Whilst this has been happening we have lost 2 cockerels and Ginger, our 3rd cockerel has been rehomed (to the friend who lent us the incubator and has given us quite a few free chicks and chooks).
Sadly Sneezy had to be euthanised after accident left him with a broken pelvis. HP had been teased enough Ginger and decided to clear the top roosting perch of all of the cockerels (I was there when it happened) and caught Sneezy off guard. Sneezy hadn’t been doing anything but also wasn’t paying attention and HP pushed him off the roosting perch. Sadly in his attempt to fly to the ground he collided with one of the other roosting perches and then landed badly.
I had suspected that he had had a hip or pelvis issue for some time because I often saw him sitting down and eating food rather than standing, so there may have been an underlying problem, but it was clear to me immediately that he was injured and that it was very serious. Manipulating his leg on the injured side caused him considerable pain and he wasn’t able to stand up at all. After we had euthanised him, I had a more thorough look at his injuries and he had, as I had suspected, broken his pelvis in the fall.
We lost Gannet, Sneezy’s friend and so ‘named’ because of his size and appetite, to the fox just over two weeks ago now. It was actually the day we had decided to ask a friend over to chook sit because we knew we had a problem. I had had to start sitting out with the chooks every morning in their outer enclosure, before we let them free range across the garden. But because Stuart was home (I had 2 medical appointments that day) my routine was slightly different and I wasn’t out with them at that moment in time. Gannet had taken to roaming further afield (presumably to avoid HP) and was out in the bush (as in bush land) when all of a sudden I saw and heard some of the chooks running hell for leather towards the chook house. I can only guess at what happened, but us running outside scared off the fox (which on this occasion we didn’t see). Initially we thought it was a false alarm. They have been really jumpy and increasingly so, often calling the alarm at the slightest thing. But doing the role call, it soon became apparent that we couldn’t locate any sign of Gannet at all. Later that day, our friend located his body. It had been stashed and clearly the fox had intended on taking more!
A week last Monday, 6 of the flock were up on the veranda with Pipper. I had caught one of them whose legs needed a little attention. She had previously had scaly leg mites which has left the scales on her legs uneven, rough and needing attention. Periodically (ideally every day, but the reality is that she is feral and catching her is nigh on impossible) I need to put moisturising cream on her legs.
So having caught her, I was inside doing this when I hear the fox alarm call. I ran to the kitchen, thought twice about dumping her outside and abandoned her in the kitchen and then ran outside to see what was going on. Sure enough there was a fox in the garden. As I ‘ran’ off the veranda I shut the gate, hoping that the ones on the veranda would stay put. I grabbed the fork which I have been keeping by the gate and chased the fox up the track. OK not very fast and only as far as the car port and wood shed, but that was all that was needed. It ran off.
Next I needed to find all the chooks. I found one in the upper veg plot area which I could lock her into, by closing 2 gates. I did so. I found 3 more down in the septic tank field, so I opened the gate to the outer chook enclosure and the older bird (JJ2) lead them there, so I trapped them in there by closing that gate. I then caught all of the ones on the veranda and put them into Pipper’s cage (along with Pipper). It was overcrowded but they would at least be safe there. Then I went inside to catch Lothos, she was easy to catch and hadn’t gone anywhere finding herself in unfamiliar territory. She had just stood by the door waiting for it to open! Then I did the only thing I could to protect them all. One by one I moved them to the chook house and inner enclosure and locked them in. But I was another one missing. This time one of the twins. All I could do was keep calling her (the food noise) and hope she would calm down enough to come in. She didn’t.
I started to hunt her. She’s always been flighty. She still wouldn’t come up on to the veranda despite her sister coming up without issue. Perhaps it was this that saved her. I don’t know. All I do know is that the fox left with a mouthful of her wing feathers and I have a chicken with only 2 flight feathers left on one wing. It took me a long time to get her into the outer enclosure and even longer to move all of the chickens into the inner enclosure and lock them in, then tease her into the chook house, and reopen the inner enclosure-chook house door.
Once everyone had calmed down, I was able to catch her (rather unceremoniously by the leg and letting her hang upside down for a moment and calm down) and then I could check her over for injuries. She has a lot of feathers coming into winter so actually finding her skin was hard work and I ended up laying her on her back on my knees and holding onto both her legs (and even this doesn’t always work). Needless to say I’m sitting down at this point. After nearly an hour, I had checked her over from head to toe and given her a long cuddle and waited for her to stop shaking. She was in shock, hopefully from the fox attack rather than being caught… Somewhat surprisingly she is a lot less flighty now and will almost take food from my hand, almost. There’s still work to be done there.
Pipper, the chook that caused me to become fluent in chicken diapers, has made excellent progress and was re-integrated with the flock earlier in last week. She still has some feathers missing and needs to regrow these, and looks excellent from one side and well untidy is the most tactful comment I have, from the other side.
At the end of last week, I spotted that someone was selling a second hand large dog crate cheaply on one of the Canberra Buy and Sell Facebook Groups that I keep an eye on. So I talked about it with Stuart and given it was less than a 1/3rd of the price new, we decided to get it because it would allow me to give Pipper access to grass and still keep her contained (so I can protect her from the flock whilst she was re-introduced to them on their territory rather than ‘her’ veranda)
Pipper finally re-joined the flock of her own accord after four or five visits in the cage and at least 3 fights with one hen whilst they sorted out the pecking order. The fights didn’t concern me because there is little damage they can inflict on each other when one is in a large cage and both can keep clear of each of other if needed. It seems that Pipper won all of those fights because she returned to the flock roosting next to HP on the first night she was allowed out of the cage (inside the enclosure). When roosting time came, she was already in the chook house, on the roosting perches. So I left her there. She did however, choose one of the coldest nights possible to return to the flock! It dropped well below the recorded -2°C. Since then she has stayed with the flock, but does occasionally come over to me and stand at my feet…
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