|This is a good picture, though.|
But oh, I sure did love having them.
They were better than tv. My very favorite thing to do in the morning was go outside and open the coop door, and watch their mad fluttering rush for the open air. I liked sitting and watching them, in all their multicolored nervously tame interactions and explorations. No longer fluffly little chicks, I could tell most of them apart by both coloring and personality. I was pretty sure I knew which ones were roosters and which were hens. Only two and a half more months and we'd be getting our first eggs. Sitting out there, watching them so content in their homemade coop and run, eating, drinking, getting larger, was the only peaceful and yet exciting part of my day.
|A couple of weeks ago|
Did you notice that was all past tense? Yeah.
I knew we had raccoons in the area. I made my coop raccoon-proof, I thought. I knew we had unleashed neighbor dogs. They didn't come over much, and could be chased away and they couldn't get into the coop. I locked my chickens up at night. I thought we were pretty safe. I thought, if we were going to have a predator problem, we'd have some sort of warning. Like just one or two chickens missing or dead in the morning. That would be sad and bad but fixable. Somehow, though, I was stupid (yes, stupid...I knew better. Plenty of blogs and books told me so.) and I thought it was unlikely.
It only took a couple of hours in one night. I locked up the fourteen chickens and 4 guineas myself. Shut the coop door firmly. Three of my little five week olds had ended up missing over the past week so instead of trusting the loose latches I added a bit of wire and tied the door shut tight. I wonder if I hadn't, if the next morning there would have been just one more missing and that was all. Probably not?
My daughters were awake when they shouldn't have been, night owls they are, but it didn't help. They only heard one scream from a guinea. They investigated, and then crashed into my room at 1 am screaming and crying. I dressed as quickly as I could and ran outside.
It was a massacre. All over my run, chicken corpses. Their coop door was still shut tight; I had to look carefully to find the little place in the raccoon-proof pvc coated chicken wire, where the carefully placed patch over a small rip had been torn off. The run, made from hardware cloth, zip ties and T-posts was torn completely down in three places. I checked a dead body...this was Aeryn Sun, our oldest, largest hen. Was so ugly at one point growing up I teased my husband that we were raising a turkey vulture and he looked at her and believed me. She'd gotten handsome lately. She didn't look so good with her head twisted and backward. Her body was still warm. So were several of the others, but others were stone cold. There were 9 bodies in the run. All whole and bloodless, and very dead. We found two other bodies nearby, Daylight and Moonlight. My pale yellow Brahma mix without a speck of darker color on her, and her best friend Moonlight, mostly a shiny black with a few white sprinkles. They were almost always together, and here they were again, but Moonlight's head was about 5 feet away from the rest of her body. That was the only injury we found that night. The only live birds we could find were my five very freaked out 5 week olds, still wired up tight, three guineas, and one Amerucana. 9 birds out of 23. We later found another body far across the yard, and one wing. The next night my single Lavender guinea, named Chiana, was taken.
|Aeryn Sun, still in her awkward phase|
I think I can patch the coop with what I have. I'm a little worried, though, because I thought it was solid before. Now I want to patch any spot that could possibly maybe be an access point to anything stronger than a grasshopper. My coop is made out of a lot of old salvaged materials stapled and nailed to an old rickety shed. I'm not sure I can make it raccoon/dog/snake proof. I'm scared to try and fail again.
Even if I did fix up my coop, my run needs a complete overhaul. Hardware cloth and T-stakes held together with zip ties aren't going to cut it. I feel stupid for ever thinking they would. If I'm going to keep these kind of predators out, I'll need a real fence. Something that will keep dogs out. I don't have the materials for that, I don't have the know-how for that.
Even if I could and did, I can't afford to replace the chickens. To replace them with similar chickens of the same age, would cost a minimum of $165. I don't really want to start from eggs or day-olds again. I can't imagine enjoying it at this point.
Obviously I'm being negative. That's not my norm. I should patch that coop, scavenge craiglist and the old fallen down privacy fence on my land and design and build a new better fence, and then keep an eye out for free/cheap chickens on craigslist. Start small and take my time. Do it right.
|Doin' it right.|
I thought I did it right last time. My heart just isn't in "trying again" right now. I'll get my heart back, I think. I usually do. Obviously, this isn't the first time following a dream has gotten me a kick in the teeth. The person I try to be grins bloodily and keeps moving forward. The person I am...I need a breather right now.
Anyway, if anyone local would like a 14 week old Amerucana hen (named Lucki) and 5 five week old chicks (three Rhode Island Reds, one Barred Rock, and one Ideal 236), plus a mostly full 50 lb bag of Purina starter/grower feed for $50, let me know. I don't have anywhere safe to keep them at the moment.
|All dead now.|