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Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

20160905_103233Since my last post, we’ve been preparing for horses.  The sheep and goats were given to a farmer willing to take them on.  The pasture was fallow all summer, allowing it to regenerate.  In the meantime, Tammi found 1800 feet of used triple split-rail fence.  It has a lovely historic look to it, and will enclose the horse pasture.

Stay tuned as we get ready for this new chapter!

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Example of a Naked Neck Turken (not our photo)

Example of a Naked Neck Turken (not our photo)

She wan’t the prettiest of hens.  No — she was kind of funny looking.  OK — to be honest — she was just downright ugly.  I would joke that she was “coyote ugly,” but comparing anything to those stinking vile vermin at this time is not appropriate.  Back to the naked neck.  She was the last of the flock of 25 hens purchased for Tammi after her mother passed last year.  Tammi was so thrilled when the box of little peeps arrived.  In a few months, they blossomed into an eclectic flock of fancies — 5 varieties in all.  We had the fluffy Delawares and their docile dispositions, and the Black Australorps with their turquoise eggs, and the Americaunas with their pheasant-like appearance, and the Buff Orpingtons and their rich brown eggs — and five goofy looking turkey-like no-feathers-on-the-neck chickens that Tammi declared her favorites — the Naked Neck Turkens.

Every day, for nearly a year, we were overwhelmed with 12 to 18 eggs from this crew — a cornucopia of color.  We purchased a crate of “Local Hens” egg cartons and listed our produce for sale. Everyone who tried them loved them.

“You have the best eggs!” was heard a hundred times. “Can I get more?”

We had a couple incidents over the year.  There was an obvious hawk or owl attack here and there.  The circle of feathers on the ground — in one spot and nowhere else — was the clue.

When the revonations were being done to the summer kitchen this past Winter, one of the workmen reported seeing a “big fox” near the henhouse one day.  This creature was seen a couple times — and the men scared it off.  They boldly decided to begin using the back of our property as their urinal in order to ward off the beast.  It seemed to work.

When the men finished working, we were ecstatic to begin living in our house again.  The new kitchen (see the pics in a prior entry) and the second bathroom were very functional.  We were delighted. By then, we were down to 20 chickens.  We were still retreiving at least about a dozen eggs a day.

Now early March, the ewes began lambing. It was still very cold. There was snow on the ground. That’s when the first attack occurred.  Tammi discovered one of the lambs buried in the snow, its jugular severed by the fangs of a coyote. There were tracks in the snow from possibly two of the canids.  We became very worried about the lambs — especially at night.

Stock photo of a Pennsylvania Coyote

Stock photo of a Pennsylvania Coyote

Over the next few weeks, we lost 5 of our 8 lambs.  Three were killed by coyotes and two were born weak and couldn’t be saved.  Fortunately, three have survived — Samson, the young black ram, and his cousins Delilah (a black ewe) and Ezekial (Zeke), who resembles a highlander.  All this time, the chickens were doing fine — following their routine — which included free ranging during the day and being locked in their coop at night.

Then came Bloody Thursday – April 2.  Tammi returned from work and called saying she saw a dead chicken in the field.  As soon as I arrived home, we investigated and were sickened to find a dozen of our beauties lying dead — scattered about their paddock — all mostly or completely intact. It was like Jonestown — but with chickens.  A quick count showed only four alive — and another 3 or 4 missing.  Tammi called them in, but none came.  Sadly, we collected the bodies and made a pile of them in the compost.  We were down to four — two of which were Naked Necks, one Australorp, and one Americanauna.

The war with the coyotes began.  Those nights, immediately after the massacre, I waited quietly, in the wee hours, with my rifle as the vermin returned to collect their kills.  Twice, I was able to get off shots in their direction.  It was hard to tell, but I may have hit them.  Unfortunately, in the dark, at that range, I could not drop them.  But, they ran off.  And, for over a week, they did not return.

Then, one by one, in broad daylight, a chicken would disappear.  There were no circles of feathers — no evidence of eagles or owls.  One by one, we think, our remaining birds were nabbed in “grab-and-go” attacks by a coyote.  One by one, the Australorp, then the Americauana, and then the Naked Neck — leaving just one ugly Naked Neck — the ugliest of the uglies — so ugly, even a hungry coyote hadn’t killed her, yet.

Now she’s gone. We have no idea where. She never said goodbye. There was no evidence of her death. And, she left us one last brown egg a couple days ago. I just enjoyed it for breakfast, wondering what had come of her. I’d like to think she’s off free ranging like the hen in the Geico commercial.  Maybe she’ll text Tammi — sending some pictures of her travels — but so far, not a single selfie has come across.

No, we fear our last Naked Neck Turken was not “coyote ugly” after-all.  We think she was also nabbed like her sisters.

Now the coop is empty — quietly peaceful.  We just think about Tammi’s mother a lot more.

 

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Words cannot express the shock, dismay, and disgust we felt this afternoon when we realized at least 11 of our beautiful fancy chickens were slaughtered by coyotes — in broad daylight.  It was a beautiful warm sunny day.  Sometime between 8 and 5, a pair (most likely) of these feral canines jumped the fence and began killing indiscriminately. In the end, only four of our 20 birds could be found alive — and one of them was seriously wounded.  Tammi and I quietly picked up 11 carcasses — lovely hens who had until this day provided the most wonderful selection of delicious colored eggs.  Four or five are unaccounted for. Now, all but a few are gone.  Our only recourse is to use the dead chickens as bait to see if the coyotes come back this evening.  Then they will be pumped full of lead, if they can even be seen!

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These just in…

Two of the cats --Simon (the porch cat) and Momma Cat (a barn cat)

Two of the cats –Simon (the porch cat) and Momma Cat (a barn cat)

fancies

Our “fancy” chicks are growing!

goats

Ginnie, Hermione and their mother Myrtle — nubian goats

sheep

Our sheep — Coal — the black ram and the flock of Scottish Highlands

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The post office called at 6 am — didn’t even know they were up that early!   We were informed of the arrival of our box of chicks, and to pick them up ‘around back.’ After retrieving the day-old baby birds, we went to work setting up their initial brooder:

Chicks under the heat lamp.

Chicks under the heat lamp.

(1) five foot baby pool — bright pink!

(1) bag of red cedar bedding

(1) bag of starter/grower feed

(1) water dispenser

(1) feeder

(1) heat lamp

In a matter of minutes the little ladies were dashing about and exploring their new confines.  It was only a matter of minutes until they discovered the food and water.

We had ordered 25 birds from the Hoffman Hatchery, but only received 20:

Delaware on the left, Americauna behind, Naked Neck on the right

Delaware on the left, Americauna behind, Naked Neck Turken on the right

(5) Black Australorps

(5) Naked Neck Turkens

(5) Delawares

(5) Ameraucanas

courtesy of Hoffman Hatchery

courtesy of Hoffman Hatchery

  • BLACK AUSTRALORPS — Black with greenish sheen. Excellent layer of brown eggs. Very good layer even in hot weather. Dual-purpose bird.
  • AMERICANAS — Multi-colored birds that are excellent layers of blue and green eggs. They have beards, muffs, and tailheads but not tufts.
  • DELAWARES — Docile white bird which is more decorative than solid white birds. Good layers of brown eggs.
  • NAKED NECK TURKENS — Very good layer of multi-colored eggs. No feathers on the neck and only half as many on the body.

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Finally, the long cold nasty winter is over for good.  It held on well into April, with the temperature dropping into the 30s on some nights, while fighting to get into the 50s during the day.  Everything is now blooming, and the old Christian Baker Farm looks lovely.

It has been awhile since I have recounted the additions and substractions among the animals.  2012 was a difficult year, as we were getting started and learning “the ropes.” If you’ve been following the blog, you know we went from 25 leghorn chickens to zero in a relatively short time.  Most of this was by design — the rest by varmints!

Hermione and Ginnie

Hermione and Ginnie

This May 14th, we will receive, from the Hoffman Hatchery in Gratz, PA, a shipment of 25 fancy chickens.  I don’t remember all of the varieties — but there are 5 different.  When they arrive, we will track their growth with you on this blog.

Regarding the sheep, we lost the big old ram “Rambo,” who succumbed to pneumonia after some unseasonably warm weather last February (2013).  He did manage to sire a number of lambs.  Our flock grew to 7, thanks to his exploits.  It would have been 9, but two of the lambs were to weak to survive.  They were all born last spring (2013).

Not long after the birth of the lambs, we adopted a young black ram lamb named Coal.  He is thriving, taking the place of Rambo, as he grows to full size.  Thus, the flock is now at 8 — all healthy and recently sheared.

As you know, we said goodbye to the old goats, Nellie and Twinx, who were in their late teens and suffering terribly from arthritis.  A few weeks ago, we added a doe goat, Myrtle, and her two baby daughters, Hermione and Ginnie.

Meanwhile, Gertie, our dog, is now full grown and a handful!

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Bakaaaaawwwwwk!  Bakwaaaaaaak!  came the cry in the wee hours of the morning.  The sun was providing a hint of the day to come as I arose to the alarming cry from our last leghorn hen.  I knew it was not a good sound and quickly dressed.

“Something is after the chicken,” I said to Tammi, who was waking to my activity.

“Oh no! Not the last one!” she said.

I grabbed a flashlight and headed out the door.   I didn’t bother with the .22.  I figured the murdering varmint was long gone.  Sure enough, by the coop, there was a pile of white feathers, like someone had dumped out a pillow.  There was a trail leading to it from the pasture fence, and then a trail heading back toward the barn.  I followed the trail to the barn and looked around, shining the light in the stalls.  There was no sign of the chicken or the critter that took her away.

Thus ended the “25 Chicken Experiment” begun late last winter, before we moved.  One had died in a coop accident (see earlier entry). Eighteen were sold at a profit.  This left six that we allowed to free range since the spring.  Unfortunately, we lost about one a month, on average.

Plans for two additional chicken experiments are already underway — laying hens and meat chickens.  We will keep them separate on opposite sides of the coop.  I doubt we will try free range again — perhaps sticking with a fenced in paddock.  We will keep you posted!

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