Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Deju vu all over again

Three years ago, I saved a runt chick, whom I named Peep.  She lived in my closet for a couple of months, until she got big enough and strong enough to join the flock.  I integrated her gradually, bringing two bigger chicks into a large box in the greenhouse to perch with her a couple of nights.  Chickens, being cannibalistic by nature, will attack a small chick and have her for dinner.  I figured if there were only two larger chicks, they would leave her alone.  It was a good plan.  The three of them did fine for two nights, and then I took all three out to the Moop, which I foolishly had in an open pasture, it being my first experience with having free range chickens.

A week later, a hawk got Peep, along with six other chicks.  I moved the Moop to a secluded area and strung mono-filament fishing line over the pen, which seemed to work until a few months ago, when the hawks got very aggressive and began diving through the line to get at the chickens.  So now their pen is covered with deer netting.  A few chickens escape now and then, but it is into some pretty thick woods, and I haven't found any dead chickens for a couple of weeks.  I hope that problem is solved.

Last Thursday I got 31 new chicks.  They all seemed healthy, although one was a little bit slower than the rest.  Today when I got home from market, it was obvious that this chick was not going to make it if I left her with the others.  They were running over the top of her, and even when I sat her in the the feed trough, where she hungrily pecked at food, I came back five minutes later to find that they had pushed her out, and she was lying splayed out on the floor of the old water trough they are living in.

Peep II is sitting on my lap as I type this.  She is very happy to be in here with me.  If she is like Peep I, she will welcome being held and talked to.  When I am sure she is going to make it, I will get her a mirror so that she bonds with a chick (even one in a mirror) rather than just with people.

It is so good have her snuggled up in my lap, with the hem of my soft cotton turtleneck pushed up around her little body.  She is making soft peeping sounds from time to time.  I find myself comparing it to a cat purring.

Good luck, Peep II.  May you make it through this perilous time.  Now I know not to put chickens where predators can get them.  No more wide open fields for the little guys.  Once they are feathered out, they will go into the big pen with the older chickens, and with deer netting overhead for added protection.  :)

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