Also sorry that you lost so many eggs and chicks to The Skunk.
Tales From Chickentown - Page 4
We had a bit of a scare here in Chickentown. Our faithful companion and flock guardian Skittles suffered from a sudden case of "bloody gut", which is when a dog has bloody vomit and stools. We rushed her to the vet as soon as they opened on Monday (ever notice how our pets never get sick during business hours?) and emptied my wallet on a deposit to get her seen to. Unfortunately, while Skittles is an excellent guard dog and companion, her inherent distrust of strangers meant that the vet wasn't able to do much in the way of examination. (I guess when a 115 lb dog says "no", people tend to listen.) We were able to rule out that the bloody gut was being caused by a virus or poison, which left us with the likely answer that Skittles had eaten something sharp. Considering her predilection for chewing up sticks, it seemed a highly plausible explanation. The vet sent me home with a heap of medicine to give her and instructions on how to observe her behavior over the next several days. Fortunately, since Skittles never lost her appetite, it was easy to give her her twice-daily meds, and she made a full and speedy recovery! She is now back to her normal self, much to the relief of everyone concerned, including her former owners who stepped up to pay Skittles' entire vet bill. What wonderful people!
As for Skittles, she still loves her sticks, but we try to make sure she doesn't swallow any of them.
Skittles joined our family several months ago after her previous owners had to give her up. I was searching for a large dog to help protect my flock, and she was exactly what I was looking for. Her former family and I keep in touch, and I keep them up-to-date on all of her little adventures in Chickentown.
In other news, I am pleased to report that no further chicks or eggs have been lost to skunks since we relocated The Skunk over a month ago. Our broody duo Violet and Daisy still have all 7 of their chicks, and are doing exemplary jobs as chicken mothers. Tinkerbell's four chicks are now roughly as big as she is, and she seems to be losing interest in doting on them. That's apparently fine by them as well, as they have been becoming increasingly independent over the past week or so--especially the wee leghorn cockerel that I have dubbed "Sheldon".
Tinkerbell the old English game bantam, with her four chicks: 2 Polish crested pullets, and a male and female leghorn. Tinkerbell lost her entire original clutch of eggs and half of this brood to the skunk, but suffered no more casualties after it was removed.
Unfortunately, all is not well in Chickentown--as the cool air of autumn has settled over Kansas, a new threat has reared its ugly head. While I was working at my desk that overlooks the outdoor classroom, I was alarmed to see a hawk swoop down into the run and try to grab a chicken! Fortunately for us, the chicken it tried to grab was Leonard, the leghorn rooster, who gave the offending raptor a sound beating and sent it on its way. Leonard escaped unscathed, and spent the rest of the day marching around the yard with his eye on the sky, the hens and juveniles hiding in the bushes nearby.
And the father of the year award goes to...
That wouldn't be the last we saw of the hawk. When I came home from my first job a few days later, I heard a terrible commotion in the yard outside. Tinkerbell was screaming bloody murder, and I saw that all of the chickens (except Leonard, of course) had once more vanished into the bushes. I rushed outside to find one of Tinkerbell's chicks--the little leghorn pullet--with a wound on her back, trying desperately to squeeze through the dog run fence and escape to safety on the other side. With no sign of the hawk that I knew had to be out there, I scooped up the little pullet, treated her wound, and sent her back into the hedgerow where her mother was waiting. I couldn't see her broodmates, and had no idea at the time if they had escaped or been a meal for the hawk. Powerless to help them, I left for my second job, hoping that my flock would be safe in my absence.
Timing was miraculous for me that day, because once again, I had no sooner come home from work and set my bags down than I heard Tinkerbell shrieking again. (For such a little bird, she sure has a set of lungs on her!) This time when I rushed outside, slingshot in hand, the hawk was brazenly swooping low through the runs and yards, trying to spook a chicken out into the open! I fired off several shots, and though my aim is horrendous and I probably couldn't have hit the broad side of a barn, the hawk seemed to realize I meant business and flew away. To our knowledge, it hasn't been back since. The only casualty was apparently an old English pullet named Thumbelina--Tinkerbell's only biological offspring at the time. Though we didn't witness her being taken, we have yet to find any sign of her and can only assume she was grabbed by the hawk during its brief visit.
To play it safe, we evicted the roosters from the bachelor coop and turned it into a bantam/juvenile pen. This required some retrofitting, because we have considerably more juveniles and bantams than we have excess roosters, and the coop as it was would have been insufficient for them. Obviously, we couldn't make the coop bigger, so instead I built a sort of chicken playground for them. I brought in logs, piles of dead grass, dried wildflowers, sticks, old wooden pallets, and anything else I thought would interest them. I created platforms, nooks, hidey-holes, and climbing structures so that even though they were all "cooped up", they wouldn't feel like they were locked indoors. So far, it appears to be vastly successful. I was even able to move in a batch of young chicks who had to be graduated from the brooder, and they have embraced the many hiding places and roosting spots available to them now.
A variety of objects breaks up the space and creates an intellectually stimulating environment.
I left an old cat carrier in the coop as an easy way to provide a nook and platform for the young chicks that have graduated from the brooder. the towel can be changed out periodically to avoid poop accumulating where they huddle at night.
A simple roost made from repurposed boards and branches accommodates most of the enclosed chickens with room to spare and can be moved out of the way for cleaning or catching chickens.
New objects (wildflowers, branches, dead leaves, etc) are added frequently to keep things fun.
A wooden pallet propped up against a wall of windows serves dual purpose as a daytime lookout point and nighttime roost.
Multiple nooks and crannies offer hiding places and hangouts for birds of all sizes. Scratch grains are scattered throughout the coop, hidden in the cracks in logs, the ledges on windows, and anywhere else I can get the grain to stay. Chickens then spend the day looking for it and satisfying their need to forage.
Plastic pallets provide a perfect hiding place for baby chicks who want to get out from underfoot. It's also a great place for me to hide food just for them. Placing the water font on top of the pallet prevents bedding from being kicked into it.
The banty coop is such a success that I've actually had other chickens sneak INTO it. The black hen scoping out a nesting box in this photo was a chronic escape artist who spent her days running wild on the wrong side of the fence, but when she saw an opportunity to follow me into this coop, she took it, and hasn't tried to get out since.
One batch of little ones that won't be joining the others in the bantam coop is the brood watched over by my duo, Violet and Daisy. My two mama hens are doing such a great job watching over their chicks that I saw no need to lock them away, especially since they don't share the conspicuous coloring of Tinkerbell's mostly-white chicks and are better able to hide in the overgrown grass and weeds.
Besides which, anything that decides to tangle with that barred broody is going to get what's coming to them!
Another batch of chicks has been hatched out in the incubator. Most of them are Polish or leghorns, since those are my two most successful breeding efforts, but I also have three mutt chicks that I just couldn't resist hatching out. One is obviously a silkie mix, while the other two are somewhat of a mystery. All I know is that one is a bantam mix with feathered feet while the other hatched from a jumbo egg and has the prettiest deep chocolate coloring.
The newest arrivals
As for the turkeys, I'm beginning to fear I may have ended up with nothing but toms! I'm still holding out hope that a couple of my bourbon red poults are hens, but for some of the turkeys, there is no doubt at all. I may be scrambling to find a hen or two come spring so that I can breed on schedule.
Joe the turkey strutting his tiny stuff.
Edited by PrairieChickens - 10/10/15 at 1:45pm
Thanks for the latest installment about Chickentown. I like what you did with the coop...putting all sorts of things in there to keep their interest. Good job!
Thanks! I plan on adding some brightly-colored decorative objects soon, as well as treat-dispensing bottles suspended from the ceiling. I started a mealworm farm a few weeks ago, so with any luck I'll have a supply of those to offer the chickens come winter. :)
You'll be very popular with the mealworm treats! That's a nice healthy treat for them
Two weeks on, and the confinement experiment is still going very well. Several larger hens have moved in and decided to stay of their own volition. I decided to replicate the experiment with my large run, and this past weekend put the majority of my hens and all of my ducks into confinement as well. Unlike the bantam coop, they have access to the outdoors, so most of their enrichment objects are located outside. Though it's still very early to comment on the success of the second run, so far results have been promising. My worst offenders for escaping and running wild outside the fence have apparently been content to remain within the run, which is surprising. Four days on, and I haven't seen them on the wrong side of the fence once. My hope is that confining the main flock will reduce losses to predators and give the ground in the extended run a chance to recover. Who knows, I may even have grass again by spring! lol
As for my excess roosters, instead of confining them to a bachelor run like I normally do, I have given them free reign over the extended run. There aren't enough of them to scorch the soil further, and if I loose a few to predators, it won't be a terrible loss--the benefit of being able to exercise, forage, and explore outweighs the risk of predation, anyway. The geese are currently in the dog run, where they may very well remain for the rest of the winter As for the turkeys, they are growing fast. I am confident that I have at least one hen in the lot--possibly two--but the other five are most definitely, no doubt about it, toms. Due to frequent visits from hungry hawks, I decided to evict my brahmas from their breeding coop in order to house the turkeys instead. The Brahmas are big enough that the hawks should leave them be, especially with the rooster Kublai Khan on duty, but the turkeys are still small enough to be carried away and I don't want to risk it.
And finally, my Ameraucana rooster Daario is FINALLY mating! With any luck, I will have purebred Ameraucana chicks soon.