12 chickens 11 chickens 10 chickens
Something has been picking off our 8-week-old chicks. The first to go was the only girl in this batch — she disappeared on Monday. We heard a commotion — the ladies tend to make a commotion after laying an egg, so at first we thought that was it — then I thought maybe I should go check on them. They were all clustered under a group of trees and seemed a little jumpy. I counted: 11 chickens. I counted again. Then I noticed that Molly had only two babies hanging off her wings (ok, they don’t really hang off her wings — but it’s the closest thing she has to apron strings).
We searched as well as we could but couldn’t find even a trace of a struggle, so we’re thinking hawk. The birds all seemed a bit more wary the rest of the day, and at nightfall the remaining 11 were all present and accounted for. Tuesday was uneventful, though we still had some nervous birds.
Well, yesterday, Peter was home alone. He heard a commotion and ran out to check (sound familiar?). He found the birds clustered around their coop area (usually they free-range our side of the property during the day; most often they are to be found out in the fields), and again acting jumpy and nervous. He counted: 10 chickens. This time it was the biggest and prettiest of the two boy babies.
Now Molly has one baby left, and I’m worried that once the easy pickings are gone this guy will start in on the teenagers and adults. And while I’m really sad about losing the babies, I’m way more attached to the adults (our first chickens ever) and the teenagers (who were also born and raised here on the farm, and who have lived long enough to develop personalities — chickenalities? — and become more like pets). Plus, I’ve promised Molly that I’ll do whatever I can to help her keep her last baby.
So, the chickens are now under house arrest for the foreseeable future. They are not thrilled about it. Most of them are confined to the coop and two attached runs, and the two lowest-on-the-totem-pole cockerels are in the chicken tractor nearby (to keep them from being picked on too badly in a space where they can’t really get away). The runs are covered so they can’t fly out, and — more importantly — a predator can’t fly in.