Tag Archives: chickens

Fowl Play

1_vLast night, we had another encounter with our local wildlife. It happened late at night, or rather, early in the morning.

I was up late working on a project, when around 1:00 a.m., I heard our chickens clucking outside. We have only a few chickens right now, mostly roosters, and we let them wander around the yard free-ranging. For quite some time now, they’ve been roosting at night in the trees, lately choosing to roost in a cedar tree in our front yard. I thought it was a good choice, as they are tucked within the branches and hidden from predators.

Or so I thought. Last night, when I heard the clucking, I knew something was wrong. Chickens are sound sleepers, and they are quite disoriented when awakened in the night. So when they wouldn’t stop making so much noise, I found my shoes, grabbed a flashlight, and headed outside.

I saw something moving near the tree, and thought that perhaps a coyote was there. (We’ve had a lot of trouble with coyotes in our town lately). “Ha!” I hollered out, hoping to scare it away. Suddenly, a huge bird flew up from the ground. I watched as it took off in the opposite direction, flying out over my neighbor’s house.

I continued toward the tree, where I found one of our small hens lying on the ground. The large bird, which must have been an owl, had planned on making this little hen its dinner. In the light of the flashlight, I could tell the chicken’s face was a little bloodied, and it seemed to be having trouble breathing.

I couldn’t leave it there, so I picked it up and started towards the house, thinking I’d find a box somewhere to put it in. As I went, it seemed to come to its senses and began clucking and hollering. I put it in our empty chick pen and headed off to bed.

How’s the bird? She seems to be doing fine, though she’s still in the pen recuperating. And the owl? It will have to find another food source. Chicken just isn’t on the menu this week!

Chicks in the Bathtub…Again!

blog chicksEarlier this year, my husband made it quite clear he preferred to go through the spring and summer seasons without chicks in our spare bathtub. You see, for the past few years the children and I had been succumbing to the cuteness of the new baby chicks we saw in the feed store. I would purchase at least two chicks per child, just in case one of them was killed by a predator after we put them outside. For weeks our extra bathroom was noisy, dusty, and virtually unusable while the chicks were growing. 

So this year I agreed. The kids’ interest was waning, and I was extra busy. No chicks in the tub was fine with me. In fact, I would have been content not to have any chicks at all this year. 

But two of our hens were setting. One hatched out eleven chicks, and they were doing well following their mom around the pen. The children kept watching the other hen, wondering when her eggs would hatch. Finally, last week they did. 

Lillie, my eight-year-old, came running in the house. She had checked on the hen and saw two little heads peeking out from underneath the bird. The hen was setting in a laying box about two feet off the ground; I went out that night with a piece of wood to make a ramp so the chicks could just walk down after they had all hatched. 

The next day, Lillie went out to check again.  

“She’s gone!” Lillie shouted. “The’re all gone!” 

We went out to investigate. The mother was indeed gone, and the gate had been closed. Had something gotten in and eaten the hen and her chicks in the night? 

“Wait! Here’s a chick!” my daughter Cassie shouted. 

“Here’s another!” said John. 

We looked around and found two more. We took them inside and put them in a large box, far away from the dog and cats. 

A little bit later, Lillie found the mother – she was fine, and had three more chicks running along behind her. Apparently she had gotten out of the pen somehow and a few of the chicks were able to follow; the rest were left behind.

We wondered what to do. They had been without their mother for a while, and I wasn’t sure they would know to follow her. Besides, we told my husband, she had abandoned them – we couldn’t just set them out again. We needed to take care of them. 

And so, here we are, with more chicks in the house. They’re still in the box right now, peeping and scratching and getting bigger every day. I suppose we’ll need to move them into the bathtub in a week or so, as it’s deeper and harder to escape from. We’ll have to find somewhere else to put Luke’s turtles, though. 🙂

My Rooster Conundrum

The first chickens we had were given to us by a friend. Included in that group was a hen with chicks, several of which grew up to be roosters. Since then, we’ve always had a rooster around, and each year several of the hens sit on their nests and hatch out a brood. (Because the mother hens are so protective, though, I would still buy chicks from the feed store that the children could hold.)

This spring, we have five grown roosters. One of them is clearly the dominant bird, and most of the ladies follow him around. And again, this spring, we have a familiar problem – what to do with the extra roosters?

We can’t keep all the birds, even though there’s plenty of room for them to roam; they’ll eventually start attacking each other. I could give them to a farm or another homeschooling family that needs a rooster, but so far I haven’t found one. All of our other options, though, mean a sad fate for the birds. The possiblities, then:

  • We could eat them since they’re not quite a year old. A friend told me that if they get much older, the meat is just too tough. But neither my husband nor I are the pioneering type, and neither of us wants to do the deed to prepare them for cooking.
  • We could give them to someone else to eat — I just have to find that person. Not as easy as one might think.
  • We could sell them at the flea market or our local weekly livestock auction. This is tempting, as it would give us cash in our pocket, but I’d wonder if the new owners would use them for cock fights.

What makes the choices harder this year is that all of these birds are very sweet – at least, as much as a rooster can be. They come to eat when I call them and follow us around the yard like pets. We’ll have to do something soon, though — that many roosters can wear a hen out!