Wednesday, March 11, 2009

There Are Challenges . . .

If you read my daughter's blog (This Is Our Life on my right side bar under Blogs I Visit), you'll know that her most recent post prompted me to relate the following. She's been having trouble with a pine marten occasionally stopping by her chicken house/yard and helping himself to some chicken for dinner. Unfortunately, these small creatures will also get into a poultry house and slaughter every single bird they can get their hands on, and leave the carnage behind, seemingly doing it for sport rather than to satisfy hunger.

We keep a few chickens here on our homestead mainly for the eggs but we also butcher and process the older, no longer laying hens for stewing meat. About every other year, we start a new batch of chicks in the spring that grow over the summer months and start laying in the fall.

A few years ago in early spring, it was time to start this process once again. It was so cold out when the chicks hatched they spent their first several weeks in a chick nursery in the heated garage until it was warm enough and they were big enough to go outside into a special, small chicken house we use for raising new birds.

This little abode is separate from the main chicken house and set in a fenced in grassy area. At that time, it had a chicken wire flooring about six inches off the ground through which droppings could fall onto the grass below. The structure is moveable so that we can move it every day or two. This way the droppings don't pile up in any one spot.

At the time of our disaster, it was then autumn and the new pullets were about a month away from the time they would start laying. We had somewhere around 12-15 new hens and two proud roosters in the little house.

On the day of this story, we were down to one vehicle for some reason. Our truck must have been in for mechanical work because I took Roy to work that morning so I would have the availability of the car during the day.

Upon returning home around 7:30 that morning, I went directly out to the field area to let the pullets out onto pasture. They would hear your footsteps coming and get all excited about being let out. This morning I immediately knew something was wrong because there was not a sound coming from the chick house. Not a sound. There was a small chicken door on the front that we latched up in the morning and closed for safety at night, but the whole roof also lifted up for ease in cleaning. That was what I lifted when I got to the house.

Grand carnage. Blood splattered all over the walls, roof, everywhere. And every single bird dead.

The mistake we had made was the chicken wire flooring. A pine marten had dug through the dirt underneath the house and torn the chicken wire to shreds in order to get to the chickens.

Lesson learned. From now on, any structure we've had birds in, whether it be starter house, big chicken house, winter solarium, broody hen house, etc., we've made sure the entire bottom is lined with heavy, substantial, tightly spaced welded wire. Tough lesson to learn, but we haven't had any trouble since losing that whole batch of pullets.


MaineCelt said...

Oooh, what an AWFUL way to learn about better poultry pen design!

We've not yet experienced that level of carnage. Though I'm fairly certain some of our Guinea hens were taken by a fisher a few years back, they set the stage (and the table)by going broody in the daylily bed. Nothin' like natural selection to cut down on your feed bills!

(I do miss them, but they WERE rather stupid. That said, when they did lay eggs, they were the best eggs I've ever tasted!)

Mama Pea said...

Howdy, MaineCelt - Ya know we had always thought we wanted to try Guinea hens. Luckily, daughter and son-in-law tried them first. 'Rather stupid' is a 'rather good' description. And you're a wordsmith . . . what word would you suggest that says noisy/raucous with a tinge of nerve grating thrown in?

MaineCelt said...

Regarding the noise of guineas, I always explained that they were my "little flock of French separatists." They marched around the yard all day shouting "Que-BEC! Que-BEC! Que-BEC!"