-A CHECKLIST TO AVOIDING CASUETIES IN THE FLOCK-A.L.S.H.S
Now there are many different things that happen from the most obvious to the least.
No matter what it seems like they're always getting into trouble. But we can limit those different happenings with a simple procedure I’ve developed called: A.L.S.H.S
One other thing is to listen to what sounds he flock is making. If it getting loud or frantic sounding there could be an emergency.
This kind of checklist should be gone over daily. And double-checked. Though not 100% foolproof. Going over this should help you in the long-run decrease the chances of casualties.
This should be the first thing you check. Simply lookup. What do you see? Possibly a hawk or an eagle soaring up above. Now, this does not seem like any possible threat. But be warned eagle and hawk attacks happen often. Most of the time because they are just hungry. But sometimes due to parasites they can do strange things. For example birds of prey do not like confined spaces such as inside a coop even when the coop is large. But a bird with a parasite has a mind that is affected. And so many times the bird will go into those places. Were then it will probably smash into windows being injured. If this ever happens, try to pick up the tired bird by its legs with thick gloves. Maybe gloves you would use when working with a wood stove. Usually leather. But be very careful the claws can easily puncture through flesh. Then wrap the bird in a towel to keep it from moving too much. After the bird is secured call your nearest aviary. Or the wildlife department. Were they can hopefully nurse it back to health.
Now to keep this from happening when you look up to think: 1. Is the flock free-ranging? 2. Is the top of the run open? 3. Is there a place where a bird of prey could perch near the coop?
With number one, you should always put the flock back into there pen when not around. It's best to get in the habit of this when leaving the flock alone.
With number two you should have the top of the run covered. Either with chicken wire, netting, roof, etc. Anything to keep birds of prey from reaching the flock and.
With number three you should remove all branches directly above the run that are out in the open. Branches out in the open with a good view of the surrounding area attract birds of prey to perch on them. From there they have a better chance of spotting pray (your flock)
Common larger predators such as foxes or coyotes have a various amount of ways to penetrate your coop. Ask these questions if losing birds from a suspected “larger predator” 1. Is the predator digging under the fence? 2. Is it pulling birds partially through the fence? 3. Are the birds just disappearing?
If number one is happening then you should probably put a layer of chicken wire at least a foot into the ground. This should keep the predator from digging under and into the coop.
Number two is a rather brutal scene where the predator has caught and killed one of your birds but could not pull it through the coop fence. To keep from this happening make a second layer of chicken wire over the first fence. This way it will be more difficult to grab the bird. When it comes to movable fences such as Electronetting make sure that the fence is tight not sagging. And if it is lifting off the ground then you can you some sort of pin to keep it in contact with the ground. I do not recommend using this as your main coops fence. But think it's great for pasturing the flock when not wanting them to completely free-range.
For number three there could be various amount of reasons. First is the flock free-ranging? If so then this could be your problem. Especially for flock owners living near woods or fields. In seconds a predator such as maybe a fox could sneak up and grab a bird. So limit the time the flock free ranges near woods or fields. Predators are less likely to go near human activity so keep the flock close. One other reason could be that there is a gap in the fence or coop was the predator is squeezing in (although usually the case with smaller predators). Make sure all walls are secure. And fences, if damaged, are securely patched. Keeping locks on doors and gates is key. Or possibly an automatic door for more of a price. Try to always get the flock closed up before it gets to dark limiting the chance of a predator getting in. (predators have different ways of killing see chart below) Predators tend to lurk around the most during dusk and early morning. Also attracting predators by throwing dead poultry into woods or a compost pile near your coop can attract predators. So burying your bird deep is your best bet. Or when it comes to disease burning. If predators can get dead poultry from your place then they will remember and keep coming back. If you do have to throw a chicken into the woods make it far from the coop as not attract.
Smaller predators such as weasels, minks, rats, or snakes can get in some of the same ways as larger predators. They are smaller and therefore can get into less obvious places. So it's very important to double-check for small gaps in walls or fence. We're predators can get in. Especially with rats who can kill chicks or steal eggs do NOT leave food lying around. This can attract predators there because they know they can get a constant food supply. When throwing food on the ground put less than you think can be eaten by your flock. Then give them a little more if they are still hungry. I once knew someone who left cracked corn lying around everywhere which soon led to a rat problem along with many other pests. Also, feeders on the ground should have a tray underneath to collect spilled food. Or hang feeders up at night out of reach.
With snakes, it's especially important to fasten the bottom of fencing/housing. Were they can slide in. Small holes should be patched with chicken wire.
Humans can be in my experience the ones to make the most common mistakes. Especially for the beginner poultry farmer. So research is very important. (like reading this article) I narrow it down into a few groups: Crushing, Poisoning, Suffocating, cannibalism.
First, look around for crushing scenarios. Maybe a fence that is not sturdy or something hanging that could fall crushing a chicken underneath it. Or possibly a rat trap left out near a curious flock. Keep all traps in a place we're chickens cannot reach.
Another common mistake is poisoning. Often occurring when a farmer is trying to get rid of a pest and he/she is careless with the poison. When using poison keep it far away from the flock or any other animals. Also if you know the poison is nearby limit the amount of free-ranging time. And make sure your coop fence is secure so that rats can’t bring pebbles of the poison into the pen. Were a bird could easily mistake it as food. This is more deadly on chicks. Or smaller birds. And can just make an older bird sick. As a general rule poison is dangerous and should be used with caution. Also, make sure to wear protective gloves and a face mask when working with poison.
Suffocation is another big cause of death. Especially when handling baby birds. When moving birds make sure there is plenty of ventilation. Also, do not leave around things that chickens could possibly walk into and then become stuck and die due to a lack of air. Especially with kids when handling chicks make sure to handle the chick carefully as to not suffocate it.
One of the biggest and most ugly mistakes is Cannibalism. This almost always has to do with space, When chickens get cooped up they can get bored and peck at each other. Chickens are attracted to the color red so when a peck mark or injury bleeds it can attract other birds to keep pecking at it. Eventually, it can result in death if not tended too. So it is important to know the space requirements for the poultry you raise and to separate any birds that are extra egressive or birds that are injured.
Catching sickness or disease mainly is about taking some time to look at your flock's behavior. If a bird looks droopy-eyed or submissive it can mean sickness. Or if you notice a bird huddled in a corner then it could have a sickness. It's important once you notice these symptoms to immediately separate the sick bird from the rest of the flock. This way it will not be picked on by other flock mates or if it has a disease possibly keeping it from spreading such as Avian Flu. Note this also should happen with older birds getting picked on or near their end. And when buying new birds us this method to quarantine them for a few days while you study the new bird's behavior. This limits the chances of disease/sickness being passed on.
Another thing to keep in mind is keeping the coop clean. Dust, dampness and dark can attract all kinds of parasites. But when keeping things constantly clean you can keep things like mites away from your flock making future work easier.
Thanks for Reading!
I hope you found this helpful!
Remember follow A.L.S.H.S. daily. Let it develop into a habit intel it's just part of normal chores. Also, use your recourses such as websites like Backyard Chickens or books when in need of help.