Living close to the land reminds you constantly that death is a daily part of life. The best example of this has been our experiences with the flock(s.)
Our first young flock was decimated by a family of raccoons; two springs ago.
One night 17 dead chickens. There were only three survivors.
It was our fault of course, we overlooked an obvious entrance point right above the door under the over hanging roof and our little pullets paid the price.
It was a gruesome scene. Raccoons go through the flock and kill everything by ripping their heads off, then they feed on some of them. It was a REALLY bad morning.
Since then we have been militant about coop security but when you are dealing with smart hungry predators there are no promises.
It is difficult to watch when they start to hatch but are not strong enough to make it out. Or when they do but are just too weak to last long. It is impossible not to want to help them but in the end; there is very little you can do In fact; many times your efforts only make things worse.
It was heart breaking when our egg turner stopped working and we had only four chicks hatch from our third batch of eggs. Since the turner rotates so slowly it is really hard to tell that it was busted. Out of the four chicks only two lived. One little barred rock died hours after I took him out of the incubator and the other made it almost a week before giving up.
They both died in my hands.
Here; you can a see I had him in a thick glass cup so he was slightly warmer but most importantly to protect him from trampled by his clutch mates, since he had a hard time keeping his feet under him and his head up.
The little yellow chick there ^ is now a much larger rooster called Little Man. He has passed the winter in the with guineas in the A-frame coop.
As promised the guineas are getting stranger looking by the day, like a Skeksis from the Dark Crystal.
Little man and the guineas have gotten along just fine up until this point (*fingers crosses, knock on wood.*)
Meanwhile; in the other coop there was trouble afoot. The little black chick had grown-up and was turing into a large rooster.
I housed him in the outhouse coop with 16 hens-
and our older rooster Dude for the winter.
I had not seen any signs of aggression between Dude and Mr. Man (but I had seen Mr. Man go after Little Man.) I have no idea if it is because Dude is their father (insert Darth Vader breathing here,) or if he had just decided there were enough hens to go around. Also; the older hens had no problem putting the new roosters in their place. The pecking order seemed well established and relatively peaceful.
In November I opened up the coop and was quite shocked to discover two hens standing on a very dead Mr. Man; in one of the nesting boxes.
Aside from his feathers being ruffled from the postmortem piggy backs- he didn’t have a mark on him. Not a drop of blood or a scratch.
I thought if his death was caused by something harmful or chemical in the outhouse that we had overlooked there would be more. We scoured the structure but came up empty and now three months later no further deaths or illness.
The only think I can think of is murder. Murder most fowl (I know that was wrong but I couldn’t help it.) Chickencide carried out by a master assassin; who is not only smart but untraceable.
He died of dehydration or starvation? Dude could have kept him away from the food or water but I had never seen any attempts to do so. It is still a mystery. I almost preformed an autopsy but the boys where here so I decided to give his body to the forest as there wasn’t enough meat on his bones to justify the effort of plucking.
I was sad but after the last year’s four rooster debacle I was ok with one less rooster to keep track of. Now coming into spring we will have more chicken juggling to come. I can only hope there are no more deaths, mysterious or otherwise.
That would be nice but I’m not going to hold my breath and I really hope I didn’t just jinx it.