Chicken Killers – Dog Attack

Buff Orpington - Stone

Chicken Killers

The Buff Orpington momma hen and two of her ten chicks cruelly killed by someone’s dogs.

Silver Laced Wyandotte - Silver
Plymouth Barred Rock Hen
Golden Laced Wyandotte - Orange

It pretty well goes that if you have chickens, you will have predators. And we have had our share.  Foxes, raccoons, opossums, snakes, and hawks have all been visitors in search of a meal.  We  have owls big enough to carry off a full grown chicken, we have bald eagles that fly over from time to time, neither of which has made any attempt to grab a chicken and go, at least not that we have been aware of. Thursday however, two dogs with collars, and obviously well fed and cared for, entered the chicken coop and began their killing spree. Dead chickens in the coop, in the yard, in the garden, scattered all over. The worst of it, they killed the Buff Orpington momma hen and two of her ten baby chicks.  It was clear both of the dogs were involved in the killing.  Also clear, they were not in for a meal.  They were killing for the fun of it. The dogs were captured, and the owner found.  When she heard of the slaughter, her response was, well they are chicken killers, almost like it was humorous or of no consequence to her.  It was clear the dogs, or at least one of them has been known to kill chickens before. All told, eight were killed, two injured and our largest goose was injured. Of the two hens injured, I’m pretty sure only one will survive. The dog owner offered me $45 in damages, which I turned down. As our hens were purchased from Cackle Hatchery, I checked them out. https://www.cacklehatchery.com/eggs-and-adult-fowl/grown-fowl.html For a grown pullet, with shipping the cost is $110.  The more you order, of course, the less the price is, down to a minimum of $59 each if 8 or more are ordered. With the expectation of losing the injured Golden Wyandotte, 9 replacements would cost $531. I don’t know how to put a price on the personal aspect of the loss.  These animals have not been raised for commercial purposes.  We do not sell eggs, nor do we sell the meat. These have been raised as pets, with a lot of focus on sharing photos, stories, and live video with family and friends.  It was particularly sad that at least one viewer witnessed on live video the dogs in the chicken coop, killing the hens. I did not collect the dogs owners name, address or phone.  I did give her my phone number and suggested she go home and think on the matter, then when she decided what she and her family thought was the right thing to do, to let me know.  If and when I hear something, I’ll add an update to this post.  

IP Cameras in the Chicken Coop

Monitoring the chicken coop with a web cam?  Yes, I do.  Several of them in fact.

And even send video to live streaming onto YouTube from time to time, like when the hen goes broody and the chicks are about to hatch.  It is a great deal of fun to hear from the granddaughters that they could watch the new chicks peek their heads out from under the momma hen.

So what is involved?  The simplest is to get a wireless IP camera and monitor it with your smart phone.  Generally the apps come with the camera or a qr code link to scan the camera to install the app.  Once the camera is setup, they can be monitored on your phone, your tablet, your pc, or remotely via a cloud service.

There are many options once your camera is setup.  Blue Iris and similar programs allow you to monitor multiple cameras on your desktop pc and send alerts via email if an alarm condition is met, such as motion sensor, or sound sensor detects an event.

Cameras can be fixed or include PTZ, Pan,Tilt, Zoom features which allow you to remotely control the camera view.  Some cameras include audio monitoring and some even have two way audio.  Cameras are sometimes equipped with IR,  generally known as Infra Red, so they offer night time viewing as well. These “see in the dark” cameras are a real bonus for monitoring your flock at night.  With Cloud storage or an internal SD card storage, many cameras will record the action so you  can play it back later.

I started out in 2014 using a pair of D-Link DCS-930L cameras.  These are 640p resolution, do not offer night viewing and are a fixed view.  Later, I bought a Foscam R2, a couple of Deecam D200 and then an Amcrest camera.

As the price of the camera went up, so did the quality of the image, the features and quality of the software and the overall satisfaction in the camera.

It goes without saying then, my favorite camera in the chicken coop is also the one that was the most expensive.  So that camera is mounted where I can take advantage of the better image quality.  This one is the Amcrest camera.  I bought the silver color as it was a few dollars less than the more popular black and white colors.  For the chicken coop, it really does not matter what color the camera is.  I have 32 Gig SD memory cards installed in the cameras.  The Amcrest camera allows easy access to view video recordings.

The Foscam R2 camera is set to be able to see the west end inside of the chicken coop.  For evening and night viewing, it is usually pointed to the roost to enable us to do a chicken count as the chickens are settling in for the night. During the day, we frequently have in pointed downward to look into the next boxes to monitor the hens as they go about their egg laying activities.  We can get an idea of which hen is laying, which ones are just testing out the nest boxes and watching for a hen going broody.  The Foscam R2 field of view is a bit less of a wide angle view than from the Amcrest.  Fully zoomed in they are about the same.  The R2 preset functions seem to be easier to use than the Amcrest preset functions.  I do use the preset function on the R2 more than I need on the Amcrest so it might just be a familiarization with the controls that are the real difference.

The Deecam D200’s were less than half the price of the inside cameras, but give me two more views.  These are mounted under the roof so mostly out of the weather, and are looking outside the chicken coop.  As they have the PTZ movements, I can see most of the outside area around the coop.  The biggest downfall on these cameras is in the night vision, and while it works well enough to see predators approaching the coop, they do not have the great imaging I would like to have.  And they do not have nearly the flexibility in the software as do the Amcrest and Foscam cameras.

The Deecam cameras I purchased online from Wal Mart.  The process went well.  However, when I attempted to contact the company selling the cameras for some tech support, I got no response.  None. Notta.  Not even a no we won’t help with that.  Nothing.  Perhaps this is why they are no longer listed. I think I got my money’s worth out of the cameras, but I don’t recommend them.

The D-link 930 cameras gave me an inexpensive intro into the cameras and a few are still available.  These are way behind current technology and really not up to performing many useful tasks in watching your chickens.

Drama in the Chicken Coop

Welsummer Hen on the nest.

Finally, Another Broody Hen

Welsummer Hen on the nest.
A Welsummer Hen sat on the nest for a few hours acting a bit like she wanted to go broody. Not.
Buff Orpington on the next
Buff Orpington decides to set on the nest for the night
Plymouth Barred Rock Hen
Plymouth Barred Rock hen that pushed the broody one off the nest. Barred Rocks are sometimes a bit bossy.
Broody Buff Orpington Hen, getting a dust bath
The Broody One - getting a dust bath, but still showing fluffed feathers

Our efforts last month to get a hen to go broody met without much success. Buff Yellow, would love to get on the nest full of eggs and sit for hours. About 4 hours. Then she had enough and went about the rest of her day. A few times one of the golden wyandottes would also sit on the eggs for several hours, but nothing serious. By the early part of October, we decided maybe it would be too cold when the eggs hatched, so quit leaving eggs in the nest boxes. Except for the half dozen ceramic, fake eggs left scattered in some of the nest boxes.

A couple days ago, I was freshening up the nest boxes with new bedding and placed all the fake eggs in one of the nest boxes after putting in the new material. And promptly forgot about them while I went about cleaning the rest of the boxes.

Yesterday a new broody hen sat on the fake eggs along with 4 real ones the hens and laid, including perhaps, one of her own. So I took out the fake eggs out from under her, and gave her 4 more brown eggs and two blue eggs. The blue ones were laid earlier this week. Any idea how much a broody hen does not like the idea of messing with her eggs?

The broody one, a Buff Orpington, sat all night on the nest, not going to roost as usual.

This morning all was well…for a while. Several hens attempted to get in the nest with the broody hen. Then the Barred Rock hen, Barred Hunter, pushed broody hen out of her nest box and off the eggs she had sat on for about 24 hours. The Barred Rock laid her egg along with the 10 already there, then abandoned the nest.

Meanwhile the broody one, went out for a dust bath and a stretch.

The Buff Orpington even while playing in the dirt stayed all puffed up in her broody mode.

A little while later, the broody one reclaimed her nest, now sitting on 11 eggs. And for now, all is quiet one again in the chicken coop.

Baby Chicks – First Day Out with Momma Hen

Baby Chicks - First Day Out with Momma Hen

At a week old, the Momma hen got a chance to take the baby chicks on their first outing, and she headed them to section of the garden now covered in weeds and tall grass.

One of hens from last year, Sophia Red, came over to investigate.

They spent nearly the entire day out and about learning about foraging and free ranging from momma hen.  She did well, and brought all 8 chicks back to the chicken coop in the late afternoon.

Encouraging Another Broody Hen

Encouraging Another Broody Hen

Buff Orpington on the nest box.
Buff Yellow sat on the nest for hours. About 4 hours, several different times. Just not serious about it yet.

Now that we have had our first successful hatch with a first time broody hen, we got to wondering, can we repeat the process?

From reading a number of both online and offline articles on broody hens we learned hens go broody most often in the spring and fall of the year.  At late September, and the weather still quite warm, perhaps we could encourage the process.

Instead of collecting all the eggs except for a few of the ceramic nest eggs we leave scattered in different boxes, we decided to place 11 eggs in one of the favorite nests. I got a pencil and wrote the date on each egg, so if no takers the first day, I could then freshen up the eggs and remove the day old eggs from the nest, perhaps keeping the Ameracuana and Welsummer eggs for an extra day or so.

Perhaps leaving the eggs overnight instead of collecting them will trigger one of the hens to want to set on them for a few weeks.

Rooster Time Out

Rooster Time Out

Rooster Time Out

Hunter, Welsummer Rooster - Top rooster of the flock
Hunter, Welsummer Rooster - Top rooster of the flock

Hunter is currently the top of the pecking order for the roosters.  He thinks he is top of the pecking order for everything and everyone else too.

Recently, he has been attempting to sneak up behind me, and either challenge or attack me.  Most of the time he just gets close, flaps his wings.  This time however, he made physical contact and while not a particularly hard hit, it was a hit and it was with his feet.

As I turned around, it was clear he wanted to challenge and the stare down began.  He quickly thought better of it and left.  Rethinking it however, he momentarily came back for another look.

It was then he discovered the fish net and how quickly he was to be caught in the net. Surely, he was embarrassed as well as fit to be tied as he tried desperately to get out of that contraption.  To no avail.  In moments he was cradled in my arms, feet in the air, tail hanging and belly up.  No place for a rooster.

Hunter was accused.  The charges of attempting to flog the farmer were pronounced.

Hunter remained silent and still.  There was no denying the charge just as there was no denying his actions.

Guilty as Charged!

Welsummer Rooster found guilty of attempted Flogging of the Farmer
Welsummer Rooster found guilty of attempted Flogging of the Farmer

It was only a few moments before the verdict was announced, “Guilty as charged”.

Hunter attempted to stand up for the announcement, but found he was still restrained and cradled in the arm of the farmer.  Nothing to do but wait. Seriously?  Do the hens all need to see this?  And those pesky Geese too? Yes, and the other roosters as well.

Two Hours in Rooster  Time Out! 

So Hunter served his time out in the cage, and the cage in the chicken coop for all the hens, roosters, and geese to come have a look see.

It has been several days now since his time out, and his behavior is much improved. Clearly he thinks Rooster Time Out is so much better than Swimming with Dumplings.

 

Goosy was witness to the actions of Wayward Welsummer and recommended Rooster Time Out
Goosy was witness to the actions of Wayward Welsummer and recommended Rooster Time Out
Rooster Time Out
Rooster Time Out

Broody Hen is now a Momma Hen

Momma Hen with baby chicks

Pipping Through

September 16th we began to see some activity out of the broody hen, Buff Red.  She began standing, sitting, moving about in the nest and really paying attention to the eggs under her.  Or so it seemed.  The weather turned hot, in the low 90’s while most of the  previous weeks were mid 70’s to low 80’s.  So was something going on, or just different behavior due to the warmer weather? It was Day 18, still a bit before the Day 21 hatch day.  We decided that at 3 days before the due date and the comments about not turning eggs in the incubators if being used for the last few days, that it was something with the eggs and not the heat.

 

Then on the 17th, Day 19, the broody one stood up enough that we could see one of her eggs had a small hole in it where it was pipping through.  The hen  pecked at the hole a bit, then sat back down.

We read that the chicks will pip through the membrane into the air pocket in the egg and begin peeping inside the egg before pipping through the shell.  It must have been that the broody hen could hear the peeping in the egg the day before and that must have been why she was exhibiting the different behavior.

Hatching

Day 20 and we see the first of the chicks appear out from under the hen.  We could not see any of the actual hatching.  When a chick would appear out from under the hen, the chicks were all dry and ready to go.  Over the course of the day, we saw 6 baby chicks.

On Day 21, the expected hatch day, we saw another baby chick, so a total of 7 different chicks we could identify.  That would leave 4 eggs that she would still be setting on.

Newly hatched baby chicks
Newly hatched baby chicks

As one of the chicks managed to jump from the nest onto the chicken coop floor, a 2 foot drop, and clearly not able to get back in, it was time to move the hen to the brooder cage.  The hen pecked at me just a bit when I started the move.  Surprisingly, she was quite content with the situation when I moved her.  The nest boxes are plastic dish pans, so it was a matter of unscrewing the screws used to attach the boxes to the frame.  The hen did not seem to mind the presence and noise of the electric drill I used to remove the screws.Yes it was close to her, only my hand on her back kept the drill from touching her.  Then I moved the entire box, hen, chicks, eggs, etc., all at one time.

It only took her a moment to reorient herself to the new location down close to the floor, and all was well.

Miscount?

As I moved the nest to the new location, I was able to get a closer look at what she had going on.  I was able to get a good head count – for certain we had 7 chicks and a quick count confirmed 5 eggs – an even dozen.  One of the blue eggs still had not hatched, but one did.

Then I reported to Kris there were in fact 7 chicks and 5 eggs remaining.  Kris says, how can that be?  We had counted 11 eggs in the next.  The math didn’t add up.  But I was sure of my count.  Perhaps it was a piece of egg shell turned in a way that it looked like a complete egg.  I had removed all the broken shells from the nest just before I made the move, so I didn’t think that was the answer.  I went and did a recheck.  confirmed, 7 hens, 5 eggs.  I checked the photos.  She was sitting on 11 eggs the previous week.

Some hen must certainly have got on the nest when no one was looking and slipped an egg in on the nest all the while going unnoticed.

Hatch Complete

Day 22 – We see another chick!  Now we have 8 new baby chicks.  Broody hen though still sitting on the eggs and being patient, even with all the baby chicks hopping around.  They of course have found the feeder and waterer and are busy filling their gizzards. Broody hen too, can reach the feed and water and has indulged herself in a much needed meal and drink.

About half way through the day, she gets off the nest and went down the run a little ways to do her business.  It was huge, and of course, 21 days of stored up odor, all released at one time.

While she was briefly off the nest, we could see that she hatched out the remaining blue egg.  We were hoping the blue eggs would both hatch.  With a Welsummer rooster in the mix, the dark brown and blue might mix to give us some green color eggs.  Well, the blue eggs had to hatch, and with both hatching, we are now hoping at least one of the two chicks from the blue eggs is a hen.  Time will tell.

The broody hen continued to sit on the remaining 4 eggs for the remainder of the day, but the next morning, was spending time in the run with the chicks as Momma Hen and no longer had any interest in the eggs on the nest.

I removed those four, knowing one was in the nest less than a week, and put the flashlight to the shell to candle the eggs.  All four eggs were infertile.

So of the original 11 eggs, we got a 72.7% hatch rate, and of the fertile eggs, a 100% hatch rate.

We are quite excited and happy with our first batch of baby chicks from our first broody hen.

Unhappy Roosters

Unhappy Roosters

We were having our young cousins over for a visit.  Our Welsummer roosters are definitely a little bit aggressive to unfamiliar people and the boys were sure to be the subject of their focus – after the hens of course.

To give the matter some time to acclimate, I opened the chicken door that opens into the fenced in chicken yard.  As usual, the three roosters and a couple hens were first out the door.  The chase was on, and the hens quickly headed back inside to avoid the frisky roosters.  As soon as the hens were inside, I closed the door to keep the roosters in the chicken yard.

Then we opened the main door to allow the hens to go out to their normal morning of free ranging and bug chasing, but without the full attention of the roosters.  The hens had a nice leisurely time of it, the boys got to see the hens and weren’t attacked by the roosters.

The roosters on the other hand, were really pacing and clearly did not like being separated from the hens.

Our First Broody Hen – A Buff Orpington

Broody Buff Orpington on the nest

Our first year with chickens, we opted to not have a rooster so the 5 roosters in our original batch of “pullet hens” that we bought from the local farm supply were packed away to the freezer for a future dining experience.  We started with five each, Ameracuanas, Barred Rocks, and Silver Wyandottes.  After culling the roosters, we had one Ameracuana, four Silver Wyandottes, and all the Barred Rocks.  Our hens enjoyed a summer and fall, free ranging for bugs, garden tidbits and what ever else caught their fancy.  They began laying eggs at about 18 weeks and all were laying by 20 weeks except the Ameracuana which started laying at 30 weeks old.

None of the hens showed any signs of broodiness, which was just fine.  It gave us a chance to to grow and learn more about the chickens we took on.  In the fall of the year, the farm supply again had baby chicks for sale.   We added another dozen hens, half of them Buff Orpingtons as we understood they are more likely to go broody than our other breeds.  Again, they were supposed to be pullets, and again, we got a number of roosters in the mix, including half of the Buff Orpingtons.

Then winter began to set in, and so did the predators.  Opossums, Raccoons, and Foxes all took their toll on the flock over a couple months time.  Some were attacked in the brooder box as we were moving the younger chicks in with the older hens.  Some were nabbed while free ranging, and a few when a predator found a way into the hen house.  We lost all but four hens by the time we got the predators under control.  This spring we added 39 more chicks, 6 from the local farm supply and 33 mail order from Cackle Hatchery.  Our order included a half dozen straight run Welsummers, of which half were roosters. Also we purchased six Buff Orpingtons.  One was a fail to thrive that did not make it past the second day.  We lost another to the predators, leaving us with four Buff Orpington hens.

Over the past few days, two of the Buff Orpingtons, and I’m not at all sure it is the same two, have tried out setting on the next for hours at a time.  This was much like the hens behavior just before they started laying eggs for the first time where they would go sit in the nest box, move the next material around and generally try it on for size.  August 29th, a day before this batch turned 27 weeks old, one of the Buff Orpingtons decided it was time to go broody.  I noticed her on the nest later in the day than has been normal.  While adding to the feeders and waters, I noticed she hunkered down a little, and certainly not looking like she might want to slip by me on the way out like they typically do.  I did see about a half dozen eggs in that next earlier in the day before she set.  As I collected the other eggs, I  placed a blue egg and two dark brown eggs in her next.  She attacked!  So pretty well confirmed she was broody.  After a couple moments, I saw that she took the additional eggs and tucked them in under her.  Later in the evening, I added one more blue egg for her to care for, and yes, got pecked again, but she took it in as well.  All through the night she sat on the nest and did not go on the roost.

We are hoping she stays on the nest for the duration and are looking forward to the possibility of new chicks in a few weeks.

Feeders for baby chicks to grown chickens

There are as many different types of feeders for baby chicks to full grown chickens available as you might well imagine.  We have tried a number of them, certainly no where near the full line of what is available.

We started with the small round feeders we picked up at the local farm supply.  These are the round plastic base feeders with the half quart bottle screwed to the top.  Initially we set them on the floor and the baby chicks had no problems getting to the feed and would empty the feeder pretty regularly.

We also tried a galvanized version of the same feeder, this base designed to make use of a Mason jar or something similar.  We used several different jars in our attempt to find the one that fit best and held the best amount of feed for the chicks size. After the second season, we quit trying to make use of it.  The base did not fit any of the jars very well, and often enough to be a bother, it would become separated from the jar and end up on the floor and trampled over with chicks and their droppings.  I don’t recommend this one.

As the chicks grew, we added blocks of wood under the feeders to help keep them at the right height for the chicks to easily reach their feed.

Very quickly they are able to mess up their feeders with the pine shavings we used for bedding filling the openings.  The raised blocks helped with this problem, but did not cure it.  And it was not long before the chicks found their way into using the feeder as a convenient place for their droppings, never mind they would later want to eat from that same place.  So cleaning is a frequent chore.  And as soon as the chicks were able, their favorite past time was to get on top of the feeder, and of course, the droppings quickly fell into the feed again, and more cleaning on the way.

After a while, I drilled a small hole in the container, and pushed in a cotter pin and spread it out, using it to hang the feeder from a small chain.  This made it easy to keep the height at the right level for the chickens to eat, and with the swinging action made it difficult for the chicks to stand on the feeder, so made it a lot cleaner and easier to manage.  Later, I drilled two larger holes, about 3/4″ diameter close to each other, and removed the bits of plastic in between.  This allowed for the insertion of a small funnel to fill the feeders without the need to remove them from the brooder.

Depending on how often you are able to check on your chicks, two feeders for the first ten chicks and another for each additional ten chicks seemed to work well for us.  All in all, I think these work well particularly if you can modify them slightly to hang them.  The waterers use the same container with a different screw on base, so the containers must be modified to hang for the feeders.  A molded tab on top to hang both feeders and waterers would be a welcome design enhancement.

We also tried the galvanized tray feeders, and tried hanging them from chains as well.  We found they were just too susceptible to the chicks standing on top of it and making a mess of the feeder. I don’t recommend them.

As the chicks grew so did their feed consumption.  It wasn’t long before we added a larger feeder to keep up with the demand.  We found a 7 pound hanging feeder at our local feed store and purchased two of them.  Amazon sells these in an 11 pound size, with an optional cover for the top to keep the hens from sitting on top and using as a toilet.    Ours hang in the chicken coop from a wood frame used to support the nest boxes.  We have not had any issue with the hens getting on top of this feeder in this location, and again, hanging from chains has made it easy to keep the height adjusted to the chickens as they continued to grow to full size.  We used two feeders for 38 chickens and filled once daily.  Later, predators reduced the flock size down some, but the feed rate stayed about the same for the 29 remaining chickens.   The feed rate has diminished now that they are free ranging and we only fill once every few days.  This feeder has worked well for both crumbles and pellets.  We will add a few pieces of crushed oyster shell into the feeders from time to time.  The oyster shell is heavier than the feed so drops to the bottom quick enough.  The hens will pick the oyster shell as needed and when we see it nearly depleted in the bottom we will add a handful to the feeder.  As the hens start laying, their consumption of the oyster shell increases somewhat.

 

Try these.