I woke quite early again today and having convinced myself that the pullet and hen loss was from raccoons going after the birds that wouldn’t coop up at night, and given that most of today was going to be spent in close proximity to the coops, I let the chickens out, removed their food and water from their coops to the outside, and added new straw to give them clean bedding.
Grandson was awakened, fed, and transported to the bus, granddaughter was awakened, fed, and transported to her preschool Open House to reunite with some friends and make some new ones. Once home, the tractor was driven out and the mowing commenced. I tackled the thick tall grass that we consider our lawn and even with the tractor and brush hog, it was a challenge in some places. I will have to go back over it in a couple of days to hopefully break up and disperse the clumps that formed. Once I finished with that part, Jim took the tractor to the far hay field and began down there. I had left him only about a quarter tank of diesel and told him, I was going to get some fuel and something to prepare for dinner. Granddaughter and I got back up the mountain with just a few minutes before the afternoon school bus was due, so we waited. Jim called to tell me he had run out of fuel before I got there and when he got back to the house on foot, he heard a ruckus in the chicken pen. I was wrong about my predator. It was a large hawk and it had my last pullet that I had put in the hen coop. That means that I have lost all of my replacement hens and two older hens this summer. I cooped them and the culls back up and I have to do something to prevent the opportunistic hawk from feeding in my chicken runs. We live in the midst of 30 acres of woods and hay fields ripe with rabbits, squirrels, small birds, snakes, mice, voles, etc. but the hawk has found a food source that doesn’t require hunting and has a convenient large nut tree nearby to escape to.
Between us, we got about a quarter of the grass and fields mowed today with nice days due the rest of the week, so maybe we will get it finished. Neighbors are mowing and some are second cut haying now also.
I didn’t get any harvest done today, nor did I figure out how I am going to protect the remaining chickens. My run fences are 4 feet tall. If I cover them, I can’t get in to change water, open the pop door, or close them up at night without duck walking under a 4 foot high net. To raise the fence height to 6 feet tall, even if I cut the run size in half, will require taking down existing fencing, pulling up T posts, and starting over with 7 foot posts, new fence wire and then netting or tarping the top. That would require another major investment in funds on top of the purchased coop, existing fencing, and labor building the two reclaimed coops, all for a handful of laying hens and a few meat chickens. So far, I have no sound ideas on how to create a tunnel fastened to the existing posts that would raise the cover without starting over. Perhaps the existing T posts can support cattle panels bent to an arch then draped with netting, but still an expense.
It is too hot to keep the laying coop closed up all day for days on end. I will lose them to illness or heat if I have to do that.
Tomorrow, there is no preschool, so maybe I can get some garden work done while Jim finishes the far field. And maybe after sleeping on it, I will come up with at least a temporary inexpensive solution to protecting my laying hens and meat culls. Life and death on a farm is expected, but I am getting very frustrated with my inability to keep my chickens safe.