Pardon my spelling, punctuation, grammar and so on. I am no proof reader! Oh and the fowl (har har) language!
We haven't had much luck this spring with our chickens. They seemed to have gotten lax about staying close to their protectors. Even though we have enough girls to go around for both Mr. Roo and Gru, boys will be boys. One gets irritated at the other and the fighting begins. It's quite comical to watch. They chase each other all around the house, then stop to stare at each other...put on a little cock fight scene and then continue about the day. But unfortunately, while they are doing what they are doing the girls tend to separate and wonder in different directions.
I decided the other morning that before I had to pick Cooper up from the bus I would let the chickens out. It was sunny, warm and absolutely beautiful. I wanted them all to be able to stretch their wings and eat some grass and bugs and enjoy themselves. Little did I know it was going to be a fatal mistake.
When I picked Cooper up from the bus I decided we needed to go to the grocery store. Now I don't usually let the chickens out to free range unless I'm home...but like I said before it was gorgeous out. I have done it before, just not regularly. And I wouldn't be gone for more then an hour. Tops! Coop and I went on our way, did our shopping and were home within that time. I did my usual routine by leaving Cooper to watch his DVD in the car (i know...bad mom) while I unloaded the groceries. Unloading groceries in my house is a step by step process. It's never easy...or stress free for that matter. It goes a little something like this: Groceries go from car to inside garage doorway into house Then Cooper gets out of car and goes inside..(all while I'm yelling at him not to sit on the groceries to take his shoes off) I proceed to take my shoes off to go inside...(all while I'm yelling at Cooper not to pick up the heavy bags that are filled with glass or gallon containers) Then I take the groceries (you know how it is...with as little trips as possible so you weigh yourself down with as many bags as possible) to the kitchen...(all the while I'm yelling at Cooper not to do the same) oh ya, the reason I'm writing this blog...so anyway...as I'm walking past our living room which the windows face the back of our property I notice a pile of feathers. White feathers. I stop. I put down my bags and run to the window. The pile of feathers were not 15 ft from the house. Right next to our bird feeders. Then I look off to the left and I notice another pile of white feathers...and yet another. I run out our back door and I can't find my chickens anywhere. Then I heard them in the coop. Now in my mind I was trying to work out whose feathers they were. We only had two white chickens. Eve (which is my daughters baby) and Eve's hatch-ling named Luna. That's when I ran to the coop. At that point I didn't even care how many chickens were missing. I just wanted to know...needed to know..........NO!!!...NOT POOR Eve!!! I saw Luna roosting on the post and knew right then and there that it had been Eve. Of all the f'n chickens, it had to be my daughters baby. The little yellow chick my daughter cared for and played with everyday. The chick that started growing in white feathers that made my daughter immediately name her Eve after her favorite Pixar character from WALL-E. The sweet affectionate hen that would stand next to my daughter and wait for a treat of worms while she collected them in her bucket. The one that layed a gorgeous large light brown egg for us everyday. I was speechless. My mouth probably hung open for some time as I walked to the pile of feathers. Then to the other pile and then the other.
I came to the conclusion that she was first taken at the feeders, then she must have gotten loose and ran to where her second pile lay. Then got loose again and darted to the brush line where she was caught for the final time. The third pile of feathers trailed off into the woods. At that point my jaw finally closed, and if I was a cartoon character steam would've come out of my ears. I yelled into the woods "you fucking piece of shit, I will fucking kill you if I have the chance"!! Was that a little extreme, I thought? Hope my neighbors weren't watching. But then I turned around and saw my son standing on the patio..."Mommy?... Fox eat chicken?... Mommy?...Fox in woods?... Mommy?... Eve?" My heart sank as it hit me that my poor daughter will be scampering off the bus in a few hours with a huge smile on her face, and I was going to have to break her heart. My poor little six year old girl is going to experience her first feeling of loss. At that point I started to tear up. Walking back to the house Cooper just stared at me. "Mommy? Eve gone?" "Yes honey, Eve is gone. The fox took her." And I guess when he saw me tearing he realized something. What exactly, I guess I'll never know. Does a three year old understand that something is gone and never coming back? But at that moment he hugged onto my leg and looked up at me and said, "ok mommy? I love you mommy. No cry mommy..be happy mommy." Which of course made me blubber even more. So we went inside and Cooper was so cooperative after that. He did his part in putting away the groceries. Helped make his lunch and went down for a nap without resistance. I took my camera and took pics of the crime scene and decided to collect some of the feathers and put them in a ziploc bag to have a family burial service later. I thought that it may help Payton have closure in some way. I sat on the couch constantly looking at my watch waiting for the dreadful time to come. When it came, I got in my car and drove down to the pick up point. It felt like eternity. Watched pot(watch)never boils(ticks). I tried to think of the best way and time to tell her. I decided that I would not tell her in the car and I would wait till we got in the house. The bus finally came and like I said before, down the bus stairs she came with her flowing dress, sunglasses and a huge smile plastered on her face. She got in the car and back to the house we went. I asked how her day was and if she was hungry for a snack. Had our normal getting back to the house conversation. I closed the garage door and Payton opened the door to the house. I didn't think anything of it until Payton said "hi Cooper"! Oh shit! What if Cooper blurts it out first. Damn it!! I forgot that my now three year old is the biggest blabber mouth! I grabbed Payton's hand and told her I wanted to talk to her. Her immediate response was, "I didn't do anything!". (geez. guilty conscience. we'll have to address that at a later time) "No, you did not do anything. Payton, something bad happened today. I let the chickens out this morning and then Cooper and I went to the grocery store. When we were gone a fox must've come onto our property when he saw the chickens were out by themselves." Ok, at this point her mouth opened a little. Ok, Jen...deep breath...you can do this...don't start crying yet...damn it! "Payton, the fox got Eve". "I am so so sorry." Well, she just stood there, what felt like forever, just staring at me. Then I noticed that her eyes started welling up. And then the monsoon hit. She just kept repeating Eve's name in between her uncontrollable violent sobs. I lost it. I just sobbed with her, hugging her, holding her, wanting to take the pain away from her. Then she turned and walked over to the window where the remnants of the crime scene still lingered. Shit! I thought to myself..I should've tried to get rid of all of the feathers. But then again, I think she needed to see them too. Help her realize what it all actually meant. Poor Cooper was just sitting on the couch staring at us. Then the sweetest words came from his mouth. "Payton? Cooper sorry Eve gone. Bad fox in woods. Cooper want Payton to be happy". Ok, more sobbing continued. And Cooper actually got off the couch and wrapped his arms around his sister to give her a big hug and kiss. Um...melt my heart a little more! Anyway, after about 40 min Payton calmed down, but she just kept looking outside. Then the denial came. "Well, maybe Eve will come back". "Maybe she just ran away". "Maybe, maybe, maybe". Then the anger set in..."Well, where were Mr. Roo and Gru"? "Why didn't they protect her"? "Why did you let them out"? "You know the fox live in the woods"! Just lay the guilt on...I can take it =o(
So the evening went on and we went out to play. Surprisingly both Payton and Cooper started collecting the rest of the feathers. They actually picked up almost every little feather. And put all of them in the ziploc. As of yet though, we have not buried them because it has been a different kind of monsoon lately. The rains have been relentless. Our property is just muddy and squishy. Kind of like our moods that terrible day.
Last Wednesday Jason and I purchased 300 ft of fencing material and began to build a 72" high enclosure for our chickens. We're hoping that it will at least deter the fox from coming in. The chickens will have plenty of room to run, eat bugs and grass and the roosters can continue to be boys. They will only be allowed to free range when we are home and outside. No other time.
It has been almost 2 weeks since the incident and Payton is doing fine. She still talks about Eve and how she misses her, but no more tears. But she does think that Luna misses her mom. It's strange because you almost feels like we're going to see her pop out of the woods one day and say "here I am", but I know it's not so.
Ugh!! Who would've thought that chickens would become like family.
Don't get confused about the title. I may have found her, but certainly not whole. First grass cut of the season in our back field I came across a pretty decent sized pile of feathers that looked like they belonged to Rosalie. Then 3rd cut (which was just the other day) I found (what are definitely her feathers) between my property line and our back neighbors. With a little investigative work I came to a conclusion. The scene of the crime must have happened by our neighbors property. Probably a fox. Then later she was eaten in our field. Where we always see fox playing around in the early morning hours. (which is absolutely beautiful to watch..no hatred for the sneaky four legged animals) Then I found a cleanly licked chicken breast bone. Crime solved!
Wish the others in the flock would be bright enough to learn from Rosalie's mistake, but judging by the size of their heads I don't think they have a brain large enough for that kind of data.
In the meantime, we have a couple girls misbehaving! They seem to trail off from the rest of the flock and migrate towards our neighbors property. These two girls are hysterical. As I watch their fuzzy ass's walking away from my property and onto Randy's, they walk side by side like they are having a conversation. They look like two teenage girls shopping at the mall! I swear! They have me so damn frustrated that I almost think I'm going to have them for dinner. They don't come home until all the others are nestled on their roosts and it's almost dark.
So it seems that we have lost one. I usually am a little hesitant about leaving the chickens to free-range when I'm not home, but I figured they'd be ok for just a few hours. We haven't seen any fox around and the hawks haven't been very successful in their fly by's. But a couple of days ago one of our girls didn't come home. I didn't think anything of it because she is usually one of the the dirty little stay outs that sometimes doesn't come home to roost until it is almost dark. I sometimes find her laying on the protective mesh above the coop door. Unfortunately, it has been 3 days and still no sign of her. Jason went out yesterday morning to walk around the perimeter a little and found a large orange and red fluffy tailed animal running away in our neighbors yard. With that description it had to be a fox...either that or a large easter bunny that fell in some paint.
Well Mr. Swiper the Fox...I hope you had a nice dinner!! Because if I see you come around here again you will be facing a double barrel!
So I write today with some sad news. In our chicken endeavors we have only lost a few of our chickens. Two were to a predator and one was a day old chick who just wasn't strong enough to push forward. The two we lost to a predator were very young chickens, so it really didn't affect us.
This Saturday we had to cull one of our chickens. Nutmeg was a Rhode Island Red Hen, probably about 2 years old. She never was a terrific layer and the reason why was she had a reproductive defect that caused her eggs to come out very deformed, watery and very easily crushed. On regular occasions our nesting boxes would be gooey with egg yolk and whites and would stick all over the other eggs. We kept her anyway because she was a healthy, affectionate companion to all her coop mates. She was also quite affectionate to us as well. Always let us pick her up and hand feed her treats. She would follow me around the yard like I was her mommy.
About 3 weeks ago I started noticing that she was not herself. She would go out with the rest of her family and eat some grass and scratch around, but then she would just puff herself up and sleep the day away. I've also notice that someone was pooping strange liquidity stuff, but couldn't figure out who it was. Well, weeks went on and I noticed a rapid decline in Nutmeg . I also noticed that there were no more messy nesting box incidents. Starting to put the pieces of the puzzle together I came to the conclusion that the weird poop was actually coming from her. Her thin eggs must have broken inside of her which in turn blocked the ability to lay. The condition is called 'Egg Bound'. We finally came to the decision that she would never recover fully with the treatments that were available. She would always lay the type of eggs that would cause her this same problem later down the road. She was very thin, light and it looked like she would probably not have made it, even if we had tried the treatments. The best option was to put her out of her misery and put her in a better and happier place.
Never did I think that having to put a chicken down would have affected me this way. I was sad, and I did shed tears. I never could handle nor wrap my head around a life just ending, animal or human. I could probably put myself into a psych ward just thinking about it for too long.
So to Nutmeg, I hope you are in a better place. We know we gave you a good life with lots of love and freedom to flap your wings. Your friends miss you too. Mr Roo has been crowing non stop and looks as though he has set a search around the property. =o(
Finally some nice weather made it's way to NJ. Thursday and Friday (Feb. 17 & 18) were beautiful! It was in the 50's on Thurs. and 60's on Friday. Can't get any better than that. Now, as much as I LOVE winter and oodles and oodles of snow, I start getting a little bit of the winter blues around this time. But, the warm sun and peaking green grass made those little winter blues disappear. At least for two days...came Saturday and it plummeted back into the teens. What a teaser!! I bet my flock was thinking the same damn thing. If their tiny pea brains actually think about those things. Well, if they didn't I'm sure they do now. Thursday was their first day out of the run in about 2 1/2 months. They don't like the snow much. But they had no choice this year...if they wanted to have some (freezing) sun on their faces they had to become tolerable of the frigid weather. And for the most part they did.
March is up next and we all know how that month can be...In like a lion out like a lamb?? Isn't that the saying? I bite my tongue when I say that the month of March can still bring on monstrous snow storms. Let all pray for warm weather!
It's been about a month since I've installed the christmas lights into the coop. I'm hear to say that it does work. We are now up to 10-14 eggs a day. Double edged sword in a way because now we may end up with a surplus of eggs. Ya, ya, I'm never happy. But actually I am. With our 'regulars' buying their normal quantity of eggs on a weekly basis we will definitely be able to keep the chickens fed and happy. (and off the chopping block) just kidding!
Also in the past month I come to notice some new colored and sized eggs. Which means that our babies that were hatched in July are finally laying. Someone is laying the cutest oliveish colored (new word meaning not quite olive, but not quite green or brown) eggs. They are so perfectly shaped they almost look fake. And someone else is laying the largest eggs we have had yet. Light brown in color and are pretty much the size of my palm. HUGE!! Ouch that's gotta hurt. Just imagine having to give birth everyday...a....hell NO!!
On that note...I thank my girls everyday and give them much love and treats.