The Run…

My wonderful husband built a run of sorts for our growing flock of chickens. Did I say growing?  It seems that the number count gets less, but the chicks are growing bigger every day.  And do you see a Mr. Knightly Jr. here?

Junior

I’m afraid so…going to be hard to let him go…

Anyway back to the run…

run

It is totally covered to keep hawks out during the day. It runs  between the little chick coop on the right and the Tack Room coop on the left where the hens live. You can see the new  little door that opens out into the run on the left. So that’s it.

I put a branch in today to see if they would like something to sit on… Roo and pullet, can you tell how much they have grown?

branch

This still makes me sad. I know the chickens are much better off getting all that good food in the wild when they free range, but for now they have to be enclosed.

I noticed that I now have 99 followers. I’m doing another painting giveaway when it hits 100, so stay tuned…

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No More Free Range

My neighbor called me the other day and asked me if I had seen the little yapper dog again, because two more of his chickens were missing…just gone…no feathers…no sign. I told him it could be hawks…

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Last night before dark I went down as usual to close up the chickens and Mara was missing. She is an old hen and wasn’t laying anymore, but she always was in the coop at night. I looked around and saw these strange markings in the snow…

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I had no idea what this could be, so I looked it up and sure enough they are the wing tips of a bird of prey.   This morning when I went down to the coops I found more evidence…

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These tracks went on for about 20 feet…

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Really amazing when you think about it.  I can picture the hawk flying close to the ground chasing the chicken and then finally capturing it and carrying it off… no sign of the chicken…

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You can see my boot track in the last picture compared to the wing span. Needless to say I have decided very reluctantly to stop free ranging. My last four laying hens are going to be cooped up until I can get a very good run built.  I have 6 roosters and 4 pullets in the other coop that I was beginning to let out for an hour a day. No more…it’s just not worth it.

That’s my take on it anyway after really desiring to have chickens free range. I’m so thankful that the last hen that was taken was the one that was old and not laying.

So, I think these are hawk wings, anyone have any experience in this? Could they be an owl?  I’m thinking hawk because it probably happened in the day time.

Good News and Bad News

And isn’t that the way life is?  The good and the bad, we get both together. I’ve had a pretty rough 4 days, and I really didn’t want to share it, but I will… First the moon…this morning at 7. Two views with my little camera and I have no idea how this works. 🙂

moon

moon 2

Light and dark, good and bad…Notice how we can see all the beautiful details of the moon in the darker photo.

I am on watch this morning and so is my neighbor north of us…In 4 days two small “yapper” dogs have killed 8 of our chickens, 5 of his and 3 of mine. These little dogs, one black…one white, both with collars, have become blood thirsty killers. I will spare you a photo of Mr. Knightly. He was taken down yesterday. And yesterday my husband and I were on watch all morning…ready, prepared, but we stopped for lunch and the white dog got Mr. Knightly in those few minutes we were eating. We didn’t hear a thing… I just don’t understand.

The good news is the neighbor got the white dog yesterday afternoon, and now we are watching for the black one.

It started last Saturday. We went to the Gourmet Yarn Co. and out for lunch. It was a good morning! See my post on woven with her hands for that story. But when we got home…

green

… we encountered the two dogs. They had Mara, the old Marans hen down on the ground feathers in their mouths. Shocked…we pulled over, one of us ran up to the house to get the gun, but the dogs ran off. Mara was OK. Going down to inspect the barn yard, we found one hen on a nest (she’s broody), and one up in the rafters. The small chickens had gone up the ramp and were hiding up in their roosts. Smart birds!  Slowly, but surely all the hens and Mr. Knightly came back, except for the old Welsummer, and I have not seen her since.

Every time predators have killed our chickens they have not returned, but this was not the case with these two dogs. We made sure the chickens were all OK and then went up to the house. Keeping an eye and an ear out, we went on with our day. Then my daughter yelled out that she saw a dog, and sure enough they came back. This time there was a pile of feathers…

feathers

Those little dogs running through the field are hard to shoot. It would take a really good marksman to take one down. They got away again. Again we checked out the hens. I was convinced the feathers were the rooster’s, Mr. Knightly’s. He was no where to be found. The hens were in the coop, Emma was crouched down in the corner and when we picked her up we found that her wing was entirely torn off and she was badly wounded. We had to put her down. So sad. She had been such a good hen and an excellent Mama to her chicks… I broke down and cried.

We shut up the coop for the night and set the dog trap. After dinner several of us were sitting around the table playing a game, and someone spotted the white dog by the back door. Again, the guys went out to hunt down those dogs. But to no avail and guess who was in the trap? Mr. Knightly!  My husband put him in the coop and set the trap again.

The next day the neighbor told us that the two dogs got five of his hens. So that brings us to the present of being on watch. Mr. Knightly and Emma are gone and the last of the Welsummers, I have not seen.

It’s left me to rethinking this free range thing. But even with the birds cooped up, we’ve suffered great loss. Or maybe this is just how it is. I wanted to give up raising chickens at first, but I’ve also realized that I really enjoy them, and I don’t want to give up.

How can I leave this on a good note?  LIGHT shines in the darkness!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” John 1: 1-5

“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12

There is always hope, whether we understand things or not! And we are just not going to understand everything. That’s just the way life is…

New Chicks!!!

I know you all are waiting to hear how it turns out for Broody Emma under the porch…

Well the story got pretty exciting last night….

It was dark…the day was done… we, my husband, two daughters and me were in the house reading, knitting and whatever, and we  heard a loud squawk outside. My husband went running out with his flashlight…my daughter following at his heels, and they discovered a possum attacking the chicks that had just newly hatched. Broody Emma had let out a loud squawk and run off into the night…

My husband shot at the possum several times and it ran off, hopefully fatally wounded. And then he went  to get a crow-bar to pry up the boards from the porch. Mama Emma came back and regathered the chicks as best she could, and sat on the eggs. My daughter looked under the porch with the flashlight and thought she saw 2 dead chicks.

After the boards were pried up, we decided to go ahead and move Mama Emma and her chicks and the eggs to the coop that I had just cleaned out earlier that day. We were in such a hurry, but I think there were 5 eggs and 7 chicks. 2 chicks had been killed by the possum. We placed Mama Emma in a box first, and then the eggs and chicks in another box and rushed them down to the coop. We placed the eggs and chicks in a nice cozy old nest in the coop and Emma got right on top of the eggs and chicks when we let her out if her box.

broody Emma

This morning I went down and put a bowl of food for her and some water and chick food for the babies. It was 42 degrees this morning, and I know that Mama Emma could keep her brood warm, but I went ahead a put a light in the coop too.

all set

She won’t get off the chicks yet, I’m not going to bother her after that traumatic experience last night. I’m so curious to know if they all made it… I will post pictures later today with an update.

Here’s what our porch looks like this morning…

porch

How did that possum know? Emma hasn’t been bothered the whole time she has been under the porch. She has never squawked or made a peep.

Now she is quietly sitting on those chicks…I don’t know how they breathe under her, and she is purring like a cat…Did you know hens purr?

Back Home and I Need Some Advice :)

I’m back from the Land of the Ancient Ones and while I was gone, we dealt with another predator, a large white German Shepherd looking dog.  My husband and my sons worked hard that week I was gone, and no one was here during the day, but we never know when one of these predators is going to show up…

This particular day was a really wet rainy day. After the guys had worked hard and had eaten dinner, one of my sons spotted the big white dog down at the chicken coop with a hen in his mouth. He couldn’t get to him fast enough to take care of the situation, but he did scare the dog and he did drop the hen he had in his mouth. It was the Welsummer Sis, yes, the one I painted the portrait of for the giveaway. My husband picked her up and put her in a clean warm place, but she didn’t make it. Then he counted the hens that were left and there were only 7 out of the 9. The other hen that was missing was Emma. My two prettiest hens were gone…

Or so I thought… This morning my daughter knocked on my door and exclaimed, “Mom, I think Emma is under the porch!” We grabbed a flashlight and peeked under the porch and sure enough there was a hen sitting there surrounded by leaves.

under porch

She’s not in the above picture, because I took it after she left and went to have a drink with her friends…

Emma

That’s Emma drinking out of a ceramic bird bath I have in my front yard. While she was busy drinking I took my flashlight and looked through a knot hole in the porch floor and this is what I found…

14 eggs

14 eggs!  So Emma is broody again. I’ve managed to break her of her broodiness twice, but I’m not doing it again.

So my question to all of you out there is do I just leave this nest under the porch and see what happens? It is pretty protected right under my bedroom window… Our dog used to have her puppies there. 🙂

porch

Or should I transfer the eggs over to our little chick coop that used to be a dog house and hope that she will be happy there?

We have differing opinions in our house. I just want to do what is best and I want Emma to be a happy hen.

What do you think?

Eyes Shining in the Night

We set the trap, hidden secretly and craftily under the hay bales and an old wooden barn door.

trap 2 Front

Back of TrapBack

The bait was a juicy steak bone. I placed it in the back of the trap and then put some tempting morsels of fat…one at the entrance and one a little further in to entice the “critter” back to where he would set it off and it would close the metal door.

trap

Late that night about 11 o’clock I heard a whining sound. With the cicadas chirping outside, and the air conditioner running inside, and the ringing that I have already in my ears all the time…I couldn’t really hear clearly what it was. My son has a whistle as his phone ring, and I thought maybe that was what I was hearing coming from his bedroom up stairs.

Then my daughter who had already gone to bed comes down the stairs, “Do you hear that strange sound?”  “Do you think it could be something in the trap?”  We both walked outside on the front porch, the cicada chirping very loud now, and we hear a whining coming from the barn.

My husband grabs a flash light and we head down to the barn in the pitch black dark night, and what do we see…

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Eyes shining in the night

Two pairs of eyes shining in the night… I whispered to my husband, “Those eyes are not near the trap, there are two critters down there.”

I ran back up to get the car so that not only  would we be protected, but so that the headlights would help us see better. By the time I got down there, my husband said the two black dogs that were there had both ran off into the woods before he could get to them.  One had been caught in the trap, and the other one was smart enough and strong enough to pry the metal door from the outside and get the other one out.

Unbelievable!!! If we had just gotten down there 5 minutes sooner…Crazy!!!

Now we know that there are two big black dogs…and that they are very cunning and strong and destructive.

I know too, that these are not the only predators around, because a yellow colored critter got the first rooster and hen. And our neighbor down the road said a white dog got 3 of his chickens…

But the way this one dog got the other one out of the trap makes me suspect that he is the one that dug under the coop.

I borrowed the eyes in the night photo from a very cool website…All Things Nature