Monday, July 15, 2013

A rough weekend

This weekend did not go as I had anticipated it would.

This past week DH and I were discussing that we've had Mr. Turtle for almost a year and just how much he has thrived and grown in our care.  When we first rescued him he was maybe 3.5 inches across his shell.  In our care he had grown to over 7 inches across his shell.  I could barely stretch my hand to touch him on both sides and now needed both hands to pick him up. We both knew that we couldn't keep him forever and that the best place for him was back in the wild.

I made a few inquiries as to the best way to return him to the wild and got some nice advice from a local rehab place.  Saturday morning we fed him extra, placed him into a box and headed back to "home."

We got to where we originally found him and pulled him out of the box and placed him on the ground.  He made a direct beeline to one side of the road and headed off.  We waited a little bit and saw that Mr. Turtle disappeared into the tall grass.  Presumably to meet another turtle at some point and make another generation of snappers.

Farewell Mr. Turtle.  It was nice knowing you. Sorry we couldn't send you off with a bag of shrimp. 

Then we went off and did our errands and headed back home.

Came home to five of the guineas in the front yard in distress.  I went out to the back to check on the rest of our chickens.

Yes, here is where it gets sad. ...

In the course of four hours a fox had come and decimated our chicken flock.  When I mean decimated, I mean decimated.  Our flock had originally started with six guinea fowl and 20 chickens. We lost two Wynadottes on July 4 so we were down to 18 chickens: One Barred Rock, Three Rhode Island Reds, Two Buff Orpingtons and 12 Silver Laced winged Wynadottes.

What I found was five guineas in the front yard, one guinea in the back, calling for the flock and one Wynadotte wondering where everyone was and piles of feathers strewn about the yard.

This was devastating to me, to say the least.

We have a camera set up and facing the coop and pen so we grabbed the SD card and looked at the images.  Sure enough, a fox. Several images of the fox running around the coop, chasing the chickens.

We went back outside and called for the chickens. One of our Buff Orpingtons showed up.   She looked extremely wary and freaked out.

I was doing all right until I looked around and found a pile of Barred Rock feathers.  Spot, the favorite of the group is gone. She was our queen bee of the group.  Definitely at the top of the pecking order.

This was from the weekend of June 29/30, 2013. She knew she was a queen.

My son didn't want to give up the search and kept doing the call that we did when it was time to bring the girls into the pen and coop for the night.  "Tut-tut!"  He also kept an eye on the guineas while DH and I combed the woods all along the edge of the yard because we thought that there was no way a fox could take 14 chickens in four hours.

I know we aren't the first people that this happened too, but it hurts. It hurts A lot.  We raised those babies from when they were a week old.  Their personalities had just started really coming out, I was seeing the pecking order form and they had just discovered the front yard and all the delights of hanging out in front of the garage.

My last memory of them was from Saturday morning.  My DH had let them out and they were following him back to the deck, to check out the ground below the suet feeder, hoping that the Blue Jays had dropped some suet crumbs for them.

Guineas and one of the chickens that made it
I admit, I went into the house and cried for a good five minutes.  I felt and still do, like I failed them. I know you can't be there 100 percent of them time and can't protect them from everything, but I still feel like I failed. 

There is some good news, however.  That night about 9 p.m., my DH was in the kitchen and happened to be looking outside the window and saw a chicken outside walking to the pen and said his first thought was that our lone Wynadotte had gotten out of the coop somehow.  Then he realized that there were TWO Wynadottes outside the pen.

Two of the chickens had stayed hidden all day and came home to roost when it was time to go to bed.

I felt like it was a miracle!

I had hoped to see some more Sunday morning, but no luck.  But still - four chickens survived.

As for our guineas, by looking at pictures we can see that they stood their ground against the fox and it's true -- once guineas get to be a certain size, ain't much that can kill them.

Out of our original flock we have one Buff and three Wynadottes.

Sunday we looked on Craigs List and found an ad from someone who was selling baby chicks and was nearby.  We went to check them out and came home with six chicks and one rooster (we hope just one rooster).   These new babies are currently in the house getting acclimated to being around people and such. It was a bit hard to go and get new chicks but we are being realistic for what our original goal was with having chickens. These new baby chicks are mostly crosses.  "Barnyard mix" and "Americana" is what the gal called them.  We got a Barred Rock cross that looks like Spot but with a bit of a attitude thanks to the puff of feathers on her head.  The Roo is a Barred Rock as well.  It was very bittersweet with him.  DH pulled the Roo out of the box and the Roo jumped up on DH's shoulder, just like Spot used to do.

Me and Spot in May 2013

  Pictures of the new babies will be posted in a later entry. The gal that sold them to us said that they were two months old, but we think that they are younger than that. They are probably one-third the size of what our remaining chickens are.

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