on December 13, we lost a hen & a rooster, and have an injured rooster in the basement, due to our own stupidity. I couldn't write about it before (still can't, really), but if I'm going to document our chicken adventures, I'd better document the good with the bad. Here is what happened, as told by Prospector:
(not for the faint of heart)
The trouble with raising an animal that is at the bottom of the food chain, and another animal that is at the top of the food chain is that when one sees the other all they think is "Dinner"
We just lost one of our breeding roosters and one of our layers to the dog. A second Roo is on life support in the basement. The horrible wind and blowing snow this week hasn't helped much.
While we are out during the day, we have been using the chicken run as a kennel for the dog, leaving all the chickens sealed inside their coop. Each morning before leaving for school, Chuck closes the birds in and sets the dog out, then when she gets home, Chuck lets the dog out, gathers eggs, and opens the coop. This allows the girls to wander in their run until I get home from work, by which time they have usually all gone inside to rest under the heat lamp.
On Monday, the door between the coop and run was left open when the dog was set out. Between the time Chuck got on the bus and the time she got home, one bird was killed and eaten, and the roo defending her was defeathered (fighting to defend the girls I suppose) and froze out in the snow. The second roo was also defeathered and I suppose left to freeze outside, but by the time I got home he was shivering on the floor of the coop, his feet frozen in clods of snow, unable to move from the knees down. He has no feathers on his rump or neck, and open sores all over his body where the dog ripped away feathers.
The rooster that died was the mate for the Americauna hen. We are hoping that the eggs she is laying are fertile for the next few days and that we can hatch some out to get a new generation.
The other rooster is on life support in the basement. I brought him in and slowly thawed his legs by the fire using a combination of my own body heat, cool water, and the glow of the fire until he could bend his legs again. I have never seen him so docile before. After thawing him out, I moved him to the dog crate in the basement with a heat lamp over him, and a blanket around the cage.
He has sugar water and some soft food. He smells awful.
At first all he would do was drink - no eating. Yesterday he started to eat, and was "talking". We brought in the Americauna hen, and put a divider up between them in the dog crate. The two of them are keeping each other company, and we are able to harvest her eggs without worry of them freezing out in the coop. Having company seems to have raised the rooster's spirits. This morning (Dec 17) he crowed for the first time since being thawed out.
His feathers are returning to white after having been bloodstained in the attack. At first we couldn't tell which was the Americauna and which was the Chanty. I am hoping his lost tail feathers and the feathers on his neck grow back quickly. We are told the Americauna's eggs will be viable for hatching for the next 10 days or so. Since we don't have an incubator, I need to build one. I think construction will start tonight.
This is disheartening. I am full of woulda-shoulda's right now. As a result, we have combined all of our flock (3 breeds) into one coop and put the dog in the other one. This may lead to cross-bred birds over the next few weeks. We will have to re-separate the breeds as spring comes on and we go into active hatching mode.
To think I was so sure about predator-proofing the coops and then put the dog in to do the damage turns my stomache. What a waste of a good rooster. What a waste of a good hen. Its one thing to kill for food, its another to let something freeze to death in the snow. I hope we get at least a few chicks out of it. Let the incubator building begin...