Well...soul crushing....

Discussion in 'Predators and Pests' started by wendyrun, Aug 7, 2011.

  1. wendyrun

    wendyrun Out Of The Brooder

    May 25, 2010
    Gainesville, FL
    We didn't even make it to a year. I'm just in shock right now.

    Before I got my girls, I was all over the boards reading and trying to figure out what to do to make a secure home. I didn't want to have a permanent coop and decide on a tractor. I bought a kit and reinforced it, and put it up on wheels. I got mesh to secure from digging predators....but I never did it! The first few weeks, I kept them penned in and under a tarp and they were going crazy. Eventually we lightened up and just let them run loose all over our fenced back yard. 6ft wooden fence - with obvious holes dug here and there by bunnies and I don't know what else. Have seen raccoons but never in our yard. Have seen opossums back there too. And we have tons and tons of owls and hawks. The girls have a warning call they make when they hear the hawks, and they run like hell.

    In February we got a little pullet, a mix of Wynandotte and something else - she was just shy of 4 months. The big girls wouldn't let her in the nest box at night, so I was putting her in a small pet kennel and locking it up in the coop. One night...it got late and I had forgotten. 10pm, and she was gone, all we saw was a mess of feathers and heard a lot of owls. Strike one.

    so my summer pattern with the girls - I'd made a screen door for the nest house (you can look at my page to see design) and we were not really moving the coop around. Sucker got heavy. There did not seem to be a lot of ventilation without keeping the main door open. So I have my reinforced screen door, and then the main door - which I closed only when it was cold. Of course during cold weather, I had the screen door off and the whole thing shut up. The girls have been refusing to go in at night for the last month, and I figured it was just too darn hot. But when I did put them in, I only closed the main coop door, rather than the door to the nest box. Because I was still thinking owls.

    One night this week, I went out to put them in, and they were huddled on a lawn chair with mouths open. I thought they were panting. Now I think it was fear. I'm not sure. Anyway, because I am ignorant, I decided to let them stay there. This, after my husband told me the day before he'd watched a hawk snatch a squirrel out of a nest over his head, and three of them shred it to bits. I got up on Friday morning, and 'Ginny' - my not-so-good-layer - was gone. Feathers everywhere. It looked as though they had carried her from one end of the yard to the other. I made an assumption it was hawks early in the morning for a few reasons - I've not seen anything else around, I've not heard owls and I thought these girls were just too darn big to get eaten by an owl. So I really don't know for sure, but there were feathers all over and no bird.

    Our other girl, Hermione, is our steady betty layer. She proceeded to go straight into the nest box on Friday night, and my husband closed the big door. He was worried about her. We felt like she was hiding more, and that she was confused since the other hen was gone. So been giving her lots of treats. Last night, I went out to close her up and she was already "in bed". I closed the big door, but did not slide the main door to the nest box closed - I haven't done that since the thermometer hit 70.

    So you can see where this is headed. I went out this morning with a dead roach (don't ask) and some treats and found silence. A large hole dug under the coop, a few pieces of my hen inside, a few feathers here and there and not a darn thing anywhere else. I've peeked over the fence in a few spots to see if I could find where they dragged her but no luck. Less left than when whatever ate Ginny ate her, but for the mess inside the coop that I just can't face right now.

    On Friday I got upset with my husband. He mentioned our friend who'd given us the birds, how he had told him we have 2 pet chickens, and he said the guy told him, "They are chickens and not pets". And I said I understand that, we will be more careful, and try not to be attached, because things happen, but this was entirely my fault. Then I got a lecture on how "farming is tough work, he knows about that, and that's why he's 'been against' this whole thing from the start". To me, that sounds like an "I told you so" lecture. All I could think was, had someone in my home, the only other person who lives here who happens to be retired, taken time to also help me by closing up the birds every night at dark there would have been fewer nights that I would have forgotten to do it and run out at 10pm to make sure they were safe. But really, that's neither here nor there, and water under the bridge since we were not taking the time and effort to secure the coop from digging predators. We even have fox and coyotes here - but I figured if they could get enough to eat that was low-hanging fruit, they wouldn't bother to come in my yard with so many obstacles.

    Boy do I feel like a fool and a newb right now. After all my talk to friends about how easy it is, about how I was just making it too hard in the beginning by my paranoia (it's not paranoid, it's instinct, and there is a reason I should have listened to it), here I sit with a bunch of feathers and a chunk of my best layer's body in the coop that happened while I blissfully slept. I can't even imagine the terror and I only hope it was over quickly without much pain.

    Let's say at this point I'm a little fearful of trying again. I am worried that even if I had closed the main door to the nest box, whatever dug that hole might have just ripped my screen door clean off too. I have it nailed to the top of the coop on hooks - in winter I had it hooked up inside the coop to the roof, and summer it is secured with little hooks at the bottom. Which I now see could be jiggled and ripped off by a strong raccoon. Or he can just dig under, like he did, since I had only closed the main door.

    I'm thinking now that rather than trying to put the wire I bought underneath - how far out would I have to go?? It doesn't look like it took any effort at all for them to dig in....I'm thinking instead that I would have to go to a more permanent home for the coop. That I would need to dig out a patch of ground and lay bricks or cinder blocks down to set it on top, and then find a way to secure the screen door, or just keep it closed. Someone also suggested that I put a fan in the coop to cool them off - and the other idea I had that I don't need to worry about now, was to put up a perch inside the main coop so that they could just perch up on that inside the big box instead of being in the main nest where it would be hotter once doors closed. I guess there is no urgency now. I just emailed someone about getting some buff pullets and now I have to wait.

    Another friend with chickens told me this would happen. She said - "they" don't know you have chickens yet....but eventually something WILL find your birds. And you had better be ready. She was right...and we were not ready.
  2. welasharon

    welasharon Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 28, 2010
    North Florida
    I am so sorry for your losses. When you get through kicking yourself in the butt you can regroup and fix the issues since you know what they are. Lesson learned...move on from it. You care and that counts a lot. My chickens are my pets too and I have done everything I can to keep them as safe as possible, even though that may not be enough. Let it go but don't forget it. Trust your instincts and act on them...that's why you have them. Get ready for your new babies...you know a lot more now. My hubby thinks I am overdoing it but I don't care...they are my chickens. I get too much enjoyment from them.
  3. redsoxs

    redsoxs Chicken Obsessed

    Jul 17, 2011
    North Central Kansas
    Wow, Wendyrun, that is rough. I feel really bad for you because it sounds like your chickens meant a lot to you. I think in time you'll want to get back in the game. Maybe be a little more predator-minded and firm up that tractor. Maybe invest in a live trap. As far as the neighbor who said that chickens aren't pets, well, to you they were. And I don't think there is anything wrong with getting attached to them. I think people who have chickens a) have them strictly for utility - eggs and/or meat, b) have them for utility but have favorites in the flock that get special attention, and c) pets. Sounds like you fell inbetween the B and C group which is why this is so tough on you. Nothing wrong with that. Your friend is also right - predators love chicken and they are good at what they do, but if you do all you can to prevent it from happening again, you've done your part. Good luck with whatever you decide! [​IMG]
  4. Mattemma

    Mattemma Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 12, 2009
    Sorry for your loss.Hopefully you can create a safer set up for the next bunch of hens.I often look at my chickens and think about which one I could handle losing to a predator,and I can't really decide.I would hate to lose any of them;even the somewhat bossy mean ones.
  5. Ole rooster

    Ole rooster Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jun 25, 2011
    Milner, Georgia
    I would think the predator will stop digging as soon as it finds out it ain't digging dirt. Plus the wire has to bother their feet. I'm thinking of pavers about 18 inches all the way around the coop and run. I can get them for less $, with less digging than wire. What an awful way to learn from forgetfulness. Those poor souls had to pay. Now you know what to do and you gotta get to it. I shake at the thought of that happening to me here.[​IMG]
  6. wendyrun

    wendyrun Out Of The Brooder

    May 25, 2010
    Gainesville, FL
    thanks everyone, I appreciate the kind words. I cried, and then went for a run. And then did some more exercise. It helps.

    What I feel so terrible about right now is that on Friday morning, when I realized I was not seeing either hen, I had a lump in my throat. I was hoping it was only one...and when I realized it was Ginny, I felt guilty but so relieved. Ginny was a poor layer (didn't have a real egg from her until we'd had her for 6 months) and she didn't like to be petted. I was so glad it wasn't Hermione and she came running to the door when she saw me so I thought she must have been traumatized. She would come running for treats, and splay her bottom down to get scratched and she was so clever. [​IMG]
    So to lose her today this way...it makes me feel worse that I tried to shrug off the first loss by rationalizing that it wasn't my favorite chicken.

    Ole Rooster - you think pavers around would be good enough? I was thinking of digging out an area that is relatively flat and setting out the 1/2 cinder blocks to lay flat, kind of like bricks - to make a 'floor'. But doing pavers around sounds a lot easier. Are they heavy enough not to get turned up?

    OR if I put down that wire, then the pavers over top to set it?
    We had already decided we're comfortable with not moving the tractor frequently. It's hard to move, but also we found since the girls were free ranging during day, coop maintenance was not that hard in the coop proper.
  7. Debbi

    Debbi Overrun With Chickens

    May 2, 2010
    Sorry you had to learn the hard way, it hurts! [​IMG] A permanent coop/run situation would be far better than a tractor. When I designed and helped to build mine, the construction guys were telling me I was paranoid too. I just told them to laugh all they wanted, but seeing as how much time, money, and love I put into my chickens, it was well worth it to me to do it MY way. My run is 26' x 24' in size. I put my coop inside the run. The wire is 1/2" hardware cloth that is 4 feet tall, with an additional strip of 4 foot welded wire that overlaps and also covers the top in. On the outside of the run, I laid a 2' wide apron of welded wire on the ground, all the way around the run. This apron was then covered in gravel. On top of that, I ran 2 strands of electric fence around the run. Paranoid?? Maybe...maybe not. Look what I caught the other night, about 20 feet from the run! [​IMG]


    The trap will be set now, permanently! We have coons, possums, fox, coyotes, black bears, Great Horned and other owls, hawks, occaisional eagles, bobcats, skunks, and weasels. I've never seen half of these in my yard, but I know they are out there! Just because you have not seen them, does not mean they don't live in your area. Count on it, and if there is one, there will be more! If they get one chicken, you can bet they will be back for the rest of them! Would you hunt all day or night for berries if you knew there was a chicken dinner waiting for you?? Take time to look at some of the well built coops and runs here on BYC, they are amazing! It's a hard way to learn for sure, and I hope I never have it happen to me. Sorry for your losses.
  8. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    I'm so sorry. It's a rough lesson. And it's been a rough year. [​IMG]
    I had no problems for 7 years. This year raccoons got 2 of mine. Free ranging is going to be very limited from now on.

    Pick yourself up, get more birds, secure them, and never forget.

  9. NellaBean

    NellaBean Graceland Farms

    Mar 4, 2009
    Broodyland, TN
    My Coop
    If I were you I would secure the coop in an area where it won't move. Make a solid floor (wood, pavers, cement, etc) for the NIGHTTIME part. put a wire apron around the entire thing. Grass will grow through it and anchor it down eventually. In the meantime I would anchor it down myself. Wire on the inside would be annoying and chickens wont dig out. You just need to keep animals from digging in.
  10. annie3001

    annie3001 My Girls

    Jun 11, 2009
    oh you poor thing. your story truly touched me. so very sorry for your tragic loss. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    some say lesson learned the hard way. still hurts, sounds like they were your pets and friends as well. so sorry.. sending hugs your way. hopefully you can get a secure coop built and try again, when the time is right and your ready. [​IMG]

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