Now granted, I no longer weep when I find a dead chick from confusing causes in amongst the healthy ones--an event that, thankfully, has been rare this year. And the only deaths of adult birds that I weep at are the ones I inflict myself.
In fact, I am emotionally hardened enough already that I don't really cry when the deaths are inflicted by another sentient being, either. But not so hardened as to feel nothing. Oh, no--there are definitely other emotions evoked.
This week has seen some serious losses to my flock. The flock that we spend money, time, and effort on so that WE can have the benefit of our labours, not some random passing coyote who realizes that these dumb, domesticated birds are much easier hunting than the other prey he might find in the trees.
I should have 20 adult birds. I only have 12. The numbers have been dwindling at the rate of about one a day.
Jason has been working on digging the post holes for a permanent, enclosed, fortified-against-wildlife chicken run, but it is slow going in our gravel-pit of a yard. Also, he is away on a work trip this week, so hasn't been able to take advantage of the ground softened by rain, and I have been too busy to do the same.
We can't get that thing finished fast enough. I managed to get a "temp" enclosure of orange snow fence and electric-fence-posts up around the coop the other night (the soft ground certainly helped with this project). It has, so far, mostly managed to fulfill its purpose of keeping the chickens inside, out of the trees where they are "sitting ducks", so to speak. At only three feet tall, the soft plastic wasn't animal-proof by any stretch, but I hoped it might be a deterrent for the coyote.
Nope. Two more today. I could see the remains of their struggle right on the border of the fence, little feathers scattered about as an enraging reminder that something else was profiting at my expense... and probably laughing at me, too.
You know, I know Roald Dahl has us all sympathizing with a chicken-stealing fox in his classic story, but in my heart, I am really with Boggus, Bunce, and Bean. Those darn foxes, coyotes, and other critters have no right to the fruits of my labour!!
However, despite the staggering losses to my adult flock, my chicks have been okay so far, as they are always completely enclosed in our other, smaller chicken tractor, within which they are warmed by a heat lamp, protected from the wind, and get to see fresh grass about once a day. When we first got the chicks, Sunshine (our golden retriever) proved that although she seemed to have overcome her need to chase adult chickens around, she had just as keen of an interest in these new little appetizers as Koda had with last year's newbies--at four days old, she managed to dig a hole under the chicken tractor and extract at least one chick before Jason caught her in the act, little brown body still in her mouth.
Koda had been spending a lot of time kennelled, unless we were outside, since he has a tendency to wander off to the neighbours' to visit his buddies if left alone outside for longer than ten minutes. However, Sunshine had been free to wander around (ideally, protecting the yard from thieving coyotes). Since that incident, they have both been on detention.
We make an effort to make sure the dogs get several hours of exercise a day, which is usually pretty easy. When we are outside doing our yard work in the evenings, we let them out, and they exercise each other. However, with the rain for the last several days, I haven't been outside that much at night. Since Koda seems to have been doing better (not running off), and Sunshine had seemed to be less interested in the chicks now that they are a little older, I thought I would just let them run around tonight and keep an eye on them. So, every now and then, I would look out the window and see Koda running around. It should have set off an alarm bell that Sunshine was not there wrestling with him. But it didn't--after all, she isn't the one who runs off.
When I went out to "put them to bed," I was very thankful it wasn't raining.
Because I got to fix holes in my little chicken tractor's poultry wire (she went through two layers!)
And Sunshine gets to spend the night with a dead chick around her neck. I don't know if she got more--the hole which she also dug in the ground under the rear edge (and dragged one through, I'm sure--the holes in the wire didn't seem big enough for her to get through, and the chicks were more interested in staying at the opposite end under the heat lamp) was certainly big enough!
Sunshine had an epic fail tonight. I'm just thankful that it wasn't quite as epic as Koda's--as far as I can tell, she only got a few, (a lot less than 40!) and maybe only the one I caught her with. It's really hard to count seventy-five portable little chicks!
Why do we have dogs again?
(On a more positive note--Koda seems to have either learned from last spring's experience, or has grown past that stage, as he has not attempted poultricide this year.)