I had no idea how much loosing chickens would hurt. I need help

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by flocking nuts, Jul 20, 2016.

  1. flocking nuts

    flocking nuts Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm pretty new to BYC, and new to chickening. I had wanted chickens for fresh eggs since my late teens when I first had one. 15 years later we finally found a house we could rent out in an agricultural area. I grew up in Miami, and as a naturalist this is heaven. I got the chicks the second week we were here. The property we live on is a 1/4 acre that is fenced surrounded by an avocado grove and the barn that stores all the equipment for all of his different crops. I mention this because of course where there is important equipment there are guard dogs.

    As I had said we got chicks the 2nd week we lived here. We bought a mixed flock of 6 week-old chicks. 2 BA pullets, a BA roo, a RIR pullet, light Brahma pullet, and white leg horn that was supposed to be a pullet.

    A day or 2 before some of the farm employees stumbled on to a brooding hen along the fence while looking for some farm mesh wire fence stuff, so I could cover the gate since the guard dogs seemed to think they could come over whenever they wanted, while my daughter was out there (supervised of course), friends were over with their children, and to dig through the trash. We had a dog at the time (a stray puppy adopted us, so now 2) and she hadn't played attention to that area, so I figured she just got there. The night we brought our flock home "Mamma Hen's" eggs began hatching, she lived there longer than we did and we didn't even know it. over the next day or two 10 eggs hatched, the last of them hatch after she began foraging with the chicks, and it was a stormy day, so I stuck my hands through the something like 2x4 metal fence hole and slowly took the chick without any objections from mamma.

    My inside flock became 7,and then I had a surprise flock of 10. The surprise flock slowly adopted us, mamma hen would eat out of our hand, but kept the chicks away. We put together a small outdoor precoop/play pen for our flock, and used some wood and palm fronds from the royal palms that go around the property on 3 sides.

    Although the best we knew she was one of the neighbors, but I had installed the wire fence stuff on the front gate to stop the dogs from coming in the yard, so I figured they were safe. The first week we found a dead chick in the backyard. We didn't know what it was, and still don't. I didn't see any obvious trauma, but I didn't inspect it either. I had to get my daughter to preschool, so my bf dealt with it.
    The next two or three weeks were going ok. A puppy showed up, I think it snuck under the fence. Duh, I should have figured the bigger dogs would be able to also. I was kinda concerned, and had started to try to figure out what to do about it. We just moved in though, I bought 6 chicks before I should have, and wound up with 15 chicks and mamma hen which was some type of game fowl. In addition to a puppy that showed up, and a bearded dragon we've been watching for a month and a half. So, instead of dragging cinder blocks across the yard to at least block the probably 30 foot long gap between the bottom of the fence and the ground, that is almost 8" in some places, I worked on unpacking and organizing my almost 4y/o daughters room. The palms are planted on raised rows, so erosion over time left the gaps.

    The morning of the 4th we found that mamma hen and a chick were missing. Our "surprise flock" became "the orphans." I had heard some weird chattering (later identified as a bird) that I thought might have been raccoons. We built another temporary small coop for the orphans, put them next to ours, and started the mission of trying to tell the gender of the orphans that are hybrid game fowl chicken mix. While working in the breed and gender forums to try to figure out what the orphans were I couldn't deny that even though I don't know much about chickens, and that female white leg horns have some combs and waddles "green mallard" just seemed a little too like our cockrel goose.

    While I was going crazy trying to figure out how big the coop will be, so I could build it. We hadn't planned on having that many chickens, and we had 14 chicks. Somehow we felt responsible to care for the orphans, but the two flocks still hadn't shown any sign of integrating.

    Thanks to BYC members identifying mamma as some type of game fowl and some of the orphans as males I knew it would end poorly if we tried to keep them confined together, and our hen/roo ratio was way off. Last Thursday I went to speak to the lady at the feed store, she said she would exchange her for a new chick and help me find homes for others. I thought to myself how much I would love another Robin, the family favorite light Brahma. I know ya can't have just one chick, so I told her we would just like help rehoming Green Malard. (My daughter has an interesting sense of humor. The cats name is frog)

    Saturday evening my bf was feeding the orphans snacks and trying to build trust and all of that, so I brought our dogs and daughter inside. Sitting in the back room I hear chicks, look out the window and see the orphans running across the backyard. I wondered what my bf was doing, but went back to what I was doing. Then I hear more cheering, and see Ducky (the surprise flock reject, turned family flock) fly into the glass door. I told my daughter to stay inside. Thank god she listened. For those of you who have spent time with almost 4 year olds you understand how miraculous this was.

    I saw one of the guard dogs with robin in his mouth. My heart broke, but something in me snapped when I saw him try to run away with her. The first thing I saw was a rake, and I'm not too ashamed to say I beat that dog with it a few times until he dropped her, I had to open the gate to get him out, you know since I made sure to cover it so they couldn't go through. The rest of the pack scattered, and I'm not even totally sure how they got out. My bf had come out at this time to me screaming profanities at dog, with a rake in my hand, hysterically crying, and chasing them down the long driveway.

    It was too late for robin. She was gone. It took me quite a while to pull it together. The guilt from not having gone out when I first saw the orphans running I might have been able to save my cuddly robin. I didn't know my bf had come in, and I couldn't have known, but I still felt terrible and knew I would have to tell my daughter.

    I called the homeowner since its his dogs,a and his fences around the property. He loves kids, so felt terrible and said we'd find a way to fix it so it wouldn't happen again.

    My daughter took it better than expected. While we were burying toddler size 9 shoe box with our favorite chicken my little human said the most amazing thing. "Mommy you didn't save Robin. Daddy didn't save her and the guard dogs dieded her. You saved our other chicks though and all of the mamma hens chicks" my girl is awesome.

    When I told the owner I was thinking about an electric fence he said he would reimburse us for it. I wanted a big secure coop with run more than ever, so I needed a bird count to start. We were down to 13 chickens. We knew 2 were roos in our flock of 6,1 was intended. I was certain that 2 of the 7 orphans were make and would have to go. I know asking someone to sex a 2 month old chick of unknown breeds from pictures when they won't stay still is a lot. So I decided to get the orphans into a dog crate and take them to the feed store to see if anyone can help sex them and help me rehome them.

    My trip to the feed store was good, funny, and bad, but before I left I chased the dogs back in their 4 1/2 acres, so the whole time I was gone I was anxious. I spoke to the owner, and she said to bring them around to the feed dock, and she would try to help me figure out what they were. When I pulled around back there was an old Hispanic man talking to an employee. I explained why I was there, and we started talking about them, and the employee translated during the conversation when necessary. The old man said they were all boys, and asked what I planned to do with them. After explaining I wanted to rehome the rooms, but I didn't think they all were, and pointed out that of the two black ones, one had a comb and one didn't, and the same with two more that were very similar. After a while the owner comes out and tells me they're all females. I point out my observations to her. She said I waited too long, and they were too old to tell now, the old man said they were too young. That's the good and the funny. The bad is that since our pullet roo ratio was more off now we wanted to get 2 more light Brahmas, but there weren't any left. She might get some in Friday,but after that she doesn't know when they'll be getting more. I have the old man my number so he could call me in a few days, because I couldn't just get rid of the chicks without my daughter saying goodbye. We just buried her favorite Saturday. I too pics of the orphans one by one when I took them out of the crate to post better pics in the hopes someone might be able to help with better pics.

    I spent the next hour or so looking at electric fence stuff, and realized I wasn't sure about a few things, and needed more info. I realized I haven't explained that the starter coop doesn't have a run, and they free range during the day. The coop should be bigger, I'm trying to figure out how big of coop I need. We avoid leaving them in because they're really more of sleep shacks, not enough space for extended stays. The girls didn't want to go back in and the orphans wanted nothing to do with me after the car ride and being held for photos,and I had to go get my daughter.

    When we got home my daughter wanted to help put her chickens away. All of our flock was in the coop, but the orphans were on top of theirs and one was missing. I searched for her. There was no response or evidence of her being killed. I'm so upset. More annoying is my pullets keep getting attacked and messaging up the pullet roo ratio.

    Any guidance on electric fences, integrating the pullets from orphan flock to our flock, I'll post pics tomorrow. I know nothing about electric fences, deterring dogs until the fence arrives and is installed.

    Sorry for the long post.

    Thanks,
    Wendy
     
  2. Howard E

    Howard E Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Wendy:

    Wish I had all day to send a proper response, but I don't, so here is an attempt at the crib notes version. First and foremost, everyone on here has empathy with you and your predicament. Most, if not all have been there, with some having been there more than others. You are being forced to accept in periods of time measured in hours and days what I experienced over the course of several years while growing up on farm, and that is life in the world of wild and domestic things living outside is a cold and cruel place. It is a tough place to survive and a lot of stuff doesn't. A person really doesn't realize it until they experience it first hand.

    So now that you know of the danger that awaits your birds 24/7, you are on the right track to go forward. You can have birds where you live, you just need to slow down and gear down to do what you need to do to protect them. That is first and foremost, a secure coop that nothing but you can get into. After that, you can open up the perimeter by installing that electric fence. It is every bit as effective of a "guard dog" for your chickens as those real life guard dogs are for the farm equipment. Same principle, different process.

    As for all of those birds, you can only do what you can do. Likely as not, that means you can't save and protect and feed and have them all. So save what you can and that is all you can do.

    Good luck, and keep going.
     
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  3. 0wen

    0wen Chillin' With My Peeps

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    What Howard said. You need a secure coop and/or run for your birds; without that, it's just a matter of time to when they'll be killed. I would stop buying replacement (or additional) chickens until you have them a safe place to live unless you like feeding the neighbors dogs (or hawks, skunks, possum, raccoon, etc). I know you're in a cart before the horse scenario since you have birds sitting on your property, but realistically - they won't last in their current situation.

    If it were me, I would:

    Address the dogs coming into your yard with the neighbor
    Shoot the dogs if the neighbor doesn't address the situation, this could be in him helping put up a fence or whatever, his dogs are part of the problem
    Build a secure coop/run before the entire flock is dead (or if the dogs kill them all first, I'd stop buying chickens until I had a safe and secure coop)
    ^solves all of the issues really, you don't even need steps 1 & 2 if you get them into a place that's safe...
     
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  4. flocking nuts

    flocking nuts Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thank you so much Howard! It all just really hit me last night. I haven't been sleeping well, and finally had to get it out to people who understand, my fellow flock-minded friends. Somehow I've always end up in the deep end right away, even when I just try to test the waters.

    This morning the missing pullet was outside of her coop! I didn't have it in me to hold on to hope that we would find her, but she came back. I'm going to have to figure out what to name her. I was granted my miracle, and I am ever so thankful.

    I'm going to work on rehoming this week, and hope to have one flock, because I am in over my head.

    Here are questions, and things I need help with.

    1. Any suggestions on how to get the pullet orphans integrated into my flock? They're used to seeing one another, but I even saw my BA pullet chase away one of the orphans that tried to hang out. Mamma Hen used to peck at our flock whenever they got too close, so they were all taught not to mix.
    2. We considered building a run that had a coop on either side, but with my luck they would decide to be all BFF's and sleep in the same coop, leaving the other empty a week after moving in. Would it be better to get them all in one coop if sharing a run?
    3. As much guidance, pointers, and suggestions with running an electric fence as possible.
    4. what type of treats works best for training chickens to come when called? They love super/meal worms, but with 15 chicks and a bearded dragon they don't stay around long. I bought scatter snacks, but neither flock really like them.
    5. How do i get my dog to stop wanting to play with the chickens? She has pinned them and licked them twice, never doing any damage, but scaring the little critters half to death.
    6. are Brahmas less predator aware because they are less calm and flighty, or is it just that robin wasn't good at getting away from dogs. my dog pinned her once before she was killed.

    If there are any threads or articles that anyone can suggest also I would be very appreciative. I have so much to do, and could happily spend all day reading about chickening, but i need to be out actually making things safe. I'm going to take pictures of the perimeter that I will be running the electric fence around and post, so you can see what I'm going to be dealing with.

    Just think of everything I'll know by next year at this paces. Thank you BYC. The wealth of information shared is invaluable and I would be lost without you.

    Wendy
     
  5. Birdydeb

    Birdydeb Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mainly just want to say....I have been there too many times myself....overwhelmed and stressed out. The way I deal is to sit down and figure out priorities and put the rest on a list until I can get to them. Everyone is saying and you know the priority right now is a safe secure coop/run. I am usually the "plan this in stages and take time" type person so I am always totally bummed when it all seems to go to you know where in a hand basket. But it does do that as much as it goes well. Strange kind of luck I have. Evidently you do too. Others will have better advice on your questions. I just wanted to say take a deep breath and start on the first priority. As it gets done, your stress level will start dropping. Sometimes I can feel my stress dropping from just knowing I have a plan in place. Good luck! :)
     
  6. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    Step One - Get a run setup. Some welded wire fencing and metal posts will do. Adding a few strands of electric wire around the top and the bottom should be enough to stop those dogs. Netting or strands of 'flash' tape will help repel aerial predators.
    Step Two - bigger coop for all.
    Step Three - Better fencing/electric to keep those 'guard' dogs off your property.
    The two groups will eventually coexist quite happily together. It just takes time, sometimes even many months.
    Brahmas are bulky and not as athletic as other breeds.
    For 'training', scratch grains, bird seed, multi grain bread, corn, or sunflower seeds work well. Most chickens are crazy for all that stuff. Berries are also high on my flocks' favorite foods list. Always use the same 'call' every time you give goodies. Eventually, they will connect your verbal cue with yummy things to eat.
     
  7. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    Wendy - welcome to BYC! As you are finding out, chickens come with a steep learning curve. Often at the expense of our birds. Don't beat yourself up, we've all been there at some time or another. You'll find lots of good help here on BYC. Here are my suggestions, and they are merely that - suggestions. Chicken keeping is not a one size fits all hobby, so we all have to take what works for us, and discard the rest.

    1. I would just put them all together if you have a large enough space to put them. (I'm not quite sure what your coop setup is, or how large - feet x feet - your coop is.) There will be some pecking, even though they have seen each other. In my experience, once they physically mix, there will still be squabbles to settle the pecking order. Even if they all sleep in the same coop together at night, they may not mingle during the day since they have not been together since Day 1.

    2. I'd have them all in one coop if they're sharing a run. Just my personal preference.

    3.Howard E posted a wonderful thread on this not too long ago: https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/1117877/a-treatise-on-electric-fencing
    I suggest you read it when you have time. There are options for fencing. Some use electric poultry netting, which can be spendy, some use several strands of wire hooked up to a fencer. That's a little less costly. Read up on it and see what you think would work best for you.

    4. I can't answer that one as mine just come running anytime they see me with a bucket. I usually bring them kitchen scraps. I've never bought specific chicken treats. One thing you can do when feeding them treats is use the same call every time. I just call, "Chick, chick, chick!" and they come running.

    5. There are a lot of threads in the Predators and Pests section on training your dog. A lot of them suggest shock collars. I would not suggest that. Especially since she doesn't seem to be *that* rough with them. Teach her to "leave it" and use that command every time she goes toward your birds. I have a rowdy 2-year old Redbone coonhound mix who still shows interest sometimes, but as soon as I tell him to "leave it" he will just lay down and ignore them. (He has also learned to "stay" which is quite helpful when I'm trying to get them in early. If I can get them all on one side of the open gate, he will stay by the end of the gate so they don't sneak around past it.)

    6. If she was young, it could be that she just didn't know she was supposed to run. Especially if she was used to your dog being around.

    If I were in your situation, my first priority would be to build a secure run attached to your coop. You can do this with welded wire to keep the bigger predators out. I have 2x4" welded wire for my runs, with 1/2" hardware cloth around the bottom 2' to keep smaller chicks from finding their way out, and things like raccoons, skunks and cats from reaching in.

    I'm not a firm believer in the "x number of square feet per bird" rule. Here is another link posted by member Ridgerunner. He is an invaluable source of information:
    https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/how-much-room-do-chickens-need

    Mostly, enjoy your flock. Don't worry too much about "the ratio" at this point. Especially if they're all getting along. Of course, if you can find homes for some of your cockerels or pullets, all the better. "The ratio" isn't a magic number either. Some people keep one rooster to 20+ hens and will still have barebacked hens if he has favorites. Others keep breeding pens of one rooster to two or three hens with no problems. Do what works for you. Since you feel in over your head, don't feel bad about rehoming some of them. You'll enjoy your flock better, and the ones you keep will likely be happier.
     
  8. flocking nuts

    flocking nuts Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Homestead, Florida
    Thank you. I worked on getting a bit of the palms cleared around the fence. I'm hopeful that it can get done by the end of the weekend. I had to take a break because the south Florida heat and humidity is killer this time of day.

    Am I foolish in thinking that since half of our yard is full of a variety of fruit trees that the chickens should be safe from flying predators? I know that I saw them all take cover when they saw a shadow from a turkey vulture flying by.

    Once the fence is complete do you think they would need to be in a run during the day, or should they be ok? I mainly want the run for if we travel or if there is something going on that warrants confinement. (like my daughters 4th bday party next month) Their free ranging solved a problem I wasn't aware of when we got them.We found a scorpion in the house, then one hiding in the car port. A while later our 35 lbs lab mix was stung by a Florida bark scorpion (not nearly as poisonous as the relatives in AZ), and the only non-chemical option I found after was get cats and chickens. Since they and the surprise flock began working their magic we haven't seen anymore. I don't want to endanger our flock by letting them free range if unsafe, but they help protect my child and get to be free

    Is there anything I can do to help the flock get along better, or thing that should be avoided?

    Thanks,
    Wendy
     
  9. junebuggena

    junebuggena Chicken Obsessed

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    It will be a more cost and time efficient to focus on getting a good run installed. You can still let them free range and forage whenever someone is around to keep an eye out for danger. Then worry about the perimeter fence. And flying predators are a constant threat unless your run is covered. Trees do not stop hawks. Shrubs are better at offering 'cover'.
     
  10. bobbi-j

    bobbi-j Chicken Obsessed

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    x2
     

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