Something Wicked

We have lost four hens since mid-May.  I have started expecting to see a dead bird every time I enter the run or to come up one short in the roll call each evening.  It is frustrating and heartbreaking and has made this chicken keeping gig so much less than enjoyable.

At the same time, my sister and I have been helping our ninety-three-year-old mother on her final journey.  That has been draining, on a soul-deep level.  And it has been rewarding at the same time.  Only those who’ve traveled this road will understand that.

We lost Daisy first.  I found her in the coop early one morning and cried so hard.  She was easily my favorite hen and I was so devastated to lose her.  Then Nugget failed to come back to the run one evening and I was heartsick to know “something” was out there, stalking my girls.
Another Egger, Henrietta, died suddenly while I was away with Sister and Mom.  Coop Daddy found her in a little depression in the run where she’d been taking a dust bath.  Losing two Eggers, with no visible signs of trauma, has me wondering if I ran into a genetic issue with these birds.  I am assuming they are from the same hatch and that has me thinking I should contact the hatchery to get their insight.

Then, night before last, I discovered that Prissy, my biggest and easily the prettiest of the Comets, didn’t come back to the run in the evening.  Our neighbors have been losing hens as well and had sent a message that they’d lost a big pretty Golden Wyandotte.  Then, last evening, their hen reappeared.  I hoped to find my big girl when I went down to close up for the night.  But she wasn’t there.

I’m trying not to be too mopey.  I need to spend some time in the coop today, cleaning and reordering things.  I made the girls stay in the run while we were away yesterday and I’m sure they are more than ready to spend some time out in the open.  And yet…

It feels like I am in a dead zone.  The summer has come on with such a vengeance.  Everything is drying up.  Water is getting scarce.  We are under a fire ban that will remain in place until the rains come in the fall.  If they come.  Any rainfall we get right now soaks up almost as it enters the atmosphere.  What doesn’t disappears as soon as it meets a solid surface.  The roads steam.  The ground is cracking.  I’ve been out to spread scratch for the chickens and discovered deer lurking at the edge of the trees, waiting for me to turn my back so they can come and forage what the chickens don’t eat.  My herb border, which only gets hand-watering, is drying up and going to seed.  I’ll probably just let it go since it’s a waste of water to try and save something I can easily replant next spring.

And then, there’s the predator.  We’ve always known there are hawks and raccoons and coyotes.  The hawks have made themselves known, flying overhead or landing on the utility poles, screaming a warning to the skies.  The raccoons can been seen crossing the county roads of an evening, waddling along on their way to create mayhem.  I’ve lost count of the number of dead coyotes I’ve seen on the state highway since we’ve moved out here.
This time, though, I’m pretty sure we’re dealing with a bobcat.  Our closest neighbor got images of one lounging alongside their lower driveway, right in front of a game camera.  Coop Daddy and I had one cross right in front of us on the county road we live on.  It was heading back to its den with a sizable cotton-tail dangling from its mouth.  It is small and sleek.  And likely very quick.

This will be the summer of loss.  There’s no way to recover from it all and feel differently.  I will fight the depression with all my strength and plan and hope and will things to be better.  They will be better.  Having fewer chickens isn’t a terrible thing.  The ones that are left will have more room and food.  We were getting so many eggs it was hard to get rid of them all.  Clean up will be easier.  And, just maybe, they’ll finally stop pulling each other’s butt feathers out.
Losing my mother will take a bit longer to adjust to.  She was so healthy for so long, it seemed she’d outlive us all.  And, now she’s gone, nothing we do can be done without the realization that such a short time ago, she was right there with us.  All the little trips and big adventures will be hard to enjoy for a while.

Hopefully, things will improve.  I’m going to hang a lot on that hope.

 

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Footnote

I didn’t share the post Summer Chickens as I usually do when I’ve just written a new blog post.  Sadly, Nugget didn’t come home with the rest of the girls on Friday evening.  I am holding out hope that she may yet.  But with all the predators available, it’s a very slim hope.

I will miss her running to greet me and her funny little grumble.  Never one to squawk or crow, Nuggs was a sweet girl most of the time.  She hated to be handled, until she’d gone broody and I was taking her out of the nesting boxes twice a day.  She got used to it.  And she got sweeter about it.

Every night, I anxiously count and recount until I am satisfied all fourteen birds have come in.  Each time I’m outside, I scan the woods in hopes that Nugget will come running out again.  I know it’s silly to be obsessive about them.  I’m sure I’ll lose more.  And each time my heart will break again.  I never feed or treat them without thinking about my losses.

It’s hard.  But I will always have chickens now.  I can’t imagine not having them to care for.

Goodbye, sweet Nugget.  You were such a funny girl!

Summer Chickens

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Nugget, out and about.

These days, when I go out to collect eggs, there are four pink ones. The pink eggs come from our Speckled Sussex hens. And we have four of those. Which means all of them are laying. Which means that Nugget is no longer brooding!
She stopped just ahead of the really hot weather.

Thank goodness.

Awhile back, thinking it might be a good idea to have such information, I hung a thermometer inside the chicken coop. It is on a partial wall that is shaded all the time, so I know to take that into consideration. Since cold weather finally moved north, the temperature inside the coop has been steadily rising. When it’s been brisk outside, the warm coop has been a welcome respite, for me and the birds. However, now that the days are bathed in sunshine, the coop is just hot.

In an effort to make the most use of the space available, we moved the nesting boxes to a different wall and Coop Daddy fashioned a new roost to hang over the area where those had been. This means that much of the southern breeze that might come up at night has to move over and around the boxes before the chickens will get any of it. I admit this might not have been the best idea.  So I’m considering moving them again, to the other hardware cloth wall that is a western exposure. I have some measuring to do to make sure this doesn’t impede my ability to actually enter the coop from the only door.

Chicken keeping is a work in progress. Every single day.

Back to Nugget.

In the time that she was brooding, Nuggs got used to being picked up and removed from the nesting box twice daily. I would take her out and sit her on the ground where she could get to food and water. In the afternoons, I went a step further and closed the door to the coop to prevent her from returning. Then one day, Captain Neighbor Boy suggested I remove the golf balls and one ceramic egg used as decoys to entice the girls to lay. I wasn’t sure this was going to help at all, but figure CNB has been at this chicken thing much longer than I have and he might just know a thing or two.
Apparently, he does. No sooner had I removed the decoys than Nugget began running to me any time I got near the chicken run. She stopped pacing outside the closed coop door, trying to figure out how to get back to her “eggs”. In fact, she stopped hanging out inside the run at all.

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Darlene, Bernice Matisse, and Vaisala, venturing farther afield in search of bugs.
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Bernice Matisse and Vaisala. V’s feathers are slowly growing back in.

With the coop temps hovering around 100° most days, I try to go down and check on the girls during the hot part of the day. Some of them are morning layers. We have one girl who sings out every morning at the same time. Like the 9:00 freight, signaling its arrival. Only a couple of the hens are afternoon layers and I try to get down there on the really hot days and hose off the roof of the coop and the ground outside, in hopes of giving them a bit of relief as they work. Then, once everyone has clocked out for the day, I close the door and give them treats.

In the year that we’ve had chickens, we’ve yet to get the same number of eggs as we have birds. When there were sixteen, we had one or maybe two fifteen egg days. As summer has come on, we’re getting even fewer eggs. I’m not overly concerned. It’s hot and they seem to just want to avoid the heat. Who would want to sit in a wooden box and make an egg on such days?

Sadly, they are due for their first molt around December. Bad timing on my part. Knowing what I know now, I’d buy chickens hatched in the fall, probably September, so that their first eggs would arrive with spring and their first molt with summer.

Like I said, it’s a work in progress.

Don’t Fence Me In

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The girls, making their way back to the run from the upper lawn.

Since deciding to let the chickens free-range, my habit has been to let them out in the early morning, refresh the water in their trough, hang the feeder in the shade, and collect any eggs parked under Nugget.  Then, mindful of hawk noises, I leave them alone for most of the day.  Usually they will run to the edge of the woods to pilfer the huge piles of leaves.  But it isn’t unusual to get halfway back to the house and find I have an entourage behind me!
This morning, they at least waited until I was back inside.

Coop Daddy planted new grass several weeks ago at the top of the lawn where the pigs had burrowed, and it has really come on.  The bunnies are exceedingly grateful.  And now, so are the chickens.  They discovered it yesterday.  I did try to discourage them, mostly because I felt they were really headed for my front flowerbeds.  Then too, we only just got the most recent hog damage repaired up there and I was getting excited to see a normal looking lawn in my view out the front door.  It appeared they had selected a small brick-lined area where the previous owners had planted a small shrub or tree.  It’s dead, and I had been planning to tear that spot out and let it go back to lawn.  So the girls helped with that project.  However, they also found a bald spot where the grass hadn’t taken well and they stripped it again.
On my way down to the shop a bit later, I toed the dirt back into the huge hole and patted it down.  Hopefully, Coop Daddy won’t notice.

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Excavating the brick-lined bed. I’m sure there were some tasty worms there!

As the day gets hotter, they retreat back across the drive and into more familiar territory.  Most of them are midday layers and need to be closer to the nesting boxes as the sun makes her way to the highest point in the sky.

It almost makes me wonder if eggs laid on the Solstice will come out standing on end.

The run isn’t as cool a place to snooze away a hot afternoon as one might wish.  So, my ever-resourceful chickens have taken other accommodations.

Under Walker Red.

I know…  is there anything more hillbilly than chickens under an old red truck?

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Four Eggers and a Comet enjoying the hot afternoon.

Egg production is still off a bit.  I’m not sure what that’s about, unless it’s just the heat and the fact that they’ve been laying steadily since November.  Can’t say I blame them, no matter the cause.  I’m considering a mister for the run.  And maybe a fan if it gets hotter than last year.

I will stop just short of a window-unit, I promise.

She’s In The Mood To Brood

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Nugget, looking for her special purpose.

About a week ago, on an egg-collecting trip to the coop, I encountered a very agitated Nugget in the preferred nesting box (upper left).  Thinking very little of my discovery, I asked forgiveness for my rude interruption and lifted her up to clear the eggs out from under her.  There were many.  She fussed and squawked and complained the entire time.

It’s always so intimate, collecting eggs when there’s no outside collection area for them to roll into.  You reach in and search the perimeter of the box, then gently lift the sitting hen and check underneath.  Chickens are warm creatures.  Very warm.  And the eggs that come from under a chicken are equally warm.  In fact, my favorite thing about collecting eggs in winter is keeping my hands in my pockets after, cold fingers wrapped around warm eggs.  I thanked the girls, as I always do, and went back into the house.
Later, when I came out for round two of egg collecting, Nugget was still in the box.  And just as fussy.  This time, reaching in, I found nothing.  Which meant I’d gotten Nugget’s egg earlier, or there wasn’t one to fetch.  I left her where she was.  Hens usually need a bit of recovery time once they’ve laid an egg.  Nothing felt unusual.

When I went down to close up the run for the night, Nugget was still in the nesting box.  And I realized she’d gone broody on me.  But then I was knocked back by the loss of Daisy and Nugget’s behavior took a backseat.

At least until I decided for free-ranging the girls.

I thought that maybe opening the run door and letting the others out would encourage Nuggs to give up her broody mood.  But no.  She not only stayed put, but was pretty vocal now about my stepping inside the coop.  All the same, I reached in and picked her up and carried her noisy butt out and parked her in the tall grass.  Then I went back and closed the coop door so she wouldn’t have access to the box until I was ready for her to.  This distressed her to no end.  She spent little time eating before running back into the run to drink, then to pace around and around the coop, complaining that the door had been closed.  I explained that there were new rules so she needed to adjust.
I know that brooding hens starve themselves.  They take in no nourishment or water while sitting on their eggs.  But Nuggs doesn’t generally have eggs to sit on.  And, the ones she does sit on aren’t fertile because we don’t have a rooster.  Sadly, her efforts are all for naught.  But it does make me feel good that she might have been a good mother if she’d had a chance.

I checked both of my trusty chicken guides and found nothing to alarm or even overly concern me about Nugget’s activities.  As long as I continue to force her out to eat and drink, she’ll be fine until the broody mood passes.
And, much as it was with Daisy in the days when I was handling her so much, Nuggs has come to terms with being picked up and carried around.  She still complains, but she’s stopped fighting to get away.

One of the things that drew me to the Sussex breed was the quality of their eggs.  They are creamier and make great baking eggs.  The Sussex chicks are beautifully marked, with dark lines around their eyes.  The adult hens are equally beautiful with dark red-brown feathers tipped in black and white.  Each molt will only enhance the colors.

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Nugget is somewhat disagreeable to being locked out of the nesting area.

I am content to let Nugget work though her broodiness as long as she continues to be agreeable.  The heat is coming up in North Texas and the coop will not be a pleasant place to spend the day.  I encountered this with Daisy after she was attacked and I had to force her out into the cooler run.  I’ve been down this road before.

Hopefully, it won’t be a long one.

Recovery Mode

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Egg production is up again!

I need to say, first and foremost, that I raise chickens for eggs and entertainment.  They are not my pets.  I don’t put diapers on them and bring them into my house.  They don’t hang out on the sofa with the dog.  The dog doesn’t even hang out on the sofa at my house.  I don’t call myself “mom” or “mama” or even “crazy chicken lady”, because I would never want to be confused with a lady.

If anyone reading this blog does any of those things, that’s great!  It’s just not me.

I posted to social media about Daisy, my chicken that died unexpectedly, and got some not very nice comments.  From people I know.  Who I never expected would be so mean-spirited.  One even went so far as to make a second comment in spite of my letting him know I was not at all amused.  I let it go, as did the friends who were so much more understanding of my feelings of shock and loss.  I have some incredible friends!

That is the plan.  Let it go.  I raise chickens for my entertainment and for my eggs.  And anyone who wants to make that into something weird so they can laugh about it can just go ahead and make it weird and laugh.  I’m over it.

Letting that shit go.

So…

Since finding Daisy last Sunday, I’ve given a lot of thought to owning chickens.  I’ve considered what it is I want from them and what I think they need from me.  And I’ve realized that I am getting the best of the deal.
Prior to purchasing chicks, I read a lot about what raising them would be like.  Always in the back of my mind was the fact that I would not be free-ranging them.  And always in the back of my mind sat a huge hunk of guilt.  Our run is very big.  Our coop is more than adequate.  But my chickens aren’t really happy – they’ve plucked each others butts clean of feathers!  They want to be out where the green things grow and bugs and slugs and worms abide.

Losing Daisy was the catalyst for ending the argument against free-ranging.

Yes, we have hawks.
Yes, I have flowerbeds full of tasty petals and leaves.
Yes, Captain and Mrs. Neighbor Boy have roosters.  And nine new chicks who may all be roosters for all I know.
No, we don’t have a fence.
No, I can’t be outside all day, every day.
No, it doesn’t make me at all comfortable to make this huge change.
But I want my girls to live happy lives.  And I realized last Sunday, holding sweet Daisy’s limp body and crying for the loss of my first hen, that I can’t really protect them from all harm.  Just like when my kids finally started going out into the world, I have to learn to be okay with whatever comes.
Do I expect to lose more chickens after making this decision?  Yes.  It’s inevitable.  But it’s really the only humane thing I can do.

And so, Sunday evening I went down and opened the door to the big run.  Coop Daddy and Sheli were on guard with me.  The chickens were acting like teenagers who’d just been invited onto the tour bus.  I felt a sense of relief.  And satisfaction.  And peace.

Thanks, Daisy, for making me realize that having happy chickens was the goal all along.

No… Wait… I’m not ready.

As Mother’s Days go, this one goes into the books as one that sucked.  Seriously sucked.

Warm weather means the walls of the coop are uncovered making it easy to see in.  Stepping into the run Sunday morning, I could see a chicken lying on the coop floor, legs stretched behind her.  And a white band on her right leg.

Daisy.

My heart fell to my feet.  I knew before I reached her that she was dead.  Her eyes and mouth were closed.  She appeared to have simply fallen forward, dead.  Not a sign of distress.  No peck marks.  No blood.

My heart broke into tiny little shards.

Justin, who named her Daisy for her lovely white feathers, was upstairs in the “boy room” and would be devastated to know she was gone.  Not that he spends much time with the chickens, but because he has such a gentle heart and finds death, regardless of cause, to be the most cruel element of life.

I dried my eyes and went into the house to get a trash bag.  There was no way I could bury her.  The horror of finding her later, dug up and half eaten, would be so much worse than finding her dead to begin with.

Sheli was out the door as soon as she saw my face.  Mike, already dressed for his morning hot tub soak, went in to put jeans on.  Justin, thankfully, remained unaware.

In my head, I could hear Captain Neighbor Boy saying, “You know they’re chickens, right?”
And yes, I do know.  I am keenly aware that I raise chickens and that I eat chicken.  I know they are simple domesticated birds raised for food.
But not my birds.  I never intended to raise meat chickens and envisioned the girls living to be the chicken equivalent of old ladies, pecking and clucking into their elder years.

Daisy would have been a year old in a bit more than three weeks.

I raised her from a two-day-old chick.  Nursed her through an attack from the other birds.  And again through some strange ailment a few weeks ago that seemed to be a flight injury but could certainly have been something more that finally got her on Sunday.  I don’t know.
What I do know is that I will miss calling her name as soon as I open the run door and seeing her drop into a submissive squat because she thinks that’s the proper response.  I will miss her sweet nature.  Never complaining about being picked up and messed with.  I’ll miss feeding her by hand.  I’ll miss tossing her treats as she stood outside the fringe while the others gorged on whatever I’d brought down to eat.

I knew, going into this, that there would be loss.  I expected to have a dead chick when I opened the box the day they arrived.  I expected a dead chick every time I checked on the brooder.  I’ve expected a dead bird so many times that I let my guard down finally when it hadn’t happened.

And, then it did.  And I wasn’t ready.

Goodbye, sweet Daisy.  I hope there’s lots of greens in chicken heaven.  And no hawks.

The Demise of Templeton Rat

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Templeton Rat, deceased

We moved the girls into the chicken run early last summer.  We’d spent quite a lot of time making the coop habitable and getting the run in order and I was really proud to be providing them with a safe home where they could cluck and peck and chicken around.

Sometime after the first week, I opened the door to the run and a rat leaped into the air and took off running.  Once I stopped shaking from the fright, I tried to figure out where it had disappeared to.  It seemed like it was under the coop.
So, we set about putting down 4x4s and gravel in hopes of deterring it.

Silly city slickers!  From the very start, no matter how much material we put down, that rat burrowed and dug and tunneled his way into and out of the basement of the chicken coop with the ease of a hot knife through butter.

I didn’t see him often, but when I did it was always with the thought in mind that I must work harder to eliminate him before he brought friends.
But, he never did.

Eventually, Sheli named him Templeton, after the rat in the movie Charlotte’s Web.  And, much like that rat, our Templeton was completely at home living under the coop.  He made several entrances and exits.  He built a nest behind the nesting boxes.  He dined on the feed that the chickens spilled.  He was quite content.  And totally immune to any attempt made to expel him.

I put a boxed bait trap at the mouth of his nest.  It went totally uneaten.  After several weeks, I gave up and removed it.

One day, working out in the run filling the holes dug by the chickens, I noticed a tunnel had been dug under the concrete footer on one side.  My friend Templeton had exposed the chickens to my greatest fear.  If a rat could go out that tunnel, a snake could come in.

I put a spring trap in the tunnel, heavily baited with peanut butter.  The ants LOVED it.

Several family members made attempts to shoot Templeton, but he managed to avoid being killed.  Although, he did lose most of his tail.

Through the winter, I declared a cease fire.  For one, it was too cold for him to come out often.  And I wasn’t interested in freezing my ass off waiting around.
But as soon as it started to warm up, he began to make a habit of leaving his basement apartment and milling around with the girls in the early mornings and late evenings.  I knew, if I was patient, I’d get him eventually.

Last week, I finally got my chance.  Templeton became overly brave about scurrying about the run.  He knew I was there, but refused to consider that I might just have taken enough shots at him to finally understand when and how to aim and fire.

I don’t enjoy killing anything.  It took YEARS to be brave enough to clean and filet fish to eat.  And I LOVE fried fish!  Taking a life, to my mind, is just wrong.  Even the life of a rat.  But I agreed when I brought home that tiny cheeping box from the Post Office to protect my girls as well as I possibly could.  And a rat in the hen house is a recipe for disaster.

It took three shots total.  I wounded him with the first one and felt horrid that he might be suffering.  The second shot was certainly the kill shot, but I fired again, just to be sure.  Once I knew he was dead, I covered him with a shop rag and took his very well nourished body out of the chicken run for the last time.

Godspeed, Templeton.  You were a worthy adversary.

Springing Up the Place

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The small herb garden I started last year. I’ve added a rock retaining wall to avoid having all the soil and mulch wash away.

I spent a LOT of time before we got chickens looking at other people’s ideas of what a coop and run should look like.  I’ve seen that amazing video from Two Creative Chicks and that is the run I really do jones after.

In keeping with their ideas, I started with the area outside of the run.  I had already planted a few herbs last year.  They didn’t get a lot of care, so I was expecting to have to replant this year.  Not so!  All survived my limited attention and the harsh winter weather, except one.  I promised to add mulch and to water more frequently this year.

In the field just beyond the chickens, the previous owner made a habit of tossing all the stuff they no longer needed or cared for.  There’s a huge brush pile and, under all the limbs and leaves, there’s a round metal patio table!  It’s a bit too snakey there to dig through to find out what else is buried, but I’m pretty sure nothing would surprise me.  Scattered all over that area are blocks of Austin stone.  I decided to dig up as many as I could find and move them closer to the shop so we could use them.  Quite a few of them ended up as the new border for the herb garden.
The soil washes on that side, since the whole area is on a grade, and there’s a good-sized hill just a few feet from that edge of the run.  Hopefully the rock border will help keep the soil where it belongs.

I added a Spanish Lavender at one end and that bed is complete.

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Herb bed with border and newest lavender. Plus rosemary, tarragon, oregano, and sage.

Around the corner, where it’s a bit shadier, I added another bed for flowers and more herbs.  There’s catmint and more Spanish lavender.  And a newly planted pin-cushion flower.

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Spanish lavender and catmint. A pin-cushion plant has since been added as well.

The chickens were quite displeased that I was planting so close to them without actually allowing them to taste anything!  But all the weeds and grass I pulled out of the ground got tossed into the run.
The little wire border wasn’t quite big enough to wrap around the bed, but it works for now so it stays.  I need to come up with some decorative “posts” for the ends to pretty it up a bit.

One of the things we added well ahead of the chickens was a tumbling compost bin.  It has been nice, in that it does contain the debris and the smell.  What isn’t so nice is having to try to turn it with ants building beds underneath it and the weight of the composting matter!  It is not the prettiest thing either.  So, I planted some salvia on one side to help hide it.  At some point, we’ll mount the mailbox on a real post.  For now, it’s on the ground again since the wind blew it off of the feeder I sat it on and it broke out the top of my newly planted salvia!

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The old mailbox from our farm and the new salvia.

Another area that needs work will be the northernmost walls of the run.  In winter the wind rips through and there’s no considerable windbreak.  There are well established Crape Myrtle trees on either side of the door, so anything planted in that area has to compete with tree roots.  I’m looking for a native shrub that doesn’t mind shade and grows pretty dense.
For now, we’ve seeded the area and hope to get some grass growing at least.

Up the hill, we’ve just started working the ground that will eventually be the garden.  Once we’ve got the fencing up, I’m hoping to give the girls a crack at it.

I still have quite a few ideas for the inside of the run.  We’ve been chopping up leaves and spreading them in the run.  The girls love picking through them and they eventually break down and become soil.  I’m looking for a few large stumps and tree limbs to make some natural habitats for bugs and to give the girls perching areas outside of the coop.
We started two grazing beds and I’ll have photos of those once the grass is up.

I need to figure out a water feature for the hot weather months.

But NO curtains in the nesting boxes!  I have enough trouble keeping those clean as it is.

It’s Time To Get A Gun

Anyone who knows me knows I am a liberal-minded anti-gun animal lover.  I think hunters should have to throw the bullets at the game they stalk.  Or possibly provide a firearm for the animal and step off ten paces.  I don’t make a secret of my dislike, in spite of the fact that I live with a card-carrying NRA-supporting Republican.
To his credit, he was raised on a farm where learning to shoot came second only to learning to walk.  His father, a life-long farmer, voted Republican.  Their home state is a deeply red state, much like Texas.  He served his country as a US Marine aviator and flew over Vietnam.  He’s earned the right to vote and believe as he chooses.  I may not be a fan of having guns, gun safes, and ammo cabinets, but I am a strong believer in freedom of choice.
I grew up around guns as well, although they weren’t a daily part of my childhood.  Daddy loved to hunt, when he wasn’t fishing, and raised Beagles to hunt with when I was small.  His guns were kept in the floor of the master bedroom closet, same as those of many childhood friends.  My grandfathers kept guns.  I understand the need for them.
My dislike stems from the use of guns for anything that doesn’t fall under the categories of feeding your family, target shooting, or ridding your home of unwanted elements (not to include family members, neighbors, or strangers who mistakenly wander past).
I know of absolutely no instance where anyone other than military personnel or law enforcement needs a semi-automatic weapon or a large capacity magazine.  Those have nothing to do with hunting, protecting your family or rights, or keeping the peace in your “hood”.

So…

Now that we understand each other, I need to let you know that my new daily routine in chicken keeping now includes stopping to retrieve a loaded weapon on my way to the coop.  The object of my intent is a fellow named Templeton.  He moved in shortly after the girls set up coop-keeping and has made himself quite the little home in their basement.

Templeton has thwarted me from the very start.

Upon initial discovery, I opted for the same method applied in the city when we discovered a mouse had moved in.  I bought a big plastic box bait and parked it behind the nesting boxes, well out of reach of my chickens.  After three weeks, the bait was untouched and a nest had been built using one side of the box for a support wall.

I was less than pleased.

Coop Daddy came to the rescue.  He brought a small handgun to the coop and as soon as Templeton popped out of his hole, Coop Daddy popped a cap in his ass.  Literally.  Templeton flew into the air and flopped around a few times, then disappeared back into the hole from whence he came.  I congratulated my man for the neat dispatch and went happily forward with my chicken duties.

Three days later, Templeton made an appearance.

Sans tail.

Coop Daddy’s eyes may not be what they once were, but damned if he hadn’t shot that rat directly in the tail!  Templeton now looks like a big gray hamster.  Coop Daddy probably couldn’t make that shot again if you promised him a case of coffee additive.

To say I was less than pleased, again, is such an understatement.

Our son was out a bit later and also took a gun down to the coop.  Then thought better of taking a shot down a hole wherein he had no clear understanding of possible path of trajectory.
Templeton lived to see another day.

One evening I noticed the girls clucking and digging around a spot near one wall of the run and, upon closer inspection, discovered Templeton had created a tunnel for entering and departing the chicken run.  Two things became immediately clear.
One – the builders of our chicken run had failed to bury the hardware cloth the recommended twelve inches below the surface.
Two – there was now an entrance for more furry digger type creatures as well as slinky slithery types.
I packed the tunnel with sand and put a big rock over the entrance.

Enter the big metal rat trap.  The spring-loaded kind that will snap your fingers if you aren’t careful.  I was careful.  I HATE spring-loaded traps!  I have a tendency to be careful and still snap them.  Coop Daddy helped me set it and I used a piece of hot dog for bait.  Then I slid it into Templeton’s toll free chicken run entrance and replaced the rock.

The ants LOVED the hot dog!

Another time I was out, raking sand and tidying up the run, when I heard a scrabbling noise near my left ear.  Thinking it was just the tree limbs, I glanced up and came eyeball-to-beadyeyeball with Templeton.  We both panicked.  I hit him with my hoe and he flung himself to earth, making his doorway just ahead of the blade.

Dammit.

Sheli was out one weekend and had been down to the coop to visit the girls.  Normally, she stays a good while, but this time she came back rather quickly.  Apparently Templeton was out in the run and making no big deal about a human being there as well.  She consulted with Coop Daddy and left the house armed with a small pistol.  A bit later she was back.  Disappointed and a bit mad.  She’d had a good shot and missed.  And sent chickens flying all over the place.
Coop Daddy suggested she switch to the much quieter pellet gun.  She did, but Templeton was hip to her tricks and never came out of his subterranean home again that evening.

Hmmmm…  pellet gun…  I’m not nearly as anti-gun as that!  I asked Mike where it was hidden.  We had a quick lesson in safety on, safety off, and firing.  I set out to kill a rat.

That was a couple of weeks ago.  I’ve fired at him half a dozen times.  Which is hard since he’s figured out I won’t shoot if he’s milling around amongst the chicken’s legs.  Or sitting against the metal sides of the coop.  Or under the mini coop.  Or any other spot that presents a hindrance for a clean shot.
I’ve packed rocks and rosemary sprigs in the holes that get him in and out of his home.  The girls, who normally turn their collective beaks up at fresh rosemary, pulled it all out and ate every last leaf!  Templeton has dispatched all the rock barriers in the late evenings after dark.

But, his days are numbered.

I was once a Republican.  I used to vote a straight party ticket.  For years, until our house was broken into and the thieves found it, there was a lock-back knife in the drawer of my nightstand.  There were guns in the floor of our master bedroom closet.  I had no qualms about firearms, regardless of magazine capacity.

And then, I grew up.  I realized that there are ways to deal with the problems of this world other than just killing everything.
But I am flexible in my thinking.
I’m also smart enough to know that a rat in the hen house is a danger my girls can do without.

I tried to dispatch him humanely and then not so humanely.  Now I’m done.  If it takes the rest of the year, then Templeton will have spent much longer on this earth than I’d planned.  If I’ve had to resort to leaning hard against my principles, so be it.

You tell him I’m coming.  I’m coming.  And I’m bringing Hell with me!

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