easy with the lump in my throat.

Gracie is turning out to be a really good dog. I know she will also miss her little play buddy. Gracie and Survivor literally stuck together all day. I am sickened to know the attack upon this chicken occurred after we put the dogs up. If I had let them out, then the chicken would have had her guards.

Anyway, as the chicks have been in a limited space that is reinforced for their protection, I stopped by the feed store to buy two different chick feeding systems. One just needs you to pull out a mason jar from home and you are set; the chicks love their feed!

As the chickens grow older, we have found the easiest way to feed them is through the standard feed bucket but to put the water in one of those large dog auto-watering bowls. It holds a great deal of water and the chickens learned very quickly how to drink from this bowl which is super easy to refill and clean.

I try to focus on the chicks and knowing that this next flock will be living different from our first flock. Not as much freedom on a daily basis, but I hope to keep that predator away or catch the predator in action so that I can HANDLE it, permanently.

The parting of my last full grown laying hen that I had started calling "Survivor" was very sad for me. Yes, it's a chicken, but I've had these chickens for over three years...they were a part of our daily life. They gave us eggs that we found to be delicious. Having chickens provides entertainment. It's great for the kids in the family to come over and see real chickens, to see their habits and to learn how they have an internal clock for waking up at dawn and coming back to roost in the coop at dusk, on their own.

Liyla chowing down with my first flock of chickens that
have now been killed by a predator roaming our acreage.
My daughters, Heather and Stefie are in their twenties. Our family often employs a warped sense of humor to get us through rough times. Laughing is a proven coping method, even if it is often HIGHLY inappropriate. Throughout our lives together, we've often had to flat-out HIDE our inappropriate coping methods from others because they'd be horrified, but I am sharing this round with you.

Soon after I found my chicken to be gone, as predator meat...I sent Stefie a text message about it because Stefie KNOWS my chickens are important. She helped raise those chickens. She named them, in the hopes we would never consider them for the dinner table. So, I was not expecting her next text messages as she and Brice began sending me the photos below. Yes, this is the kind of comfort I get from my kiddos...

 And Stefie says, "I love you mom!"


Mike said...

The whoa-man and I have that same demented humor as y'all. But, just to show compassion, we'll add "too soon?" afterwards.

Sorry for your loss, Lana. We have one Polish left and added 2 more layers - friends and eggs.


Michelle said...

We had to build Fort Knox because of stray dogs. After two chicken attacks I wasn't having another one.

LindaG said...

I am really sorry to hear this, Lana.

If you have done any research on guard animals, livestock guard dogs are left out 24 hours a day with the stock that they protect.
It seems that Gracie might be an excellent livestock guard dog.

*hugs* ♥

Karen said...

Love the house plans, beautiful!

But I am so sad to hear you've lost the last hen. Oh, shoot---and I'm absolutely sure you will shoot when you find out what varmint is responsible. I hate how they are so sneaky, almost makes me paranoid at times thinking of 'something' lurking in the trees waiting. Cowards!

I take my chances leaving the coop open during the day in the winter. The Girls can only walk on the shoveled trail as the snowbanks are 4' deep on either side, so if a dog or raccoon would attack, the only place the hens could go would be up on the garage roof IF they realized the danger in time. If they don't, well, it won't be pretty.

In the summer I have the girls fenced in with a stout rectangular chicken wire to keep them from digging up the garden and to protect them. Their pen is about 40' x 50' so for only six hens, it's not cramped, but they'd much prefer to be free-range. I do let them loose from the date of the first frost up until June, but it's a crap shoot. I always expect one day we'll have a massacre.

I noticed some opossum tracks in the snow, so it's time to keep a look out for those Giant Rats (ugh, I hate those things!) I did lose one hen to a possum two years ago. And don't forget about the air strikes either, I lost three banty hens to a hawk one summer.

I 'try' not to get attached to the Girls, and growing up on a farm, you'd think I'd know better, but I've got a soft heart. I wish the predators did, too.

(ooops, wrote a blog post here, sorry...have a great weekend!)

Carolyn said...

Have you tried putting out a live-trap yet? Bait it with a raw piece of chicken like a wing (from the store). That's how we get our chicken predators....well, at least the ones that fit in the large live trap.
Sorry to hear about your loss, it's hard to lose livestock, let alone livestock that were "more" than that. said...

Mike - I know you've had your battles with critters too. Having chickens is something I have never regretted...well, I have had some bad days, but 95% of the time I LOVE having chickens. I do have twenty chicks now growing up.

Michelle - I understand. These chicken attacks leave you feeling disheartened for their demise and for all the hard work it took to get them to the laying stage and to be in a schedule with them.

Linda - I have thought about a guard dog. If any dog would be content to be outside with the livestock, it would be Gracie. It's very difficult to get her to come inside and she loves being with the animals. :-) Thank you for the hugs Linda. It means a lot.

Karen - it sounds as if your area is setup perfectly and that your chickens have a plan of last resort to take during an attack. We are getting ready to move the chicks to the chicken coop and chicken run since they are outgrowing their chick enclosure. But, first, we are reinforcing the chicken coop and run with new wire. And I understand what you are saying about the soft heart.

Carolyn - we've put out live traps and caught animals. But, we do think it might be a coyote or a wild dog. Yes, it is hard to lose livestock. The problem with being on forested acreage is that we are surrounded by abundant wildlife. Now that they know we are here and the seasons are beginning to change, this will become an ongoing issue.