Starving Time

It was a sad week on the farm last week.  We lost 3 hens in as many days.  I haven’t really wanted to write about it, but it is life with everyone’s favorite protein.  A grisly pile of feathers and “leftovers” indicated a hawk attack.  Knowing your predator makes defense more effective.  So how do I know it was a hawk?  Go to the video tape.. Paul caught the offender on game camera video strolling about the coop area browsing the pullet buffet options.  

Is Taco falling down on the job?  One might ask.  Hardly.  He is more protective than ever of his hens.  Therein lies the problem: he doesn’t see the young ones as his to defend.  Despite sharing coop quarters, the y 

  

 oung pullets aren’t mature enough to interest him yet.  Plus, the big hens are constantly chasing off the young ones to assert their own dominance in the flock.  So what to do?

The whole family jumped into the defensive strategizing.  And We are experimenting with a variety of ideas:

  1. camo – we’ve established a low, camouflaged area near the coop to allow protected access in and out of the coop for feeding, egg laying, etc.
  2. Hidy holes – lots of duck-under spaces around the coop for quick cover.  (The boys were in charge of this).
  3. Competition – a decoy owl and scarecrow of sorts to deter aerial threats.  The owl is apparently pretty realistic.   After spying it, Taco barricaded the girls inside the coop until we moved it.  
  4. Younger men – we are debating adding a young cockerel to grow up under Taco’s command to watch the young girls in the meantime.
  5. Cabin fever- some forced coop time has resulted in a small amount of bloodshed but seems to have helped integrate the younger birds, a little bit.  The 2 groups are now spending more time closer together.

And this is our goal.  Because Taco is the best protection a hen could have.  Roosters are feared and revered for their vigilance in guarding their hens.  They are ever alert watching for threats, physically protecting their girls and potentially sacrificing themselves for the flock.  And Taco is a first rate protector (just ask Spaghetti and Sauce about their shins).  If they are going to have any ongoing chance of free range survival, the little girls need Taco.  

We will be anxiously watching to see if our intermediary steps will work for the next 6-8 weeks, until the young ones are grown enough to pique Taco’s interest. Ready to step in with additional measures if the first efforts fail.  Meanwhile we admire and respect the strong hawk population recognizing that this is the starving time for all.  We wish them good hunting, squirrel hunting.

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2 thoughts on “Starving Time

  1. Sorry to hear about your losses Jennifer. When we added chickens it seemed like Monty’s Python and the Holy Grail. We add and add chickens, but every new scene, we still have the original group. The old ones know the deal, and the young ones are dumb. Some survive but not nearly enough. If you cage them till they are old enough, then do they know what to do as adults? It’s tough.

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