Crazy Saga of Freezing Feral Chickens in Alaska

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Eggsakly, Nov 20, 2015.

  1. Eggsakly

    Eggsakly Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 5, 2015
    Hello and thanks in advance for any assistance offered. I live in southcentral Alaska outside of Anchorage about 50 miles. The area is semi-rural and heavily wooded, and I and all my neighbors own at least one acre, and many of us own two or more acres. My neighbor has always kept chickens and this year two of his australorps escaped his run and hatched a clutch of chicks in the woods between his house and mine and straddling the property of a third person. Over the summer and the fall the number of chickens in the woods diminished down to three remaining chicks. The original escapees and three or four chicks had either been taken by predators or captured and thrown back in the neighbor's coop and run, however the neighbor was never able to catch all the feral chickens. Unfortunately, the neighbor is elderly and very ill.

    The chickens did fine all summer and I didn't see them very often until late in the fall. It was warm until Halloween when the temps dropped below freezing in a serious way for the first time. A couple of days later we had five inches of snow, so I began to feed them because there wasn't anything out there for them. I have some chicken feed on hand because I have two bantams who live in a giant dog kennel in a spare room. That's another story . . .

    Anyway, there has been an unusual, early-season cold snap in the region, with temperatures dropping as low as -11F, and until this evening the last three days have had highs around zero. It's been miserable. When this happened I spoke with another more chicken-experienced neighbor enlisting his help to catch the chickens. We tried locating them at night when we thought they wouldn't move, but they were never in their usual place. It was harder than I wanted it to be.

    It got colder. One of the three remaining chicks was killed by something, a fox or an owl maybe. I put out some shavings for the remaining two, but they weren't used to them so they didn't use them. Instead, they moved under my porch up against my house.

    This is a big surprise to me because I have two big dogs who are not chicken safe and must be managed. They aren't crazed chicken murderers, and I can keep them away from the chickens under the deck if I am there to give directions, but I wouldn't trust one of them for two minutes if I wasn't looking right at him.

    I have materials on hand to patch something together for them to get them out of the weather, but these guys have been feral their entire lives and they are wild chickens. I'm surprised they have come as close as they have, and it says something about how cold it is for them. Does anyone know how I can catch them? I can get under the porch but I have to crawl on my knees and then some! I don't like the idea of trying to catch chickens while lying on my belly under a low ceiling.

    Any suggestions?


    p.s. I hate to say this but the neighbor who lost these chickens had very sad looking chickens, and I suspect they were ridden with lice. I fear he did not give his chickens a very good life, which may be the reason they got out and stayed out to begin with. I'm rather certain the poor things under the porch have lice and possibly mites, and heaven knows what else.
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2015
  2. Ameraucanas

    Ameraucanas Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 15, 2015
  3. shortgrass

    shortgrass Overrun With Chickens

    Mar 14, 2015
    Northern Colorado
    I'd have to ask, do YOU have chickens too? (Probably a dumb question)

    If you do, I would leave the feral chickens alone. They could have pathogens and pass it to your birds, but I guess they probably already have if they're in your yard...

    That being said; food. You'll have the best luck trying to capture them by getting them used to a "feeding" time, possibly rigging a cage with the food in it, with a view and a long rope or wire... @aart had a great way of catching tree roosting chickens that way....

    Really though, as hard as it is to watch, I would probably let nature take its course :( The birds are already threatened with lack of health, and you may end up spending a lot of time and heartache, not to mention money, trying to get them better and they might pass away anyway..

    Just my opinion, and too many frail animal rescues gone wrong...
  4. Eggsakly

    Eggsakly Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 5, 2015
    Thank you very much for your responses. I am aware that Hawaii has feral chickens everywhere, and it makes sense that people there have experience with wild chickens. That is a good link. I like the suggestion to grab them by their feet. I hadn't thought of that.

    Yes, I have chickens, but as I wrote they are quite young, there are only two of them, and they are both bantams and one is very tiny (I think she's half Serama). They live in a huge cage in a spare room that is for storage and growing plants, etc. They aren't under threat right now or in the foreseeable future, but I should do something before the spring for the reason mentioned - spread of disease. I do have materials and plans for a chicken coop and more chickens early next year.

    Thank you, again. I appreciate the advice.
  5. Eggsakly

    Eggsakly Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 5, 2015
    I think you are correct and I will need a cage or trap of some sort. For whatever reason, these wild chickens decided to take up residence in a spot just beyond the cleared area of my property and directly in my line of vision. Their lingering death from starvation and exposure was the movie playing outside my living room French doors. It's not in me at this time to simply let it happen. I figure they need to be helped or killed humanely. But I could be wrong on that. It is very hard.

    On the other hand, these two guys have survived on their own for several months now, are still less than half grown, and they have survived in an area ridden with natural predators including numerous foxes, big hawks, eagles, etc. And, the little hen in particular has figured out that I offer assistance and defied the dogs to move under the porch.

    I suspect they have lice, maybe mites and maybe worms. Otherwise, they appear to be quite tough, smart chickens, or it seems so to me. I think they would have been gone by now if not. The other neighbor has a free-range flock that started with eight chicks this past spring, and he is down to five chickens, having lost three to predators. His chickens are older, much bigger, and very, very healthy. The little orphans are holding their own in comparison. In the face of such talent and endurance, I can't help but want to help them make it all the way. :O)

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