Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chicken Drama

Oh, isn't there always drama with chickens?  Well, there is at our house.

Ordeal #1:  You may remember that we bought six chicks just before Easter.  We set them up in what we thought was The Hilton- a movable rabbit tractor tucked in the corner of the wood shed. They had a heat lamp, water, food, straw, and a cardboard box to hunker down in if it got drafty.

Shortly after getting them settled one died due to impacted poop problems.  Poor chickie.  Then two more died and we couldn't tell how or why.  But one of those two was missing a head.  Okay- so there was a predator involved but we couldn't understand how it got them.  Our only thought was that maybe the chicks were sleeping near the side of the tractor and whatever-it-was was reaching in and grabbing them- scaring them to death and/or eating off their head (which it pulled through the chicken fencing).  A weasel?

So we moved the remaining two chicks (now pullets) into the larger chicken tractor outside thinking that they would be able to roost up off the ground, out of the reach of pesky, little predator hands.  Then two more died- one's neck looked like it had been chewed on.  Lovely.  So the chickies were not roosting out of reach.

One chick remained.

Friends of ours let us borrow a mini-fortress- a small wooden cage covered in metal screen.  So, we set the fortress inside the chicken tractor and put the remaining, sole chick (now a pullet really) in the fortress each night, letting her out into the larger tractor each morning. At the time of this writing, she remains alive.

the fortress inside the tractor

So what's been killing our chicks/pullets?!  We have never had this problem before with chicks.  Sure, an occasional hawk has killed a full grown hen in the yard.  Skunks and opossums go after the eggs.  Once we had an opossum that developed a taste for chickens and killed a few before we caught it but never before had we ever had problems protecting our chicks.

It makes me sick.  Our chickens aren't pets to us (sometimes they are to our kids) but I still feel responsible. You shouldn't have animals if you're not going to care for them properly.  I didn't like what was happening one bit.

Well.  The other morning, Sadie went outside first thing to let the chick out of the fortress and into the chicken tractor.  She came back in and said, "Mom!  Before I let the chick out I saw a huge rat inside the chicken tractor running around and then it went out through the side."  Bugger!

We never thought rat.  They certainly would be after the feed and could get through the wire but not only have we not seen rats around here in years but we didn't know they would kill pullet-sized chickens.  About five years ago, Jamey saw a rat in the chicken feed bin in the hen house so he killed it and then hung a feeder from the ceiling to avoid the whole feeder-bin situation.  No more rats were seen.

our lone (and very loved) pullet

We had heard that a nearby neighbor was having some trouble with rats but knew they were attempting to fix the problem.  We wonder if some didn't migrate over to our place.  A poison trap has been placed and our lone chick seems safe in her fortress but four chicks are gone thanks to the rats.

Boooo rats.

Ordeal #2:  Meet my nemesis.

While Americaunas lay beautiful blue-green eggs, they are the most problematic breed of chicken for us. We only have two but these chickens are flyers and are always the ones getting into the garden and up and out of the yard no matter how often we clip their wings.  This one in particular likes to scratch up my flower beds, poop all over our walk and patio, and just started EATING MY UNRIPE BLUEBERRIES.

That was the straw that almost broke the chicken's back.

She was immediately quarantined in the unused rabbit hutch.  Am I secretly hoping she'll have a run-in with a rat? Yep. Of course not. Once I can determine that she is still laying (at least one of our Americaunas is), I will offer her up free to local friends.  Friends that have a secure space, that is.

This girl is has a record a mile long. Pin It


  1. Last week I let my chickens out for a few hours and something killed SEVEN of them. In broad daylight. We know there are fox, so we try not to let them out, but this time they wouldn't go in. I am soooooooo mad. How does something kill SEVEN?? Now we only have 10.

  2. Where we are (central New York), my mother-in-law had problems with weasels and raccoons, both of which will grab through wire fencing, grab sleeping birds, and 'disassemble' the birds to get them through the fencing into their mouths. Sneaky.

  3. I've been told that if you see 1 rat there are 12 more you didn't see. Yuk

  4. Your rat problem reminds me of our rat problem.......pack rats!! Yuck! The solution??? Our Jack Russell Terrier! He saved the day! He has also killed numerous mice, pocket gophers, voles and a muskrat! :-)) Good luck with your little chicken-girl.

  5. It looks like your daughter is able to put her arm right through the mesh.....I would think a rat would be able to slip in. Have you thought about a chicken guard dog? My oldest daughter has one on her free range chicken farm. He's about 9 now and was raised right with the chicks. He is in the enclosure all the time, even sleeping in his doghouse next to the chicken barn at night. He is not a family pet. His bond is with his flock not people.

  6. I was thinking it was a raccoon. My poor son went out one winter morning to feed our rabbits and every one was killed through the bottom of the rather high hutches. Totally traumatic for him.

  7. We have one Americauna and I'm so thankful to hear you say they are problematic for you as well. Talk about attitude! She's hateful with us, hateful with the other chickens, into everything she should not be (the strawberry patch), etc. I'm almost at the end of my rope and thinking we may need to find her a more suitable home.

  8. Our coop was given to us by friends who were moving. But it has hardware cloth (I think it's called) over the top of the chicken wire. The chicken wire is too wide, and allows things in and out (our baby chicks can crawl thru chicken wire). The hardware cloth has tiny openings, and we've not had any issue with it.


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