Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tragedy (almost) strikes the backyard chickens

tragicAs I’ve mentioned here a time or two, we got four hens last weekend and have been happily raising them since.

However, we almost lost the girls this evening. Fortunately, they are fine and we learned a valuable lesson about hens (i.e., don’t let them wander around unattended).
My wife let the chickens out of their coop this morning to forage around the backyard. We’ve been doing that regularly since shortly after we got them – our dogs and cats leave them alone, so what’s the harm?

We were in the house mopping the floors when we hard a commotion (more accurately, a bunch of squawking). We went out back to find Heihei passed out in the yard with feathers all around her. The other hens were nowhere in sight.

My wife checked on Heihei while I looked around for the rest of the hens. Heihei was just knocked out and it seems that chickens will do that when scared. Heihei was in shock, so we stuck her back in her coop and searched for the other birds.

We called our farmer friend who gave us the hens and he said that one of two things probably happened – either a hawk scattered them or an eagle picked one up and the other ones hid (there is an eagle preserve less than a mile from our house). He said the hawk scenario is more likely and that the chickens were probably just hiding – give them a couple of hours and they might return to the coop.

After a couple of hours, we found Paul hiding in some low-lying bushes in our fence line. Chickadee hiding was a few bushes down and we retrieved her, too. We figured perhaps Li’l Peep was a goner, but she showed up a few minutes after we put the two formerly hiding hens in their coop and she wanted to join them.

So, the hens are all safe and it appears that we need to keep a better eye on them. We are concerned about Heihei as she hasn’t moved much since we put her in her coop, although she has taken a few drinks of water and will cluck from time to time. We’re told that the hens probably won’t lay eggs for a few days, but they should come around just fine after the shock wears off.

We don’t exactly live in the country, but we’ve seen hawks and owls in our neighborhood. Hens are pretty vulnerable to predators, seemingly, so we got lucky this time. We’ll keep a close eye on the critters in the future.

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