Thursday, November 19, 2015

What on EARTH is happening to the chickens?

Walter, our rooster announcing his presence.

I realize it's been months since I've posted anything here about adventures in the chicken yard. Certainly NOT due to the fact that there has been little going on out there.  Where to begin?

Basically I've been sucked into "Operation vigilant watch" by no desire of my own.  We started this Spring with the purchase of 57 chicks.  Last I counted we have a remaining total of about 25 birds now.  Why, you may ask? What has happened to them all?

The Local KFC drive-thru
Therein is the great mystery...hence, "Operation vigilant watch."
Wildlife. It's the local wildlife that have stumbled upon our local "KFC drive-thru." Why take out a challenging-to-capture wild-rabbit when you have dozens of local chickens to pick from. (guessing this is where the term "sitting-duck" came from?)

Bath hour. Yep, chickens take dust baths.

Determined to Prevail
I feel like I'm on continual security detail now...constantly looking out towards the barn and throughout our backyard for predators.  I have had some victories and some not-so-victorious moments on overwatch.
There have been times (like the day we lost 4 birds in one pop) where it did cross my mind to throw in the towel on this struggle. (It's not really cool to walk out into the barn and find the remains of your birds from the attack the night before...especially when this was happening WEEKLY). But I'm determined to prevail! Our surviving birds have also learned from these experiences. Their behaviors have changed quite a bit. They choose to perch higher up in the barn at night, they are more vigilant and aware when scavenging around in the yard for bugs and such, and they seem to be tuned into the sounds of the local wildlife (the songbirds, especially the bluejays and crows tend to sing warnings when trouble is nearby).

"Hokey Toe" is chicken to immediate left of white hen. She is our oldest bird.
Has survived all the attacks. We should rename her "Lucky"

Five Lessons Learned thus far
1. Fried-chicken from Wal-mart makes BRILLIANT live-trap bait. Makes sense right? If you're killing chickens, you probably like to eat chicken.

2. Nature will tell you when danger lurks nearby if you know what you're hearing and seeing. Songbirds make a certain chatter and some just scream at the top of their lungs when something threatening is nearby. Or if you see like 5 birds just take off for no reason...that's also a good sign something's up.

3. Just because you hang netting over one part of your chicken yard...doesn't mean your chickens will notice this and stay under there.

4. Using the dead-bodies of the chickens you have lost as bait for whatever it is killing your birds may be self-defeating because it's a big fat invitation for them to come back and keep on killing.

5. Chickens while may appear very dumb at times...seem to also have accumulative learning skills. I figure if you're hearing your neighboring chicken being offed by probably take notice and your survival tactics advance a notch or two. Their behavior definitely adapts to actual experiences.

Our last surviving white hen. She doesn't seem to mind,
but we're going to be getting some more white hens next Spring.

Stay tuned for more chicken updates. There's always some adventure going on out there!!

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