Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bad things come in threes


They say bad things come in threes. Well that has definitely been the case for us. For today when I went to feed the chickens I was struck with the shocking sight of two more dead chickens, headless and feathers everywhere. In a kind of surreal panic I then realised one was missing and went looking... not in run, not in coop. Then just when I jumped to the conclusion she had been carted away, Ginger came running up to me from the back of the garden. She had obviously managed to escape what I assume to be a fox and had probably found refuge in a tree.

We live in suburbia surrounded by other houses, I thought it quite unlikely that we would ever get a fox, thus closing them in at night I never thought necessary. Sadly I now realise that was a mistake, and one I deeply regret. Learning to become a gardener has been a series of lessons but none as emotional as this one.

For me the biggest loss was Henny Penny, she was the odd one out, the outsider, the bottom of the pack. When we first collect the girls from the fodder store I attempted to assist the store owner in catching them. While the store owner managed to catch three, I only managed one, and as it turned out the eldest and slowest. Later to be named Henny Penny.


Even though sad for everyone in the family, the one I feel most sad for is Ginger. After having chickens I have learnt how close and important their little community is to them. Today I had the opportunity to witness how even more true that is when I watched Ginger slowly approach her dead friends and started calling out to them very softly. She stayed with me while I dug a hole for them each under a compost pile, and after laying them to rest she just stood there looking down at them for sometime. I would imagine it is a very lonely in the coop tonight.

Without question we are going to get three more. What would be the best method to introduce them to Ginger be? Melanie suggested just getting one to start with and allow them to bond before bringing in another two. Any suggestions?

17 comments:

  1. So sorry to hear this! Poor Ginger. If you get three point of lays, Ginger would be the matriarch and it should work fine. I have introduced chickens in many combinations and never had any trouble but I have heard it is best to do it in bigger groups and get it over with - let them work it out and settle down and not have ongoing stress of new introductions. Hugs from all of us. Debbie

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  2. I agree with Debbie. Introduce them all at once.

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  3. Sorry to hear about the loss of your chickens, Jason. I have woken up to a yard full of feathers (which in the early morning light I first mistook for frost) and it is not pleasant. I agree with Debbie, I'd introduce 3 all at once and get the stress over with. Alex

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  4. Hard to imagine foxes in suburbia isn't it. The sooner the better to get her some mates. Sorry about your loss

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  5. Oh how sad. So sorry to hear that.
    When one of my chooks died (natural causes) the others all huddled in the spot where she had laid for most of the day. My husband heard on a radio national report that the numbers of foxes per hectare are higher in Aus metropolitan areas than in the country. I have seen one wandering about a very busy road where I live and we are 5km from the CBD.

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  6. A hard way to learn...even harder for the poor chickens and Ginger who although she survived must be well and truly traumatised.

    I thought everyone knew there were more foxes in suburbia than in the country.

    Sorry for your loss, but angry too, that you didn't know.

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  7. Thank you all for the condolences and advice. I will introduce three new chickens ASAP. Luckily it is a good time to get chickens.

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  8. I lost three hens, one at a time, until I now have only two. Foxes can dig and climb, so you cannot just count on ordinary measures to keep the rest safe. Get Ginger several friends at once, otherwise, they fight over the pecking order each time. It was hard to watch the one I introduced to the two older ones. For three weeks, Louise terrorized Pepper. Now, Pepper just died of natural causes at a young age. I have wire on the ground around the pen, extending about a foot into the pen. The whole pen is chain link fence. The top is hardware cloth, 1/2 inch. I had raccoons, but foxes can dig and climb, too. It is hard to see dead hens. I am not physically capable of digging, so mine go into the trash. It is illegal, but catch me!

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  9. How tragic. I recently loss one mysteriously and was also deeply saddened to see the reaction from her long time friend.
    I would introduce all new ones together. I introduced 2 new pullets to 2 two year olds earlier this year and while they were ostracised and picked on at food time, it didn't take too long for them to work it out and become quite social. Good luck.

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  10. As I have not found any evidence of forced entry into the run I suspect the fox went in through the egg collection hatch. The door is hinged and stays closed only by its weight. It is solid wood and heavy enough for chickens to not open. But I guess if small children can open it so could a fox. I now have large paving stones barricading all entrances.

    Introducing the new chickens is going to be interesting. If done in the tractor probably quite simple. The garden however is not ready for the tractor. I believe you have to lock them in the coop first so they bond to it. But it is so small it scares me locking Ginger and the new three in there together. If I just put them in the run I wonder if the newbies will follow Ginger into the coop at dusk?

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  11. Sorry to hear about your loss! 3 at once is harsh. Unfortunately faxes world wide have been less populated in the country and more in suburbia- where there's food/shetler etc.
    As for the new girls- i agree get it over with. I found introducing chooks at night helped- thier all subdued and when they wake up and the otheres are there, they just sort of except them. There may still be a bit of hen pecking, til they get thier oder sorted out.
    As for putting them away at night, I just fed mine late to begin with- and thier food was in the run/ hutch arrangement. Since then all the others have just followed suit.

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  12. Sad, hope Ginger has some new friends soon.

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  13. Hi, I am so sorry to read about the loss of the hens, I lost one of my 4 through natural causes and was quite sad abotu it.I can only imagine the shock of seeing feathers etc.
    I hope the newbies settle in Ok

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  14. Oh Jason and Melanie, I'm so very sorry to hear this.. :(

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  15. Again thank you all so much for your kind support. Speaking with a near city farmer on the weekend he agreed with what some of you have said about there being more foxes in the city than the country. He said they find accommodation in and around disused houses, factories, sheds, etc.

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  16. We lived in a big city 20 years ago with about 7 chickens (our neighbors loved watching them). We had trouble with opossums and raccoons. One night we were awakened by some very stressed clucking. After eating one young chicken who didn't make a sound, the raccoon grabbed another one (a tree year old). Running outside and flashing a light, the raccoon dropped the chicken ran across the yard to the door of the coop. They usually don't run around in the dark. The next day we found the remains of the first chicken, the head bit off (which is typical of raccoons and feathers everywhere. Thank goodness that raccoon never came back.

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