As I sat at my desk yesterday, I hear the familiar "bing" of new email received. It was about 4, and my day was over at 4:30. It was from hubby telling me about a chicken rescue. My heart just sank because I found myself back in the same spot I had been in many times over the last few weeks. I was once again faced with losing a chicken.
Let me back track a bit so you can understand. Our flock was solid at 12 hens and a Rooster. We spent the summer learning how to care for them. They were easy really. We use the deep litter method so the whole thing takes about 10 minutes a day to feed and water the girls and maybe an additional 20 minutes maintenance per week. They were free-ranging too so it was fairly inexpensive as they were not eating as much as their feed as they would be if they were confined. All of those bugs and fresh greens were filling their crops with vitamins and they were producing a solid 8 to 9 gorgeous orange yolked eggs per day. How perfect!
As you read earlier in the post regarding lessons learned, I added to my flock, and with that addition, we also added mites. Although more difficult, it was an experience I was bound to have so I trudged on enthusiastically and we rid ourselves of the problem. Then I added 2 Cochin. This time however, I properly quarantined them for 4 weeks, nursed one Cochin through a respiratory thing and then added them to the flock. 3 days after a "by the book" introduction, I came home from work to find one dead Cochin and another seriously picked Cochin. We removed her and nursed her back to live, but I re-homed her. I was done and had learned my lesson about adding new chickens to my already perfect flock.
Bad weather came, and with it, terribly low temps and much snow. The girls felt the snow was WHITE DEATH so we just stopped opening the pop door. They weren't going out there anyway and they were cold. I noticed that some of the black star's were getting thin on the feathers. I actually considered it a molt and went on with my life. A week later I noticed one of the black stars was bleeding. Upon closer examination I noticed that I had 6 bald hens and some of them were bleeding. One hen (Cotton's sister) was badly pecked with a HOLE in her back about 4 inches in diameter. I was horrified. I spent HOURS researching picking, minimizing their light (shut off the coop timer and let nature take its course), adding salt and vitamins, blue kote, pine tar and all the other remedies known to man. I cried and was fairly distraught. Found the picker and as you read, put her in our pot. We opened the pop door and shoveled the snow, the girls were out in the yard. Problem solved. The hens began to heal, even Cotton's sister was healing well.
I then noticed cotton's sister was limping. She had developed Bumble Foot. This being treated and the chicken starting to behave more normal... we were on to face the rest of the winter. What else could happen at this point? Had we not already dealt with just about every ailment that was common to flocks?
Monday of this week I was talking to harry and he had mentioned this awesome "hawk" that he saw flying in the yard. In fact, Django was barking at it. I warned him that the chickens were in danger and he told me that it was too cold, none of the chickens were out in the yard. Later, I got a call from Harry, who never calls me at work. You know where this is going. Cotton was gone and a hawk (or falcon) was well fed.
I was very sad again and now faced with having to shut the pop door again. Our pen is in the woods but without the leaves, they are exposed and now they are dinner. Now that we were down 3 hens, I assumed that the picking may not restart, the main picker is gone and they had more room to move around in there (they already had enough room but you know its just the train of thought I had).
This brings me back to where we started, the "bling" of the email received letting me know that once again, we had a chicken emergency. Cotton's sister was picked again, not knowing what else to do, Tarynn and Harry grabbed her and brought her in the house.
She has been cleaned, dusted with wonder dust and given water and food. Hopefully she will pull through again. She has had many ailments this winter and I am not that optimistic that she will make it but hopeful. I feel like she is very compromised with all she has been through. Harry and I will be putting a top on the pen and letting them out again into the yard.
We have learned so much... we are down many chickens. Our flock is now down to 8 with a Roo. I am sad for my losses I am discouraged in a way but not completely.
Yesterday I got an incubator (we didn't have time to build one, we want to start chicks right away). Sometime in the next few weeks I will completely document the process of incubating and hopefully hatching our own eggs and adding to our flock.
Thanks for always sticking by us :)