The Demise of the J&A Chicken Ranch

Well folks, I’m here to announce my flock of 14 birds is officially down to eight.

I’m sad.

The casualties are:
1 yellow chicken killed by a coyote in plain sight
1 yellow chicken found lying dead in the coop in March 2012.  Cause of death: unknown
The remains of one yellow chicken (mostly feathers) found in an abandoned outbuilding in April 2012, obvious murder

MIA:
2 black and white chickens
1 black chicken

I should have eleven chickens.  I had eleven chickens earlier in the week.  But tonight, I only counted eight.  I scanned the vicinity and found none, so I waited until dusk for them to come in to the coop to roost in order to get a good count.  There are only eight.

I looked everywhere for signs of foul play.  Or would that be fowl play?
I got nothing.  Not a feather, not a speck of blood, not a chicken track.

I’ve questioned the dogs.  I’ve interrogated the horses.  Played a little good cop/bad cop.  They’re not talking.  Not even when I offered a reward of 1 bucket of oats for any information leading to the arrest of person or persons involved in the disappearance of 3 chickens in one week.

It’s a classic whodunit.  Has something bad happened to my three chickens?

Or have these hens simply crossed the road to get to the other side?

I will be interrupting your regularly scheduled program for any urgent news updates.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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A Fine Mess

Looks like #15 got herself in a pickle.

J-Dub says she was probably scratching her chin on the tree bark and turned her head just enough to get it wedged in there.  She doesn’t know how to lift her head and pull back to get out.

 

 

 

She messed her eye up pretty good trying to get loose.
J-Dub said she’d been there a couple of days probably by pee and poop around her feet and her skinny sides.

She fought him when he tried to help her, but he was able to use the hay forks on his truck to spread the branches just enough so she could back out.

I can only imagine what those other cows are saying.  She’s probably the laughing stock of there herd.

Oh the shame of it.

 

Small Miracles

So why did the chicken cross the road?

To get back home from her Mexican vacation, that’s why.

Yes, it’s a small miracle, but I’ll take it.  My missing yellow chicken that I wrote about in this post here, has returned safely.

I don’t know where she’s been, I only know that she’s home.  She was lost, but now she’s found.  The prodigal hen has come to her senses and returned to her chickie mama.  And there was great rejoicing.  And a small bit of befuddlement as to where this yellow bird has been the past couple of weeks.

I have a sneaking suspicion that she’s gone broody in a place I haven’t discovered yet.  A broody chicken is a good mama chicken.  More than anything, she desires to sit on a nest of eggs and hatch them, fertilized or not.  A broody hen gets a little cranky if you try to get her eggs from the nest, she may growl (imagine that) or peck you.  Sometimes a broody hen will not even leave the nest to eat or drink.

From past experience, we have found 8-10 eggs lain here or there.  One time, we discovered a nest up on the stacked hay bales.  Another time, some kids discovered a nest out by some big round bales of hay while out playing around the place.  So, if I was a betting woman, I’d put some money down that the yellow hen has spent many days sitting on a nest of eggs somewhere around this Chicken Ranch, hoping beyond hope to hatch a few little chicks, knitting her pink and blue baby blankets……. all for naught.

Or she’s been vacationing in Mexico.  Anything’s possible, right?

A Chicken is good for a laugh or two

When we drove to a nearby city on Friday, January 27th to check into the hospital to give birth, we thought we’d only be gone a couple of days, and so we prepared for being gone only a couple of days.  But as fate would have it, it turned out to be seven.

J-Dub drove back to our home about 3 times during that week to check on things, get the mail, do a little work, overall, just tend to the things that needed to be tended to.

Of course in a situation like this, a lot of necessary tasks are overlooked for a short time, one of which being the chickens.  We left the chickens out, as is our custom, to free-range the place.  They had plenty of food and water and fresh air.  The day after we returned, I quickly went out to do a head count. Thirteen is the magic number.  But only twelve chickens did I find.  A yellow one was gone.

Naturally, I assumed the worst.  My mind returned to the coyote snatching that occurred a few months ago.  I quickly did a half-way-walk-around-the-place for any signs of demise like a plethora of feathers scattered about.  I checked the horse tanks, as we all know my chickens are fond of nearly drowning in a horse tank.  There were no signs.

I counted my losses, allowed myself a moment or two to grieve, and returned to the house.  Since then, J-Dub’s been penning them up for me at night.  Their range is no longer free.  They are jailbirds, for their own good.

Yesterday evening, a guest speaker was speaking at the church.  J-Dub was asked to play the drums for the praise and worship time.  He didn’t bother to unhook his horse trailer from his pick-up as he would be using it this morning to haul some horses to a nearby town for breeding.  Shortly before the service was to begin, I received a text from my husband informing me that a yellow chicken was in the church parking lot.  Evidently, she had hitched a ride to church in the horse trailer and then flew out once they were stopped.

Fortunately, some friends of ours recognized her and as the music was gearing up inside the church, I can only imagine our friends running around the parking lot chasing a stow-away chicken.

She was captured, trapped, and returned safely to her home later that evening.

I’m glad she’s home, and plus it gives me hope.  If one chicken can hitch a ride to church, perhaps my lost chicken is not dead after all.  Maybe , just maybe, she crossed the road and hopped a train.  Perhaps right now she’s drinking a Pina Colada in Mexico.  Living the life.   I can see her.  Beach chair, sunhat and shades, bikini, sipping on a long straw.  Because, after all, the winter’s do suck here.

The Coyote Snatching

It’s getting on sundown here at the J &A Chicken Ranch and the girls are heading in to roost for the night.   All thirteen of them. Yep, you read that right.   No typo intended.  Thirteen.  As life would have it, murder, mayhem, and malice struck the Chicken Ranch early Sunday morning past when an unsuspecting fowl fell victim to the first coyote snatching on record.  J-Dub had just stepped outdoors just shortly after dawn, when suddenly the door flew wide open, expletives filled the room, and the gun cabinet was heard opening and closing.  Sitting in the lazy boy enjoying my morning cup of java, I hurriedly asked him what in the Boone’s Farm was going on as he dashed back through the living room on his way back outside. “A coyote just got one of your chickens!”  I jumped up (as much as one can jump while 7 months pregnant) and stood in the door frame to witness a nasty, vulgar, repulsive coyote running across the pasture with a helpless, vulnerable, limp, yellow chicken hanging from his jaws. Shots were fired at the coyote.  The chicken was dropped with a poof of feathers and dust, and the coyote ran off with shots kicking up dirt behind him.  Another coyote who was off to the right watching the action and hoping to have a chicken for breakfast also ran off.  We only had  pistol handy that morning and unfortunately, a bullet never made contact with the coyote.  But in a matter of minutes, the ne’er-d0-well was back to pick up it’s abandoned meal only to be  scared off again with another round of shots.  I told J-Dub I was going to get my chicken out of the pasture.  I was not going to let that murdering cur have the satisfaction of tasting even a morsel of my golden girl.  Sparing me the task, J-Dub walked out and carried the dead bird back to the house and disposed of her. Realizing the dogs would return, I quickly penned all my hens and secured them safe and sound in their coop where they have spent the last 5 days miserably.    They were mad for a good while, and the other day I think I even caught a couple of them with a file and a saw tucked under their wings.  A blueprint drawing of the coop with arrows and lines was discovered crumpled in the corner.  It was obvious to any onlooker that plans for a Coop Break was underway, I got home early enough today to let them out for a couple of hours of exercise before dusk.  You’ve never seen such elated birds.  They ran, and pecked, and flew, and clucked.   I sat outside with a rifle not 30 feet away when dusk settled and I dared those good for nothings to sneak up to the house again. In the famous words of Scarlett O’Hara….”I can shoot straight……if I don’t have to shoot too far.” In Memory of a Yellow Chicken:

Chicken Drowning Averted

The fourteen chickens who run this ranch have full reign of the place.  At times, they may be found perched on the hood of a truck, sitting on a tractor wheel, or stealing the horse’s feed.  They do as they please, when they please, which is just fine with me.  I can’t bear to coop them up.  They deserve to free birds.

As long as chickens roam free, there is risk involved.  The chicken hawks, the snakes, the speeding cars on the adjacent highway.  And then there’s the horse trough.

There is a debate in the poultry world as to whether chickens can swim or not.  I didn’t know this until the other day when I was forced to.

J-Dub was tending to the animals one evening when he noticed the water in one of the drinking tubs for the horses was rather low.  As he drew near to put the water hose in, he discovered a Barred Plymouth Rock in the water.   That’s a breed of chicken for you laypersons.  The dear fowl was soaked to the skin, feathers drenched, exhausted, and very stressed. 

He rescued her from the drinking tub where she couldn’t fly out either because a) the water was too low and she couldn’t scale the top or B)because the trough is narrow and she couldn’t spread her wings fully to fly out.  We don’t know how long she treaded (is that a word) water.  But we know she was sure glad to get out of there.  I’m positive my husband coddled her and spoke soft and tender reassuring words to her.  He put he in the chicken coop where she sat dripping in a state of shock emitting a long sad whimper.  If you can imagine a chicken whimpering. 

And then he came in and told me about it. 

It could’ve been bad if he had not found her.  I worried for my sweet chicken all night, well at least until I fell asleep.  The next morning, her feathers were badly ruffled, she seemed a little tired and perhaps a bit stove up, but was no worse for the wear.  She has made a full recovery and hopefully learned a good lesson. 

I might have to put some floaties on her wings just in case.

Not really my chicken
image found at dogswhotwitter.com

Eggs!!

I peeked into the chicken feeder to see how low the chickens were getting on feed, and just take a looky-look at what I discovered.

 

Yup, eggs.  In the feeder.  Our very first crop, if that’s what you call it.  I had been checking for eggs daily, but foolish me, was looking in the nesting boxes, not in the chicken feeder.

It’s a good thing I have this handy little egg basket. 

Since there were four eggs, I assumed they might be from one hen, and have possibly been sitting in a the summer heat for a few days, so my niece and I did the egg freshness test.

When you put the egg in a bowl of water, if it sinks quickly and lies on its side, it is good to eat.  If it ever floats, it needs to be discarded.  If it sits on the bottom of the bowl, but stands up on one end, it is not as fresh, but is still safe to eat. 

All our eggs aced the test.

 

They are quite tiny.  But the chickens are only 4 months old, and I’m hoping as they mature a little more, the eggs will increase in size. 

Despite their size, they made a good breakfast. 

With a taste nothing like store-bought eggs.  Much richer.  I was a bit leery at first, wondering if it’s safe to eat the first eggs, but we did anyway, and we didn’t even get salmonella or botulism or anything.