Monday, October 19, 2009

Eat and More are No More; Presumed Eaten

Here are the survivors, Chicken and Sally (the barred rocks). We recovered them late Friday afternoon. Chris got home a bit earlier than normal and came inside asking, "What happened to our chickens?!??" I had been about to take the girls outside myself... Chris reported that the chicken wire on one side of the coop had been pulled back and that one of the chickens was laying in the yard, but the rest were nowhere to be seen!

The one laying in the yard - Chicken - was apparently just sunning herself, although from the way Chris described it, I thought maybe she'd been in shock until he found her and picked her up. Chris followed the trail of feathers to the next door neighbor's yard. Thank goodness they hadn't thrown out their pile of old campaign signs - Sally had been able to take shelter there from whatever had attacked them! Chris pulled her out, and then we went searching for the Australorps. Chris walked through backyards while the girls and I circled the block, looking for any signs of the two missing chickens.

The scene of the crime - this photo was taken after we'd moved the chicken tractor for the day. Lots of feathers...

...spilled food, too. The feeder had been knocked down completely. We could not figure out what animal would be strong enough to pull the staple-gunned chicken wire off the wood! The only predator we'd seen so far was a hawk which landed on the swingset and freaked out the chickens about two weeks ago. While it is unlikely that a hawk could have pulled off the wire - have you seen how BIG those birds are up close?? I wasn't going to put anything past one...

Another thought was raccoons, since they can actually grab things, so maybe they could have pulled the wire off. But this happened in broad daylight - right under our noses! The girls and I were in the house when it happened. Raccoons are generally nocturnal...

Back to the Australorp search: we found their feathers in the same neighbor's yard where Sally had been hiding. Then they went back to the steep slope that leads to another neighbor's house behind ours. The trail split once in the front of the house, and one set of black feathers went into one yard while the other went into the next yard... and then both stopped. No sign of the birds anywhere - not in any bushes, nothing. At this point I printed up "Lost Chickens" signs for Chris to put up around the neighborhood!

The girls collected some of the feathers today - so now we have a keepsake of the 'Lorpie-Lorpies, as Caroline and I liked to refer to them. Too bad following the evidence left behind did not lead us to them! They were such pretty birds... if they don't show up in the next few days (which I am not holding my breath about), we will get some more. The seller we got all four hens from doesn't have any more Australorps - we bought his last two. He has more rocks, but I'd really like to have the variety. Australorps are supposed to be better layers. they are slightly bigger birds and prettier, in my opinion, but also more aloof. The rocks are more social, coming to investigate whenever we go out to see them, pecking at things we hold through the cage... and hey, they are the breed that survived this attack, right? The fact that Chicken was just laying there in our yard speaks to her humorous character... I wonder where she went to escape, or if she just stayed put while the other birds were chased?

So today, there was a new revelation in the chicken tragedy...

I found this new hole in the chicken wire after chasing off a dog. A medium-sized yet very sturdy-looking dog was running back and forth outside the chicken tractor, and the rocks were going nuts over it. So outside I ran, freshly-awoken toddler in one arm, screaming at the dog to get out of here, go home, get away... even when I picked up a stick and a board and chased him, he didn't care. He looked at me in a friendly way, even though I was screaming like a lunatic at him. Finally, he did leave the yard... I tried to catch him by his collar when he would lay down, but he was too quick. I noticed the damage he'd done to the wire after he ran across the street to pester the neighbor's dogs.

Here's a second hole I found. These were both big enough for me to put my hand through... and it didn't take long for him to make them, because I'd been out to check on the chickens just a while before noticing the dog being out there.

Chris had nailed boards over the edge of the chicken wire after Friday's attack... so that whatever had done it couldn't pull the wire off again. We hadn't counted on this animal coming back and biting through the chicken wire... and breaking off the boards with its teeth!!!

Here are the teeth marks in the broken off piece of a board.

Chicken: "Thanks for running off that dog before he broke all the way into our home. Now will you please fix our roost so I don't have to perch on it all crooked like this???"

I called Animal Control since the dog wouldn't leave the area (the neighbor's dogs were still quite irritated by this dog standing on the other side of their fence, taunting them!). They said they'd send somebody out. In the meantime, the kid across the street had come outside to see what all the barking was about - his house is next to the neighbors who have the dogs that were in their fenced yard. He seemed to be trying to coax the stray dog away, because he had a bowl of something in his hand. I called out to him and asked if he knew who owned the dog. He told me it belonged to his friend, and that it was "wild" and had gotten off its chain before.

Then Animal Control called back. The officer said they'd received a call about the same dog earlier, had come out to look, and couldn't find it anywhere in the neighborhood. He said they couldn't come back today but would come by sometime tomorrow. He also asked if I could find out where the dog lived (uhh, well, he's in my yard... so no, I can't really tell where he lives because he's not there!!). The kid across the street was out again, so i asked him if he knew the address - he said no, but he told me the street. So, I told the Animal Control guy this, but he said they'd come back if they knew which house so they could speak to the owners. Really helpful, huh? Anyway, in driving around the neighborhood, I remembered a dog being chained in a fenceless yard about the same size as this dog... that may very well be the house. I will have to ask the neighbor kid if that's the house. Not sure if we should talk to the owners or just tell Animal Control where the dog lives... the neighbor kid may well tell them I called Animal Control, because I told him that's who I was talking to, hoping that if we knew where the dog lived, they could catch him and take him home and then tell his owners he needed a fence or something.

So, if there's no way to ensure this dog won't get back in our yard again, we had to take precautions. Chris stopped at Lowe's and bought a stronger wire - hardware cloth, it is called. It is a finer weave and is thicker gauge wire, and it costs much more than the chicken wire did... we will watch closely to make sure the dog can't bite holes in this! If he does, I am going to be scared of him! ;)

So, Chicken and Sally have fewer feathers and are therefore easier to handle - less feathers to flap when trying to get out of our hands. I am hoping they are warm enough with the colder weather we've been having now. They don't have any bald spots, and they are acting pretty normal overall now. At first they wouldn't come out of the enclosed part of their home and weren't eating much, but they are doing better now, so I am hopeful that they will both survive. They only had a couple minor scratches and the missing feathers. It is hard to tell if they are eating as much as they should since we were seeing four birds eating before, and now the feeder is being filled less frequently. They are a bit smaller so probably eat less, but it is hard to gauge, so we're just keeping an eye on them...

If we end up getting a few more, I will post photos!


That Married Couple said...

Oh my goodness, so much excitement! I'm glad those two at least are okay!

Anonymous said...

I was going to tell you I saw a stray dog last Thursday come down our street and then went by the pool and came back around and disapeared through our cul-de-sac. He might be the same dog. He was friendly and the huge neighborhood dog was barking at him. He was limping a little.

Carrie said...

"Loose" dogs are VERY annoying to me! The neighbors on both sides of us let their dogs go out in the yard all the time unleashed and unfenced. It drives me crazy. Although they aren't "mean" like that one, they still poop! Ugh! Animal Control is completely useless. I don't even know what they actually ever DO! What is their job if not this?
So sorry you lost some chickens..that is so frustrating I am sure!

Melanie said...

Sorry to hear about your chickens. I would keep talking to Animal Control since it is supposed to be their job. (They do seem to be useless though.) Maybe you could also file a police report since their animal is damaging your property.