Monday, February 27, 2017

And then there were five....

We learned a tough lesson a little over a week ago on our little homestead.  And, unfortunately, we lost one of our girls - Corky St. Clair - in the process.

Corky is the darkest hen on the top right - she was also my favorite :(

Our chickens have it pretty good, if I do say so myself.  Jason has put so much work into giving them a spacious, safe run for them to graze in.  We learned back in the fall when we had to separate a couple of them that our Rhode Island Reds (Corky St. Clair and Libby Mae) and ISA Browns (Pancake and Bacon) could squeeze themselves through the slats of our fence.  Securing it so they couldn't escape got put on the to-do list, but since they only seemed to do it when they were separated from each other or in distress, it slowly got pushed down the list.  They didn't try to get away.  Even though they could "escape" at any point, they never did.

Fast forward to February 17th.  

I got home and within 10 minutes of walking in the door, Oliver started barking and ran to our back patio doors.  I looked out and saw a neighborhood dog that loves to torment our chickens.  The dog can't get to our girls, but he/she will run up and down the chicken run "chasing" after the chickens.  I went outside and yelled at it to go home.  It slowly made its way out of the backyard and went home.  
A couple hours later, I went out to give the girls their daily treats and collect the eggs.  I walked into the run and only four of our six girls greeted me.  Not totally unusual, I just figured the other two were in the coop or out in the run.  But, when I walked in the coop they weren't in there, and then walked out of the coop and they still hadn't shown up for treats, I knew something was wrong.

I left their run and started walking the perimeter of it.  As I got closer to the pine tree area, I saw 
a huge pile of feathers just outside their fence.  I didn't/couldn't get any farther to investigate.  I knew what had happened and could not bring myself to look at how bad the damage was.  I called Jason at work to tell him what happened.....or what I'm assuming happened.  I'm guessing that the neighbor dog was terrorizing our girls and, out of sheer panic and distress, two of our girls (Corky and Pancake) got through the fence trying to get away.  The dog then snatched one (at the time I thought we'd lost two) and, well, you can guess what happened at that point :(  I'm assuming this all happened just before Oliver alerted me to the dog being in our backyard.

I sat on our deck watching the kids play outside, making sure that they didn't go near the scene of the crime.  I took a picture of the last four remaining chickens and was in the process of posting the story on my Instagram account when something caught my eye in the far back of our yard.  As it got closer, I realized it was a chicken walking towards me.  At first, honestly, I was like "WTF is going on!?  Am I imagining chickens??"  But then, I just assumed that the dog had gotten into someone else's chicken coop and this chicken was running for it's life.  I got up and started walking towards it.  As I got closer, I realized it was Pancake!  She was coming straight towards the door to their chicken run.  I opened the door and she happily marched right in.  She was completely unscathed.  She must have run away and hid from the dog.

The next day, Jason spent most of the day installing chicken wire all along their run to keep this horrible thing from happening again.  Lesson learned.

As Jason was working on the fence, I was doing other things outside and we joked about if they realized what we were doing.  Do they?  Do they realize that they lost one of their sisters (I'm sure they do) and that we did this to protect the rest of them?  Did they see her get attacked?  Are they traumatized?  We figure they're just pissed at us because now they can't stick their heads through the fence to eat the grass on the other side :)

Poor Oliver can't stick his head through the fence to sniff them anymore either.  He sure does love those damn chickens!

Our girls are now safe(r) and sound in their run.  I haven't seen that dog since (thankfully), but unfortunately I can't be on watch 24/7.  A couple days after the attack a couple other dogs came in our yard.  The dogs didn't see the chickens, but the chickens saw the dogs and all five girls ran and hid in their coop.  I guess they can have a little bit of common sense sometimes after all :)

~ Sara :)

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