I thought we would add an update that wasn’t the holiday.
As most of you know it hasn’t been a good week here. On Wednesday I had a physio appointment so the morning was an up and out morning. Fred, the blind in one eye chick we had still needed special attention, so we rigged life so I ate my breakfast in the car because we still needed to be out of the house for 7am to get Stuart to work and for us to get a disabled parking place close enough to his work place for me to walk to the café in his work’s building. So I didn’t get to spend as much time as normal with the chickens and they were let out of the outer enclosure earlier than normal which they love happening.
I had my physio appointment as normal, and this week it didn’t leave me crippled and in so much pain that I couldn’t stand let alone walk home. I had arranged to collect some wooden side to some old packaging crates that someone was getting rid of, so with that done, I made my way back home via the chemist and the food lovers shop where I needed to collect some bread from for our evening meal. I didn’t get home until around 12:45pm. But even before I was home I knew something was wrong. I came across a collection of black feather on the track. Too many for my liking. Getting out of the car to look at them, I could tell instantly that they were Charmaine’s. But there was nothing else and everything was quiet, so all I could do was park up and see what was going on. And that was a solid nothing.
Some of the chooks were dust bathing in the usual area with HP standing over them. Nothing out of the ordinary there and given that I often don’t see the chooks for hours on end, I settled down to lunch. Before I had even taken a bite, I heard an alarm call and chooks scattering.
Looking up I saw a fox walking brazenly down the garden path. It had its eye on a chook and was going for it. I don’t know if it was Clara or Tilda it was after, but it was one of those two. Me screaming and yelling at it did absolutely nothing. It didn’t even acknowledge I existed. So I grabbed the closest thing to hand to defend myself with and ran screaming at it. I had selected the garden fork. A good implement to defend oneself with. By now, Clara/Tilda was in imminent danger of being snatched. I did the only thing I could to save her, I threw the garden fork at the fox. It stopped dead in its tracks and she got away. All of the chooks had by now disappeared and were safely away except for her, and she scarpered very quickly. I grabbed the fork off the ground and ran at the fox, chasing it off. Now way was I letting it stay around.
I then went off to find the survivors. How many did I actually have left? How many were injured? Where were they all? I soon found some in the outer enclosure. I did the only thing I could to make them safe, I locked them in. Then I had second thoughts, actually, they were not that safe in there. A fox could easily scale the fence, I knew that. The outer enclosure was never created to be fox proof. There is little way you could make it so unless you had 10 foot high fencing around it and that is not the way we want things. So I rounded the survivors up and got them into the chook house. Some were already in there anyway. And that is actually the safest place to be. With the doors shut, there are few options for a fox. I couldn’t capture one of the our chicks thought. Ginger, he wanted to be in with the flock but was too scared of me, and too scared full stop. He just wouldn’t go into the enclosure so that I could get him to safety. In the end I just had to leave him out by himself. I locked the rest of them away, away from the fox.
Just as I was closing the upper doors, I stopped and looked at the girls. I wanted a head count. 12. It wasn’t many. Well, it should be 13 but Ginger was still outside. We had had 23. Who was missing. The answer was all of our original girls. Basically if you took away all of the males, other than 1 single hen, I didn’t have a hen or chick left that I hadn’t acquired in since the start of the year – and even some of those were missing. But as I watched, I realised that there was something wrong with one of them. A patch of chestnut where there shouldn’t be any. I went back in to look at the hen in question. I caught her easily, she offered little resistance. She was exhausted and it was easy to see why. Her injuries were bad, but there didn’t appear to be any internal organ damage. Lots of skin and feathers missing, a bad tear to her rear end, puncture wounds were teeth had penetrated, and her tail had almost be torn half off, but other than one tooth puncture wound in her vent (ouch) there were not gaping holes or innards hanging out or anything like that. I do have pictures but I won’t post them. They are not nice to look at.
I rang a friend and made arrangements to get her over to her that night for us to decide on what to do. I knew what a vet was going to say, but the girl had survived this long, she had managed to get up onto the highest roost. She had run away when the fox came through with me present. She was physically exhausted, badly injured, but she was still alive. I made the decision to try to save her. I contacted Stuart and left to collect him immediately. By the time I got to him it was 4:15pm and I knew we were in for a late night. I wanted him home with the rest of the flock as it went dark. That was a major risk time for the fox returning and the flock needed feeding and putting away. I needed to take the injured girl back to her former home for help with her injuries. I had Stuart drive home so that I could grab an hours rest before setting off with Pipper as her name is.
I knew Pipper was important to my friend and her family because she was the first chick they ever hatched themselves (rather than a hen doing it). So my friend had everything ready for when I arrived. By now it was 7:30pm, Pipper had had something to eat and drink and was still alive. She wanted to be asleep, but we needed to clean her wounds and decide if she really should be saved. Not could, but should be. We needed to think about her best interests as well. An initial assessment by my friend said yes. So we set to work cleaning her up and deciding not to actually stitch anything back together. Ironically when wounds are bad, it is better not to stitch and allow them to drain naturally. I was rather thankful of this because I actually have more experience stitching than my friend does! And my experience is minimal. The more we looked over Pipper, the more we realised how much of a fight she had put up. There were teeth puncture wounds all over the place and each one needed cleaning and an antibacterial spray spraying over it. (If you have seen Stuart’s Facebook page, this is the blue spray he is on about!)
Finally there was nothing more we could for her except let her rest and hope she made it through the night. We cleared the kitchen table and sat down to eat. It was by now 10pm and my friend’s child had watched the whole thing. He is very partial to Pipper and wanted her to be OK but until now he had pretty much remained silent and let us work on Pipper. Now came the million and one questions, but he hasn’t been shielded from animals dying or needing to be put down and seeing Pipper like this, whilst distressing, he could see that we were doing everything we could for her. He knows it is up to Pipper now.
Pipper had remained silent all through the entire event, ever since I had taken her off the roosting perch. Only occasionally had she tried to escape or cried out in pain. So when I got home around midnight and paused to put the pet carrier down that she was in, on a bag of mulch, I was surprised to hear her making a noise I had not heard before. Taking her inside I asked Stuart to go and have a look in and around the area because of the noise she had made, whilst I took her downstairs to the ‘solitary confinement cell’…. its the white walled brick room at the bottom of the stairs out of the sitting room which I was putting her into to isolate her from the flock and keep her near to hand to look after. Also it has electricity and lights, so I could put an electric heater down there to keep her warm. The night was forecast to drop to 4C and it went lower.
Stuart was back almost as soon as he had left – or at least it felt that way. I hadn’t even taken Pipper down before he was back. He either hadn’t looked very well or had immediately found another chicken. It was the latter. He had found Henny Penny, our Lavender Araucana. Stuart handed me to her once I had taken Pipper downstairs and put her on the roosting perch (only a foot off the ground) and went back out to carry on looking. I took Henny Penny into the laundry to start looking at her injuries and the more I soaked hardened soil off her, the more obvious it became that she was more severely injured. But it was when I came to her vent that it was obvious she would never survive. It had almost been removed, being torn into a Y shape with 2 sides cut all the way through and hanging off. She would need major reconstruction of it and there would be no way of ever keeping it clean because hens crap out of the same place their eggs are lain from – the vent. Stuart came in and looked at her injuries. We both knew what was needed. We attempted to euthanize her with an overdose of oral anaesthetic my friend had given me in case we found any others. She had made it up in advance in case Pipper had needed. It takes an hour to have an effect. So we sat up watching various episodes of something whilst we held her. She was affected by the first dose, but it didn’t kill her. We gave her another dose and continued to sit with her. That didn’t have any effect other than to make her more dozy. I don’t know why it didn’t. It should have killed her. It was twice the recommended dose and four times what my friend had said to give her and force feeding chickens is not the easiest of things at the best of times. In the end we settled her into the now empty pet carrier, and got literally an hours sleep ourselves before our ‘get up’ alarms went off. Stuart took her outside to euthanise her.
So the Losses (10):
- Both of our original two are presumed dead Harriet (HH) and Jane (JJ)
- Mum, or Charmaine (CC) is also presumed dead
- Both of our rescue ISA Browns are presumed dead: Ellie (EE) and Vickie II (VV2)
- Princess Layer is known to be dead
- Tetra is presumed dead
- Fred, my blind in one eye chick, is presumed dead
- Scattie is most likely dead given the missing skin and feathers I found
- Henny Penny was euthanised.
Alive and Uninjured (12)
- Jennie (JJ2) the only surviving hen acquired last year
- HP, our rooster
- Ginger and Wels – CC’s 2 chicks (both cockerels)
- Both of the Twins (Clara and Tilda)
- Penny & Arya (two new hens)
- Gannet & Sneezy (yet to have names, both came as chicks)
- Kayley (almost identical to little Fred)
- Inara (our Bantam)
The next morning dawned and we set about the morning routine as normal, hoping against all hope that some would turn up. No more did or have yet. Searching only produced areas of feathers. Ellie’s here, Jane’s here, CC’s confirmed in many areas along a trail – she had put up a considerable fight, Scattie’s here – she had lost a lot of skin with the feathers and so on. A single feather of Fred’s – that could have been from any day. I had found multiple sites. Later on on Friday I found another 2 areas and Stuart found more including some remains. Sadly no others have returned home. My friend tells me that one of her chooks took 3 weeks to return home after a fox attack on her garden. But I can’t see how any would survive here. We have had many nights of ‘frosts’ now. I say ‘frosts’ because the temperatures were well below 5C with several at 2C and one at 1C, but no ice. If they were injured, the overnight temperatures would have seen them off. If they were alone, they would need to be very well hidden and in top condition for those overnight temperatures…. I just can’t seen how there would be any other survivors.
Pipper survived the night against all odds, and continues to improve. We are now 5 days on and other than 1 scare, yesterday when a visitor left the veranda gate open and her cage was open and well it was warm and sunny and the rest of the flock were out, so she joined them for a sunbathe and dust bath…. other than that she has come on amazingly. She still needs daily antibiotics; one lot orally and two lots topically, one of which dyes her blue. She is getting harder to catch – a good sign, she is starting to fight back – an even better sign. She is showing all the signs of wanting to be with the flock – another good sign but something that is going to be a while before it can happen (at least another 2 weeks if not more) and she hasn’t stopped eating…. she was in mid-moult when the attack happened, so her physical condition wasn’t great as it was. She’s a mess to look at and currently missing so many wing feathers I don’t actually think she can fly (she’s missing most of them!) But she continues to improve each and every day. She’s livelier when she jumps down from her roost each morning but she sleeping a considerable amount. She has a lot of healing to do and a massive number of feathers to replace. She also has a lot of skin to replace and she may have permanent nerve damage or permanent muscle damage. It remains to be seen as to how well she will heal, but so far she is doing amazingly!
And so if you have stayed this long, your question will be – what on earth does the title have to do with anything? Well…. yesterday we were waiting for visitors to turn up to our pizza party (not sure who well it went, but the weather was good and we liked the pizzas… and the chooks loved the grated mozzarella that was left over…) anyhow, we were waiting and the light was at the right angle and Stuart had just topped the pond up and we noticed that there were a lot of fish visible, so we started to count…. we got to 8 yesterday. But today, whilst I was standing around looking at the pond. I spotted 5 fish all of the same size. When Stuart rang me up to say he was on his way home, I asked him how many did we have that were knuckle length (don’t ask…) and his reply was 2… so our count is now 11. Exactly how many fish can a pond this size support? I don’t know, but I do know next season is going to be very interesting. Does anyone know of anyone needing fish for a pond?
I’ll add the photos of the fish tomorrow because Stuart has just said he is serving our evening meal!