Well, we’ve suffered our first chicken fatality here in Bloomfield. Our poor dear Meanie was felled by a hawk while we were in town on Wednesday. (S)he was the largest of the three pullets, Eenie, Meanie and Miney, we were given last month. We were warned that it would happen eventually, but just a month in seems much too soon. At the same time it gives us an opportunity to do things better, be more careful, so hopefully it doesn’t happen again.
To be honest, we were starting to wonder if she wasn’t perhaps a he as she’d started to exhibit some, ahem, unladylike behavior. With this in mind we choose to believe that Meanie died the death of a hero, the valiant rooster fatally wounded while protecting his girls from attack. It does seem that Miney, our “special” chicken, may have been hit first. She generally prefers the company and safety of her people, as you can see.
Without us there she was vulnerable to attack. The back of her neck showed some damage – plucked feathers and a bit of blood. No surprise as we think she is at least partially blind and would have had the hardest time finding cover when the attack occurred.
Now we are on high alert here. The girls remain cooped up all day, which is a bummer, but it has to be done. Every day I’ve watched the hawks return, circling over our meadow looking for another free meal.
On Thursday I stood out there hurling rocks as they flew by, knowing full well that a) I’d never hit one and b) if I did, I’d be running it immediately to animal rescue! Meanie’s death aside, I have always been a big fan of hawks and other raptors so while I’ve lost some respect for them I still couldn’t bear to see one injured. Country living, eh? Full of contradictions.
I felt terrible keeping the girls cooped up so yesterday we hatched a plan. Remember back when we bought this place and I didn’t want to share pictures because the tenant’s junk was everywhere? Lemons into lemonade, we decided to convert the old, hazardous trampoline left behind by the tenant into a chicken tractor! A chicken tractor is basically a mobile chicken coop that protects the chickens and can also be moved around the yard so they can scratch and peck and poop wherever you want to put them.
Unfortunately we’d already disassembled the thing so we spent a good amount of time putting it back together. After that we attached plastic netting around the sides. We left one flap closed with just a clamp so we can use it as a door and voila, we had ourselves one ugly chicken tractor! As if we need more crap laying around here, now we’re building dump-worthy objects to strew across the meadow? But if it means keeping the chickens safe it has to be done!
I was concerned about hawks getting in through the spaces between the springs and was trying to figure out how to seal those off when I spied a pile of tree cuttings, which I wove through the springs. Jon laughed at me but I think it adds a woodsy je ne sais quoi, don’t you? As a bonus it camouflages the thing a bit and as a super bonus it got a big pile of cuttings off the ground! So there.
I have no patience so, despite the fact we had friends coming for dinner in an hour, I shuffled the hens into their new mobile security unit to see if they’d like it. They seemed to be enjoying themselves and I thought,”We did it!” As if country living would be that simple, right? Moments later I watched in dismay as Millie and then Roxy pushed their way through the door and released themselves to the open meadow.
I managed to chase Millie into the coop but when I opened the door to let her in, Eenie ran past me! Aaargh, chickens! I don’t know if you’ve spent much time herding chickens, but it is quite difficult to convince a free-ranging chicken to take herself back in the coop while the sun is shining, bees are buzzing and there is grass that needs eating. Sadly, there is no photographic record of the chase that ensued. Even I would watch that video!
Finally I got the girls safely tucked away in their coop and so far everyone remains safe and sound. We are one delightful chicken short but perhaps that hawk did us a favor. For one, I do not want a rooster and do not see myself turning a pet into a stew anytime soon. Two, we are now more aware of the hazards facing our girls out in the world and will be able to take steps to protect them. I’m hopeful we can do better but I’m also realistic. The fact is we live in the country, and we are sharing our space with many feathered and furry creatures who all need to eat. Still, if they can get to the neighbor’s chickens more easily than mine…
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