Saturday, October 3, 2009

Chicken alert!

Yesterday I said all of the animals stayed put.  How wrong I was!  I didn't get out to the Moop until well after dark.  I hadn't seen any chickens running around outside the fence earlier, so I was quite sure they were all there and didn't even bother to take the flashlight with me for a head count.

When I carried their feeders into the Moop, I looked at the shadowy figures sitting on the top rung of the perch.  It didn't seem like it was as full as usual, but it was quite dark in there, so I thought it was probably my imagination.  However, I knew I wouldn't rest easy if I didn't count.  As I have mentioned before, chickens in the dark are a lot more friendly than chickens in broad daylight, so I stroked each shadowy back as I counted. . . . . . . .  Nothing!  There are supposed to be fifteen chickens, not twelve!  I counted again.  Still twelve.  I went back to the house for the flashlight, shined it on the row of chickens, and yes, there were twelve.  Only twelve.

Usually I get out to button them up while there is still a bit of daylight, and if there are any chickens on the outside, they will be running around looking for a way to get back in.  I am still curious as to how they can get OUT but cannot get IN.  Anyway, by waiting until dark to go out there, any stray chickens had long since found a place to roost in the woods, and they were not going to come anywhere near the chicken yard once they were roosting.  They were in for the night, wherever "in" was.

I did not sleep well last night.  Berating myself for not getting that electric netting to enclose them, I finally took half a sleeping pill and tried to forget it.  I dreamed of chickens.  I would wake in the night and wonder if the three miscreants were dead.

Saturdays are my biggest market day, and I'm always up at 5:00.  It is still pitch dark at that hour.  By 7:00, I gave it a try.  It was still dark, but there were hints of dawn's light in the eastern sky.  There were no chickens to be found.  I propped their gate wide open and finished getting ready, loading the car with veggies and going out to the barn to pick up the shareholders' milk for delivery to the market.

Okay, one last try.  As I walked back to the pen, there they were, all three of them, looking quite bedraggled and a bit put out.  It had rained all night, not the best night to be out and about.  Maybe it was not such a great night for the coons and the possums to be out either, which may account for their having survived to see another day.  At any rate, as of 7:30 this morning, there were 15 chickens again.

I just buttoned them up tonight.  Still 15 chickens.  They must have decided one night on the town was enough.

Count tonight is 15 chickens, 3 calves, 3 heifers inside the fence, 1 small cat and 1 large black dog.  I shall sleep better tonight.


  1. Reading your posts from oldest to newest. Have read about you trying to get the occasional chicken BACK in the MOOP in the evening:

    "I am still curious as to how they can get OUT but cannot get IN."

    I JUST had this happen the other day with our chickens. Ours are allowed to free-range and they put themselves to bed each night and then we go down and close the coop door. But we just added two sheep to our place and, long story short, I've had to set-up some gates to keep sheep in an area but still allow ingress and egress for the chickens heading to and from the coop which is located nearby.

    At dusk the other night, I had one chicken who just seemed DUMB as heck. Could not herd her into and through the small opening I had left in the gate. Chased her around and around just like your merry-to-round post. Finally, once I got her about through the opening, another chicken came charging out of the coop to chase this one back out. You guessed it, this one was a runt and the pecking order instinct has one or two of the others picking on her and she didn't want to enter because she's getting bullied.

    Wondering if that might be what you have going on...

    My solution that I'm trying for now? I captured the bully chicken and stuck her inside my old broken-down and empty refrigerator in the barn until dark. That allowed me to herd the runt chicken slowly back into the coop (boy she was really frightened) and then I waited for dark to go down and grab the bully from the darkness of solitary confinement and return her to the coop as well.

    That was 3 nights ago. So far, no repeat of the problem...

  2. Thanks for this info, Mark. I think I've solved the problem. I'm leaving the gate open all the time (there is so much brush around there that the hawks don't seem to be posing a problem anymore), and so far, they all go back through the gate just fine when I'm not there chasing them. I just stay out of the way and let them do their thing. So far, so good. It was odd tonight, though - I went out to close the door and there were only three chickens! I was heart sick, then saw that the other 12 were sitting on the west roosts, where I couldn't see them as I walked up to the door. Odd. Have no idea why they changed sides. It will be interesting to see what they do tomorrow night.

    It is funny to think about you chasing them in circles. Do you suppose they do that just for their own entertainment? Hahahaha!!