Here kitty, kitty, kitty…

We’re pretty early risers here at our house. John is up and about by 4:00 am each morning. I’m not the morning person he is, and on work days I (with lots of help from my longsuffering husband) manage to drag myself out of bed typically between 4:30 and 5:00 am. By 5:30 am I usually have my first pot of tea brewing, most of the dishwasher unloaded, maybe a load of laundry on its way to started, and am figuring out what to take for my lunch at work.

John is typically off to catch the bus by the time it’s starting to get light nowadays, however today he had the day off because of an appointment.

He was sitting at the desk working on balancing the checkbook – I was in the bathroom starting to get serious about getting ready for work for the day – when I heard John yell, “Hey! Get out of here!”

By the time we caught up to one another he said, “A bobcat! Just off the back porch! It got one of the babies….”

We called Pepper and headed outside where, sadly, we found one of my baby (now 20 week old) Cuckoo Maran pullets, breathing her last, right where the bobcat had dropped it.

Sad!

Pepper went tearing off through the yard, following the scent, trying to find it, and John and I scouted, trying to determine if there were any other casualties.

The girls were HIGHLY agitated.

They stayed clustered in the corner of the run closest to the house. (For the better part of the day, actually.)

And when Pepper came running by they freaked out a little and went running for the coop.

Needless to say, they weren’t the only ones who were shook up.

When you raise urban chickens, you know there are predators. In our 8.5 years here we’ve seen hawks, owls, fox, coyote, raccoon, and who could forget the neighbor dogs! But bobcat? Really?

I likely might never have believed it if our friend – just down the way from us, maybe ½ a mile away – hadn’t had a similar experience with her own flock last year. All tolled, I believe she lost a dozen hens to a bobcat. Another friend, just down the street and around the corner mentioned a few months ago they’d spotted a bobcat in their yard, as well.

In the local news there have been quite a few cougar sightings, as well – not that far from where we live.

But to look up on your back porch and see a bobcat making one of your chicks its breakfast?

Crazy!

This evening when I was out in the garden bringing in ingredients for tonight’s salad, I could swear I could smell that distinctive smell that I smelled this morning when I cleaned up the remains of my little Cuckoo Maran. I looked around and thought, “It would never be out in broad daylight!”

Tonight, as we were getting the girls locked up for the night, John spotted a place in the portable fencing that was disrupted – one of the stakes had been pulled out. That’s when he saw it.

The bobcat had apparently – maybe first – maybe later –also grabbed one of my Rhode Island Reds and eaten her nearly down to the bone. It had found a nice cushy place under a big tree in the longer grasses along near the compost pile and made itself quite at home.

Wow.

Needless to say, we’re pretty hypervigilent around here right now. John has closed down the portable fencing and we will keep the girls in just the permanently fenced area of the yard for a few days at least. Now that the spinach has bolted, at least they’ll be getting some greens! That permanent fencing is 6 feet tall, so hopefully will be a deterrent. How much of a deterrent, who is to say? It had obviously been in the run at some point in time – the Rhode Island Reds just don’t get out, they’re so docile and tame and stay in the fencing!

And we’ll refrain from letting them out of the coop until it’s fully light.

And I completely intend to have Pepper have the run of the yard in the mornings before the girls go out. She takes guarding her girls seriously. (Honestly, when I tell her, “Pepper, go get the hawk!” She’ll chase that thing and run so fast, so hard, it nearly looks like she’d thinking she can take flight, too!)

So – here’s hoping that’s the end of the bobcat’s free breakfasts at our house!

Experiments in Flock Management

Each year there are decisions to be made about how to manage the flock of hens.

Said decisions typically include choosing whether or not we’re adding to the flock in the Spring (or Fall); if we are adding to the flock, how many and what breeds we’ll bring in; when to bring them in; and how long they’ll stay sequestered before integrating them into the flock at large. Part of the whole decision making process is deciding which of the hens will be retired. Another part is when transitions will be made – and how. It’s important to not make too many changes or to stress the flock out – it can really affect their health.


February 21, 2014

A number of years ago it occurred to us – that while it’s fun to get a smattering of this breed and that breed (one year I think we added something like 10 different breeds) – it sure gets to be a challenge in the coming years what breed came what year. That’s when we decided that when we add to the flock, we typically add half a dozen or a dozen chicks of a particular breed at a time. It sure makes it easier to keep things straight.

This year we brought in 13 black Cuckoo Marans and 12 California Whites.

It was about 4 or 5 weeks into observing chicks that we realized we had a couple roosters.

Both roos, unfortunately, are black Cuckoo Marans. I really wanted MORE of those incredibly dark brown eggs, not less. But oh well.

As you can see in the picture above, the roos grow at a substantially faster rate than the pullets. At 8 weeks old last weekend it was becoming obvious that we were going to need to pull the roos out of the enclosure for the chicks and integrate them with the big girls.

Let’s just say they weren’t amused – and catching them was a little bit comical. But catch them I did and they were sent out to make it in the wider world.

They tried and tried to get back to their little girls, but to no avail.

Over the course of the last week we debated whether or not we’d open the baby enclosure up to allow the rest of the babies out into the rest of the flock.

The Cuckoo Marans are certainly big enough.

The California Whites – not so much.

So – we decided to separate them out – bringing the Cuckoo Marans out and leaving the California Whites in.


Before….


During


…and….


After.

It took the Cuckoo Marans a whole day to leave the inside of the coop and venture out to get food and water – they wanted their sisters!

Just in case you weren’t aware – chickens are NOT solitary creatures. They bond to one another – and they mourn when they are separated.

The goal in this flock management experiment is to let the California Whites grow a bit bigger over the next few weeks, and THEN integrate them into the rest of the flock.

The great thing about the way that we keep our babies sequestered (the separation allows them to see one another as the babies grow), means a very smooth integration to the flock at large. Without that opportunity to become visually comfortable with one another, it can spell disaster (and sometimes death) for the babies that are being integrated. That simply hasn’t been a problem for us with the method we use.

So we wait… for the California Whites to grow. And the roos to start crowing…

Stinking Hawk!

Can you see it there in the mist?

This hawk has taken to hanging out quite near to the girls.

It seems fairly young.

Rather lithe.

It’s definitely bold.

It will swoop right down into the chicken run – with me standing just feet away!

I wish I could get a picture of it in action like that! But I’d have to actually look out the window before walking out the door – hands full of egg basket, table scraps for the girls, etc. – and be prepared with camera ready at the go.

Makes me thankful for the crows that hang out – they take great delight in harassing this hawk! Go crows!

This morning, as I walked out and nearly came face to face with the hawk – all of the girls huddling under cover – I was surprised that once the hawk winged it up to the tree just beyond the willow that the girls seemed happy as can be to just resume normal activity.

Because I was there? I don’t offer all that much protection – although I can yell – well, except for right now – I’m losing my voice to this stupid cold. I gave the girls a stern talking to about using caution with the stinking hawk hanging out so close by.

See how concerned they were:

Huh? You talking to us?

Yeah – so – obviously – they seemed to feel the danger had passed.

Oh – hey – remember Lacey?

She was one of the chicks Jezebel hatched in February. You can see her a little older here, too.

She’s done some growing up

She’s the Silver Laced Wyandotte in the middle. Pretty, huh?

Dommy (the Dominque – original, huh?) – one of the chicks that Buffy hatched in May may well be going broody… She’s kind of half-hearted about it – part of the time on the nest, part of the time off… That’s her behind the Leghorns. After we muck out the coop this weekend, I’ll set up the Broody Mama portion of the coop and see if she really wants to set eggs or not… If so, we’ll be getting some fertile eggs to bring in for her to hatch.

I don’t think I’ve introduced Blanche yet, either.

This is she:

She’s a buff colored Easter Egger – re-homed to us this winter. Blanche, she’s such a different girl. Kind of a social “special needs” kinda hen. She just doesn’t play well with others and self-isolates quite a lot. She has gotten bolder of late with the warmer weather – venturing out amongst the other girls now and then. But definitely not the team player the other girls are. She lays a lovely nice-sized blue-ish green egg every few days – but always in the wackiest locations! She makes me laugh.

I took some pictures yesterday that I’ll try and post later today or tomorrow. Hard to believe kind of stuff – particularly for those of our loved ones and friends who are on the East Coast awaiting the latest snow storm to arrive…

Back to rest for me, with a fresh mug of hot tea and honey for my very sore throat. Always with an eye out the window for the stinking hawk!