I had thought the first blog post after my trip was going to be a happy one. Half Moon remembers me and he’s been a super sweetie. But that story is for another time.
Unfortunately, today is probably the worst day on the farm since we bought the land in 2010 and moved here full-time almost three years ago to the day in 2013.
A predator got into the chick enclosure within the orchard and killed 12 of the 14 chicks–all 7 of Caroline’s chicks and 5 of Ella’s 7 chicks–last night. Needless to say, it was a terrible way to start the day and Ron and I have been upset–and continue to be upset–all day.
Ron has been getting up early, usually between 4:30 and 5, to let the chickens (and chicks) outside. Any later than that, he gets the “you’re late!” chicken memo. This morning he went out at around 4:50am and found a horrible, awful scene in the chick enclosure.
I keep wanting to use words like carnage and massacre to describe what happened, but then I remind myself of Orlando. It’s not okay to use those words to describe what happened on our farm.
We don’t know who killed the chicks. Could have been a fox, a racoon, a skunk, although we didn’t smell any skunk scent. All we know is that it (or them) managed to kill 12 of the chicks and ate most of them.
Miraculously, 2 of Ella’s chicks–only one month old to the day today–managed to survive. We have no idea how. Obviously they escaped, presumably flying over the fence. In an effort to keep raptors away, much of the enclosure was covered with netting, including the side closest to the corn patch. It is horrible to think that the netting might have contributed to the terrible death rate because it might have made it harder for the chicks to fly away and escape.
But 2, month-old chicks did somehow get out of there. They were wandering around the corn patch across the fence from the enclosure peeping and looking a bit shell-shocked.
The adult chickens stayed in the coop first thing this morning, squawking away and making a terrible racket. It seems like they must have seen the whole thing, safely from the perches in the locked chicken coop. And when Ron opened the door to the coop this morning, they would not stop talking about it.
We managed to catch the 2 chicks in the corn patch. Not surprisingly, the poor things squirmed and resisted like mad when we picked them up and held them. Why wouldn’t they?
We put them in one of the cat kennels (which I think has been used for chicken duty more than cat duty by now) and tried to figure out what the hell to do.
By around this time, the adult chickens had started coming out of the coop, poor Caroline and Ella first. Caroline went over to the enclosure and walked back and forth along the fence. It’s hard not to interpret this behavior as Caroline looking for her 5.5-week old chicks, none of whom survived. Ella wandered around the orchard a bit, squawking up a storm. Her 2 remaining chicks were in the kennel in the garden and no doubt they heard one another. The chicks were peeping more loudly and Ella kept squawking.
At that point, Ron decided to put the entire cat kennel with the chicks within the mobile coop. He had to lift the mobile coop from one side since the kennel is much bigger than the door. We went back and forth about whether to let Ella in or not. But once she started walking the perimeter of the mobile coop, looking in at the 2 chicks, still chattering, we decided to let her in.
Almost immediately both Ella and her chicks calmed down. Ella quit squawking, the two chicks quit peeping, and they started eating, scratching, and one of them kept jumping on Ella’s back even though the chick is a little big (and Ella too small) for that behavior.
So on this first morning of the first day of summer (which somehow makes all this even worse), the chickens and the humans were–and at least the humans still are–really upset. Even Biscuit knew something was up this morning as we ran around the house, frantically, upset, trying to figure out what to do. For the time being, we’ll keep Ella and the chicks in the mobile coop and they should put themselves to bed in the cat kennel at night. Closing the kennel door will be a second safety measure. We suspect that in another week or two, Ella will lose interest in the chicks and we’ll let her out. We’ll then let the chicks get a little bigger and then let them join the flock when they are about 8 weeks old.
Our hope is that the two survivors are hens. After all this, it would be especially cruel for them to be male. They have small combs so we think they are female, but it’s too early to know for sure.
I’ve started thinking about names. The 14 chicks were too small and undifferentiated to be named yet. Alas, after this awful incident, the two survivors can be named.
If they are hens, they may be Mira (short for Miracle) and Lazi (short for Lazarus).