Tuesday, July 10, 2012

all quiet in the coop

It was a tremendously, overwhelmingly busy Spring. I didn't write at all, blogged very little, and am only now starting to look back at what it was all like.

This post over at Patch 'O Dirt made me realise that I hadn't really thought about a major, gritty detail of our lives on this homestead.

This was the first Spring we came face-to-face with predators. At first, we didn't notice that our hen population was dwindling; it didn't occur to us to count, as we'd just open their little door each morning and lock them in at night. 

Then my husband found eight of our twelve chicks dead in the coop, their necks bitten and bloody. This was an astounding blow, as we've never really worried a whole lot about predators. We have always let our chickens range during the day, and lock them in safely at dusk.

Well, one by one, the hens were disappearing without a trace, or would be found dead in the coop just under their nesting boxes. Finally, my husband saw a fat raccoon emerging from the coop door, well before dusk. We started locking the door a bit earlier. We don't own a gun (yet), so we resorted to increased vigilance. The trouble is, once a raccoon knows where to find food, he or she will return night after night until it's all gone.

We were down to four chicks and one hen, in addition to King Henry, our rooster of longevity (he was part of our original flock, acquired over two years ago) and valiant heart.

Then one day when I was at work, mom took Margot into town. They were home by noon, and found white feathers scattered all around...by the woodpile, up at the fire pit, by the laneway. 

King Henry put up a valiant fight, but succumbed to the daytime attack of what we assume was a fox.

I just don't have the heart to start replenishing my flock. We've kept our remaining flock of five cooped up all day and night, which saddens me in this beautiful summer weather. But, until we get electric fencing or a dog, it is the only way I'll preserve them. We get one egg a day (not much to live on for a family of five!) and look forward to our "teenagers" starting to lay in late August.

I just loved Nadja's tribute to her rooster and thank her for prompting me to write about our own losses. It's awfully quiet around here, especially in the early morning when we were accustomed to hearing the happy crowing of King Henry the Brave. I miss the matronly clucks of "my girls", and am so saddened at how their lives ended.


  1. I am so sorry to hear about your precious flock. We have had a few predators near our farm as well but have only lost a few chickens. I have a small live trap that I use to catch the small animals, weasels,mice, rats etc but do have a gun for the bigger pests. Just in case you didn't know - don't corner a raccoon they can be VERY vicious and wouldn't think twice about attacking a person.

  2. So sorry to hear about your flock. We have our first flock, they are two months old and this is the one thing I dread the most. We are trying to be very careful as there are a ton of predators around here.

  3. I am always saddened to read about losing animal. I totally get the food chain, but nevertheless it is sad. I am sorry for your loss. You should get a great livestock guard dog.

  4. I grew up on a farm and remember loosing many favoured chickens to fox raids and weasels.When I started our own flock over a year ago I decided not to let them outside. Our cats even try to take them down! Our own bush houses a large coyote population and red tailed hawks take kittens each year. If I wanted any eggs and chickens to survive I had to leave the idea of them wandering around 150 acres. We use 1/2 of the upstairs of our barn as a large windowed run for them . It is not what I would like in an ideal world but we have yet to lose one of the 66 hens or any of the 17 chicks they have brooded out for us.
    So sorry your children lost a beloved rooster. They really become part of the world that is home.

  5. I'm so sorry about your rooster and his flock.


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