I lost some birds to predators yesterday, and it has left me feeling a bit morose. I have known all along that there would eventually be a decrease in the poultry population due to natural country mayhem - and that the really smart ones would be the most likely to survive. But when three feathered innocents meet a violent demise on the same day, it weighs heavy on my tender heart.
Actually I had lost some guineas before yesterday. I was down to fifteen of the original twenty when the sun rose yesterday. During the morning I began to notice an assortment of fuzzy gray feathers blowing about the yard. I came across the source of all of those feathers, an obvious slaughter site, in the poultry pen while I was scattering hen scratch that afternoon. After taking a quick census, I discovered that the guinea population had decreased to fourteen in the time since I had let them out in the morning. (Guineas stick together and are relatively easy to count.)
The turkey population began at four on April 22nd and remained at four until yesterday evening. Now they are three. I knew there was a problem when I brought the water hose to an area near the pen where I clean and fill waterers - and soak my four o'clocks - each afternoon. The turkeys, which have become total pets - always rush up when they see the hose because, not surprisingly on these hot August days, they like to be sprayed. Yesterday only three showed for their evening shower. I found the fourth, a turkey hen, dead in the weeds inside of the pen. Her breast feathers had been ripped off, but the predator had apparently been interrupted before he made a meal of his conquest.
Later, almost as the sun was beginning to set, I came across a clump of brown hen feathers out on the edge of the back yard.
One (or more) of God's creature's ate exceedingly well yesterday.
But life goes on, and in fact, it cycles.
This morning I discovered three little brown eggs in one of the hen's nesting boxes. A few minutes later when I walked back into the coop to fill a waterer, I discovered a little brown hen sitting in a different nesting box. Everything I read on the subject said not to expect eggs until the hens are at least twenty-two-weeks-old. These ambitious girls are just over seventeen-weeks-old!
When chickens first developed from dinosaurs, they did not have chicken pens, coops, or nesting boxes. Yet my poultry instinctively know to head to the pen in the evening - all except for one little hen who valiantly tries to roost in the garage. I have to pick her up and carry her to the pen just before closing and latching the gate. And now it appears that they instinctively know what the nesting boxes are for.
(The poultry literature says that sometimes hens have to be taught to use the nesting boxes - by placing artificial eggs in them. The local feed store sells ceramic eggs for a dollar apiece, and I had planned to get a few when the time came. Now, with the realization that my hens are gifted, I won't have to spend that money.)
I plan to have a small omelet later this morning to celebrate the girls' proud achievement. I figure with the initial outlay for the purchase of the poultry, the equipment (feeders, waterers, etc), and bag-after-bag of feed, I have about two hundred dollars invested in each of those three eggs!
The next order of business is to find a good farm dog who will protect its feathered cousins. Applications are now being accepted!