If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that I had my first chicken casualty from a predator, a red tailed hawk, on Wednesday. It was so stupid and senseless. Yes, I get that it’s a predator/prey situation but that doesn’t mean it hurts any less. I left the girls out free ranging while I was busy inside. I normally don’t do this. I normally only let them out when I can keep a super close eye on them. I guess in reality it doesn’t really matter. It was bound to happen sooner or later. I’ve seen the eagles and hawks in the yard. I knew better. But they had been cooped up for so long due to the weather and me being gone that I wanted to give them some freedom. Anyway, Pecky McPeckerson met an untimely death because of this. I rest in knowing that it must have been a very quick death. My husband figured out something was wrong pretty quickly and by the time he got to her, she was gone. So from now on the girls will only have supervised free range time. The hawk is certain to be back. In fact, I was outside with them today and the hawk flew over. Clare E. Clare alerted me that something was flying overhead and sure enough there was the hawk. I didn’t see where it went but heard it after I locked the girls up nice and tight in the run. It was watching from the corner of the yard.
The hawk’s next meal won’t be so easy to grab. I feel certain the hawk was watching from that corner of the yard yesterday and swooped in and took Pecky down. Elsie was there with her I believe. She ran for cover and cut her comb on the chicken run wire. Anyway, there it is. My first predator killing of a chicken. It sucks. Here are some pics of Pecky and of the girls in general.
The pic above was Pecky from a couple of weeks ago. Last spring I had a lot of trouble with the flock. They were fighting and picking on each other. I have no idea what was wrong. They had everything they needed. Three of the girls were ganging up on the other 5. I tried everything to change the behavior…I pulled the three bullies out of the flock, reintroducing them at various times over a two week period. Pecky was one of those girls. She and Ellie Mae were able to be reintroduced successfully. Greta could not. She ended up with pinless peepers for a couple of months. Once I removed the peepers, she went right back to her mean ways. Long story short, I decided to send three of the birds to freezer camp after trying to rehome them. Pecky was supposed to go to freezer camp, but at the last second I changed my mind and sent one of the partridge rocks, Beulah, who was struggling with nervousness and getting picked on. Pecky always picked on Clare E. Clare but they were able to be in the flock together. I really liked Pecky. I’m sorry she ended up this way. It’s a damn shame.
Little Girl is always the most curious. She runs over every time I approach the chicken coop. She is a fantastic layer. She loves to free range, lay eggs, and eat. Boy can she eat. And she’s the smallest bird I have, hence the name. She struggles with soft eggs when things aren’t right. She laid one back in the spring when all the trouble was going on with the flock (before the three went to freezer camp). At the time I had no idea what was wrong with her. I thought she got into something and it made her sick. I put her on antibiotics and kept her inside for about 6 days. Fast forward to molting season. She laid 2 other soft shelled eggs right before she molted (at the time I didn’t realize she was getting ready to molt). I was able to watch her and now know the warning signs for when she is going to lay a soft shelled egg. And now I know she is the only one prone to doing this when her little system is out of whack for whatever reason.
I loved this series of pictures of her. I was supervising their free ranging today and she came running over wanting to know if I was going to share my coffee with her. You can almost see what she is thinking! And it’s almost like she’s disgusted that I won’t share my coffee!!
Little Girl and Gertie McGhee enjoying the nice weather and open yard for (supervised) free ranging. They’re not happy about being supervised though as you can see from the next picture of Gertie McGhee. Maybe we should rename her to Mouthy McGhee!
One thing to note about Gertie is she was picked on at night when going to roost. The other girls would peck at her head. She lost all the feathers on her head (you can see this in other pictures of her). She is so docile that she just let them peck at her and tear out her feathers and wouldn’t move or fight back. I guess she’s stubborn too. I wasn’t sure her feathers would grow back but they did after the molt!
Below is Elsie, on the right, and Clare E. Clare on the left. I always believed Elsie was our top hen. She always fought back or put the other girls in their place. This is really surprising to me because of how flighty she is compared to my other girls. I watched her over and over put the bullies in their place. She molted early (September) and JUST started laying again. I thought she wouldn’t lay after the attack yesterday, but she laid an egg today!
Clare E. Clare. What can I say. I always liked her but she too is flighty. She lost a lot of feathers due to stress. I wasn’t so sure she would grow them back due to how stressed she always seems, but she surprised me. Look at how pretty she is now. I imagine she will be less stressed now that Pecky’s gone. Pecky always chased her away from the food. Clare never fought back. She just took it and ran away, waiting for her turn.
I’m not sure how to move forward now. The hawk will obviously be around, waiting. I used to be able to let the girls out for short periods of time, maybe 30 minutes at a time. I was always around, looking out the window, but able to leave them for short periods. Now I don’t know if that will be possible. I guess time will tell.