Our Lone Chick

It’s been a challenging year for chickens on White Flint Farm.

Early this year coyotes took out 2/3 of our free range flock, including both of our roosters. We bought some replacement chicks from a nearby farm, one of which was a young rooster. Just as he got old enough to start crowing, he was killed by a hawk.

We were pleased when one of our hens went broody after that. Of course the eggs she was sitting on were unfertilized, so I replaced them with a dozen of our Dominique eggs, as that little flock still has a functioning rooster.

Because the broody hen was hunkered down comfortably in a corner of the coop (rather than in a nesting box) I didn’t move her to the brooder coop. I just left her there. About a week before the eggs were due to hatch another hen went broody and decided to join her on her clutch. Pleased with the development, I gathered another dozen Dominique eggs and gave the second hen a clutch of her own. But she refused them, insisting instead on crowding onto the same eggs that were already taken. Because, chickens.

When the hatch occurred a week later, only one egg in the group successfully hatched, continuing our poor luck. But the lone chick was healthy, and, for the first time ever, I was hoping we hatched a rooster.

IMG_0946.JPG

Naturally both mama hens took credit for the chick. So instead of two hens with a dozen chicks each, we had two hens raising one single chick. They shared their duties as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

IMG_0979.JPG

Two mamas, one chick

IMG_1048.JPG

Learning to eat watermelon

Even after the chick feathered out and was nearing puberty, he (?) still insisted on trying to get under one of his mothers’ wings at night.

IMG_2023.JPG

Dude, you’re too old for this

IMG_2024.JPG

I don’t know if that little chick was a rooster or not, but I choose to think so.

But I’ll never be sure. He disappeared a couple of days ago.

Maybe something got him. No animal deals with more predator threats than a chicken. Maybe he just died somewhere–chickens just mysteriously drop dead sometimes. Whatever the reason, our lone chick of 2016 is gone.

We’ll get some more chicks next year and hope for better results.

 

Advertisements

33 comments on “Our Lone Chick

  1. youarehereuk says:

    It’s what makes life so precious! I wonder how the other chickens feel? I’d be heart broken every time one died or disappeared! What ever happened to the deer that thought it was a goat?

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Chickens don’t seem to have any empathy. The mamas were in their usual spot that night like nothing had ever happened. The next day the Ameraucana mama laid her first egg since she went broody and now she’s back to laying regularly. I found a snake in the coop once, eating a chick. The other chickens were just going about their business as if nothing unusual was happening. We’ve seen that with goats too, but their personalities differ from goat to goat. Some mothers are very attached to their kids and will mourn the loss of one (a heartbreaking scene). Others act as if nothing has happened. It’s interesting, and often strange, to see how they behave.

      The deer has been gone a while now. I figure his true identity must have dawned on him at some point and he figured out he could jump the fence. Hunting season opened today so hopefully for him he’ll keep out of trouble. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. NebraskaDave says:

    Bill, it seems the coyotes are getting out of hand here in my city as well. One of the surrounding communities that was annexed a couple years ago has been menacing their community by snatching pets. Before I retired, my job was to roam the city from 11pm to 7am repairing telephone equipment inside the 12 different locations in the city. I would see many coyotes roaming the ditches and semi wooded areas as I drove from one place to another. A few years ago In the southern part of my city reports of a mountain lion were reported to the police. The police laughed it off and claimed it was just a big domestic cat until some one shot it and dumped it on the police headquarters door step. Yea for guns in the right hands of the people. Another one showed up a couple years ago but the reports were taken more seriously and that one was shot as well but by the police.

    Animals adopt to the surrounding conditions. If they are presented with an easy lunch from a yapping little dog, they’re going to take it without remorse. Same with raccoons, and possums. My neighborhood has a drainage ditch at the bottom of the hill where I live. At night the critters come out of the ditch and ravage the neighborhood trash cans. Only cans with very tight lids can with stand the spreading of trash all about the yard. Plastic trash bags set out the night before trash pickup day are easy prey for the sharp clawed creatures

    I hope your chicken ventures turn out much better next year. Have a great Virginia day.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      The coyote population explosion has been amazing. We never used to have them here and now they’re abundant. In fact, until quite recently they were only in the prairie states. Now they’re in every state in the country! And they seem to thrive in cities as well as in rural areas. We’re starting to see a steep increase in the bear population around here too now. Some think the deer population explosion fueled the coyote boom. In any event, they’re certainly a force to be reckoned with now.

      Like

  3. Laurie Graves says:

    Goodness, what a story! Sad and sweet at the same time.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I almost didn’t share the story, because of the unhappy ending. I’d planned to do a post about the chick once I found out if it was a rooster or a hen. It’s a shame the story ended the way it did, but that’s the reality of country living.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laurie Graves says:

        Yup. Whatever got the “chick” was just trying to make its living, but it’s a shame it had to be at the chick’s expense.

        Like

  4. rumpydog says:

    This is the sad reality of farming, and why many prefer the easy way of cramming them all in tiny cages. Efficient. Cost-effective. But it is no way to live for either the chickens or us. We slowly give up a part of our humanity then.

    As for the predator animals, they, too, have a right to live. And the fact that it inconveniences we humans to have to give them their space and protect our own does not give us the right to mass-hunt wolves, coyotes or birds of prey. We can all live in harmony, if only we will try.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Predators will go after the low hanging fruit if it’s there. Chickens are easy targets for them. When we humans domesticate animals, it seems to me to assume a duty to protect them. I consider it part of the trade with make with them for their eggs.

      A fox or a hawk will only take one chicken at a time, and they kill it to eat. Dogs can wipe out the entire flock and they just kill them for fun. A pack of coyotes can kill a lot of animals in a very short amount of time too. We do our best to keep our animals safe while still giving them as natural a life as we can. As you say, the sad reality is that means we won’t be able to protect them all at all times.

      Like

  5. Sorry about your chicken results this year. It’s not easy either in the city or the country, I think. We have coyotes galore here in our Maine woods, and there is a mountain lion that roams a pretty big area on a couple of our peninsulas (I saw it, so I know it exists although the police and wardens don’t believe any of us). Hawks are a big problem, and even the bald eagles are seen snatching chickens out of open areas. Love your Dominique baby with his two mamas and so sorry that he is gone.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Hawks are a major problem for us too. We have a few eagles here, and we have cougars too (but here too the authorities deny it). There are just so many things that want to eat/kill chickens: hawks, owls, possums, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, snakes, dogs and probably a few more I’m leaving out. There’s just no way to keep free-ranging chickens safe 100% of the time.

      Like

  6. avwalters says:

    My sister keeps chickens. We hope to start next spring. Her chickens have an electric fence enclosure–and with one exception have not been attacked. One day, my sister was distracted and forgot to turn on the fence after she fed them in the morning. Wouldn’t you know it that that was the day that a neighbor’s dog (who’d demonstrated an unhealthy interest in the chickens) made his way through the netting and killed seven of her ten chickens.
    She was devastated.
    Sometimes, the chicks just don’t make it. Sometimes the critters get them. It’s the same with crops, and I guess, life. There are no guarantees.
    Good luck next spring.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      The worst loss we ever had was in the early years when two local dogs killed almost every chicken we had. They just killed them for fun. Maddening. After the first attack we kept the chickens inside the run that surrounds the coop–a secure fence, or so we thought. The dogs came back and somehow climbed over the fence and killed nearly all of the survivors from the first attack. A brutal day here.

      I hate it when a hatchling dies after having made it that far. This was even worse. But as you say, it just comes with the territory.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. shoreacres says:

    That photo of the chick trying to prolong life with mama is just funny. That’s a truly sweet photo — it’s a shame that he disappeared.

    When I was on my recent trip, I bumped into the story of the Heltons — a family doing your kind of farming in Arkansas. I stopped at their store, and got more than the cup of coffee I was looking for! You can read their story here. It came to mind because of the “chicken schooners” they use. I’d never heard of such a thing, but it certainly seemed like an elegant solution to protecting chickens and getting them fresh grass, all at the same time.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      That’s a great story. Thanks for sharing it.

      They’re raising meat chickens, Cornish-cross birds that reach slaughter weight in just 6-8 weeks. We have friends here who raise them too, using “chicken tractors” (smaller versions of their “schooners”) to move the chickens onto fresh grass every day. Those kind of birds are hybrids who live to eat and don’t seem to mind not being able to roost at night and don’t stay around very long.

      Not an option for us, as we raise layers. Some folks do use small portable coops with attached runs for layers. We used to raise our Dominiques that way, but we let them free-range too now. But even with those runs there is danger from hawks unless the top is covered.

      It’s just darn hard to keep chickens safe all the time! Even the ones living inside cages in buildings aren’t entirely safe, as they face a significantly increased risk of dying from viruses.

      Like

  8. Oh, I’m so sorry it disappeared! 2 Mamas? That must have been wonderful to witness.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      It was fun to watch them. Sometimes at night they’d both be sitting on the chick. In the pictures above you can see the second mama right next to the one he’s under. In the second picture she’s giving me the “don’t you dare mess with my chick” look. It was fun to watch them both teaching him to eat at the same time too.

      We’ve had goats share a kid before, but I’d never seen hens do it.

      Like

  9. We’ve had quite a few conversations about finding a balance between freedom and sustaining life, thanks to death by hawks and the occasional dog. A few weeks ago we got another two dozen hens. Four were killed in one day. We kept them in the (large) enclosure for a few days hoping the predator would leave the area.. Letting the chickens back out was a joy. The youngest hens ran and flew like kids let out for recess. It cheered my heart. That afternoon two more were dead.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Losing animals to predators really stinks. It always makes me feel like we’ve let them down.

      We’ve done the same thing at times when we discovered we were losing one ever day or so. We’d keep them inside their coop or their run for a while, hoping the predator would move on. Sometimes it works for us. And sometimes it doesn’t. Sorry y’all had that happen.

      Like

  10. Your story is why we’ve put off chickens… Right now I have a good supplier of organic eggs every week for $3/dozen and I’m going to leave it that way for awhile. We too hear coyotes at night; one night last week it sounded like they were running through our back yard. I’m sure if there were chickens running around, they wouldn’t last long.

    Like

  11. Joanna says:

    We decided not to free range ours this last year due to too many losses from hawks and foxes. We keep most of ours in arks (chicken tractors) and move them every day. Sorry to hear of your loss and the lack of chicks this year. We too didn’t do too well, neither did our neighbour. Very odd year it has been.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      I thought of you yesterday when I read that your part of the world is getting record setting snowfall, while over here we’re having record heat and drought. Meanwhile the Arctic temps this year are over 30 degrees above normal.

      As for chickens, things settled down after the catastrophe early in the year. But for some strange reason it seems we’re not meant to have a rooster in that flock. Thinking of all the times our problem was too many roosters all I can do is shake my head.

      Like

      • Joanna says:

        The snow has almost gone now after two and half weeks. Never known early snow to hang around this ling in the nearly nine years we’ve been here. Quite warm now comparatively.

        Ian thinks he heard our first rooster this year. We have five new chickens out of the 24 we tried to raise. Just waiting to see what they are. We will probably start with fresh stock next year, we seem to be breeding out the ability to lay eggs

        Like

  12. Annie says:

    I love chickens and sad to read about your losses. 😥 Here’s my chicken tale: Tom and Doris were our sweet pet bantams growing up. They gave us eggs but one or the other was sterile so no chicks for this sad couple…until my father brought home 6 fertilized leghorn eggs. Doris was overjoyed but becoming a father turned Tom into Mr. Hyde, the raging defender of his family. Let’s just say I know what it’s like to be chased up the apple tree… a lot. The chicks were pure white and twice the size of mom and pop…who never noticed. Very happy ending!

    Like

    • Bill says:

      That is a good story. Makes me smile. We once had a hen who stayed broody for months. For some reason she never could get an egg to hatch. I’d swap out new ones and she’d just keep sitting. She was absolutely determined to hatch some chicks but I was worried that she was going to die from trying. So finally I got a bunch of day old chicks from a neighbor and that night I put them all under her while she was groggy. She seemed a little puzzled at first, but after a few minutes it dawned on her that she had finally hatched her chicks. She proudly raised them. Happy ending. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh the drama with chickens. Ha! So sorry your little guy is missing. 😦

    Like

  14. Daniel Wilcox says:

    Wow, Bill, sounds like farming, again,this year is tough. Also, from an academic point-of-view (not the personal or financial) your account sounds like clear evidence for the evolutionists’ claim that natural selection is true.

    On Sat, Nov 19, 2016 at 4:39 AM, Practicing Resurrection wrote:

    > Bill posted: “It’s been a challenging year for chickens on White Flint > Farm. Early this year coyotes took out 2/3 of our free range flock, > including both of our roosters. We bought some replacement chicks from a > nearby farm, one of which was a young rooster. Just as h” >

    Like

    • Bill says:

      The original chickens lived in the wild in Malaysia. They were much different birds from our domesticated version. Without some help from humans, I don’t think chickens would last very long.

      We’ve had our ups and downs on the farm this year. Overall I’d say it’s been a good year around here, notwithstanding our chicken issues.

      Like

  15. Aww loved your chick and so sorry to read he disappeared.. The foxes here get many chicks and chickens even when people think they are safely penned..

    Like

    • Bill says:

      We’ve been fortunate that none of the predators have found a way to get into the coop at night, which is when chickens are most vulnerable. But we’ve had our fair share of trouble during the daytime.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good to hear that.. Most people do not think Foxes can jump high and dig deep, this is when their hens get taken.. When they are not fenced in correctly or taken in at night..
        We have had to bury several bits of hens left over from a foxes night raid on hens which are kept on plots on the allotments.. We did think about keeping them, but then thought again.. And I am pleased now we didn’t.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s