A Visitor in the Dark

Well, I knew it was inevitable. I knew our luck was too good to be true. I knew, sooner or later, we’d be visited by a creature of the wild wanting to make a meal of our hens. We can only tempt fate for so long, out here on the farm. I’m amazed we’ve made it this long (15 months!) without any sneaky predators taking our ladies in the night.

Over the past several months, a pack of coyotes have taken to wandering our area in the night. Throughout August and September, we heard them yipping in the fields across the street, beside us, and behind us, night after night. My dogs heard them, too, and good old Oddler, the noble and valiant hound, went bounding through the fields each and every night, bawling his hound dog bawl, chasing them far off into the bush and returning hours later.

Lately, I haven’t heard the coyotes. I’m not sure what they’ve done with themselves, but in their place has come another menace.  For many nights, Oddler and Miss Molly have gotten themselves worked into a tizzy, running the perimeter of our farm, barking and yapping and bawling. They keep it up for hours some nights, and other nights they settle down quickly, only to resume their protective vocalising a short while later.

Last night the dogs were mostly silent. Then, at 4am, I was awoken by the shrill yip-yapping of Miss Molly in the field just out my bedroom window.  A moment later, Oddler joined with his deep bawl. They kept it up for ten minutes before racing off through the field, chasing something away from our farm, their yaps and bawls fading in the distance.  I laid there in the dark, listening for their return. Forty-five minutes later, they finally came running up our 1/2km driveway, still very worked up. They circled the farm again and again, barking, until I felt like I was going to go crazy and brought them into the house. They paced by the door for a while, and only settled down to sleep when the sky was becoming ashy, pre-dawn.

Of course the dogs’ nighttime escape was on my mind a great deal today. I had a morning appointment, and when I returned I put on my boots, fed the chickens, and went out in the field. Within minutes I found a whole chicken’s worth of feathers puffing out of a thorny bush along the edge of the field. A few steps to the east, and there was another huge tuft of feathers, blowing gently in the breeze.  Something (or a few somethings!) had taken off with our hens. I only wonder if the theft happened before the dogs went chasing through the field, or after I brought them in the house? Had the dogs prevented more birds from being taken in the night, or had I allowed the hens to be taken by bringing the dogs inside? This is troubling me, and weighing heavily on my mind.

So, now we’re at a crossroads. Do we tie the dogs to the chicken tractors at night for protection? Or do we bring them in at night to keep them safe? I am not comfortable with my dogs racing through the fields at night after some unknown prowler. Anything could happen to them, and I’d never forgive myself. I also don’t like chaining the dogs if there is a prowler around – they are much less able to defend themselves if they are tied. For tonight the dogs are curled up on their blankets in the house, warm and safe, and I am worrying myself silly about the hens left outside unprotected.

Little Miracles

Wow, Spring sure does bring so many wonderful things to the farm! A few days ago we discovered that our Lionhead rabbits, Rosemary and BooBoo, had created five beautiful little babies together.

Aren’t they amazing? We are so very much in love with them. The kids have been holding them multiple times per day, singing to them, telling them stories, stroking their incredibly soft fur. We will be sad to see these sweet little things go to new homes.

If those little bunnies weren’t cute enough, Tuesday was chick day! Our day-old chicks arrived at the feed store around noon. When I went to the feed store to pick them up, I walked in to find boxes upon boxes of day-old chicks stacked all around the store. The cheeping was so loud that I could hardly hear the woman at the desk as she spoke. It was absolutely incredible, all these tiny new bundles of life. I’m happy to report that our six little chicks are home and in their brooder (which they are sharing with the children’s duckling, who loves on those little chicks pretty fierce). We brought home two White Leghorns, two Barred Rocks, a Rhode Island Red and an ISA Brown. They are the sweetest little bundles of fuzz. Pictures to come soon!

I tried my hand at building an egg incubator and seem to have met with success. I bought two Easter Egger eggs off a neighbour and have them in the incubator now. I love the blue-green egg shells – so beautiful! I have my fingers crossed that the eggs are fertile and will develop well. In all, there are 18 eggs from various hens in the incubator. From what I’ve read, there’s usually about a 70% success rate for hatching. This is our first time hatching our own eggs and I am so excited to experience this!

Witnessing all of these little creatures discovering the world fresh and new, and seeing new life coming into this world, fills me with such a feeling of wonder and awe. And as these new lives blossom, other lives are lost – a coyote has made off with a rabbit and laying duck, visiting us two nights in a row. Mama Earth and Her creatures are so amazing! How blessed we are to be part of this web of life, to take this journey through the great Circle of Life. I am filled with gratitude.

RIP Henny Penny

Henny Penny never showed up, and we can only assume at this point that she met her sorry end.  That darned old stray cat has been stalking around our backyard incessantly, and last night we had a horrible thunderstorm that lasted quite a long time.  How a 4-week-old chick could survive out there alone, I don’t know. We searched and searched and searched for her, with no luck.

If anything, the kids have learned a valuable lesson about life and death and the great circle to which we all belong.

Chook Tragedy!!

Tragedy has befallen our wee flock of chickens.  This morning I put them out in the yard and went in to put the baby down for a nap.  Lynden went outside to keep an eye on the chicks, and a few minutes later came racing into the house, hollering.  “There’s a cat chasing the chicks!  There’s a cat chasing the chicks!” he yelled.

I put on my sandals and ran into the yard, where not a chick could I find.  I saw a bunch of black feathers on the ground, and a few feet away discovered Midnight, hiding near the fence.  Poor girl – I brought her in and put her in the brooder, and she’s been acting depressed ever since.

The nextdoor neighbour started helping me look for the remaining chicks, and we found Little Red hiding under a bush near the alley fence.  Hooray!  Into the brooder she went.

My next discovery was not a happy one.  At the back of my house, I spied the cat.  I was determined to give him a good scare, and maybe inflict a little bit of pain, attempts to deter him from returning.  As I approached, I realised that the cat was not alone.  Under his (bloody) front paws, there lay Rusty, dead as a doorknob with her stomach ripped open and the cat mouthing around at her innards.  I screamed and grabbed my daughter to keep her from going nearer, and Lynden & Raina started wailing.  “My chicken, my chicken, my poor little chicken,” Lynden cried.  I shuttled the kids into the house and went back into the yard with my neighbour to clean up the mess.

That damned cat just watched us this whole time, munching away.  We were right up beside him, hitting him with a stick, before he finally decided to forget about the chick and run.  I could hardly stand the sight of my poor little Rusty, and had to look away to keep from vomiting.  My neighbour scooped her up with a shovel and dropped her into the garbage bag I was holding, and Rusty’s story came to an end.

I went inside to console the children, who were hysterically sobbing on the couch.  Once they were calmed down, I went back outside to look for the remaining two chicks.  As I called, “Here chick chick chick,” I heard a rustling in the ferns and looked over to see Star making her way out of hiding, coming towards me.  I scooped her up and put her in the brooder.

The search for Henny Penny continues.  Lynden went out with the neighbour while I tended to Raina and Robin, and spent nearly an hour searching for our last lost bird.  They roamed the alley, sprayed water in the bushes, looked in all the nooks and crannies.  So far, no sign of Henny Penny.  At least we haven’t found a body, so hope remains.

As luck would have it, a huge storm is rolling in.  If Henny Penny is still alive, she’s in for a big shock.  Oh, dearest chickie, please be OK.