A few weeks ago, I wrote about possible predator risks on the land. Today, when opening the chicken coop to let everyone out for the day, three birds did not come. One was Sidney, our rooster. He and two other hens lay dead in the outdoor half of the coop. The outdoor part is completely caged in, but apparently not well enough. The raccoons finally found a way in, tearing apart some of the old wiring and digging under the coop. It was a very sad moment, as I was quite attached to the rooster, but even worse, I realized he’s been trying to tell me something’s been wrong for a few days now. It took too long for the slow witted human to figure it out.

Sidney was refusing to go in at night. It had never happened before. I thought it was an issue with the other younger rooster, Alexander. I thought maybe he was pissed that the other male was in there and wanted him out. I ignored the other hens who were delaying their own entrance back into the coop in the evening. I figured when Sidney was saying no, the other hens were just following his lead. No, they were telling me something was very wrong, that the coop was not safe, and that it was not ok to go in there. Sadly, I misread the situation and wrangled them up these last few nights, not understanding the danger I was putting them in.

Well, today I learned a most valuable lesson, when the chickens are acting funny, something is really off. I hope to listen better in future, and work with the birds to keep everyone safe. I’ve sealed up the inner coop, nailing and stringing up wire to ensure safety. Now a new coop design will begin, with a raised floor, high off the ground, and well insulated walls, with new roof. Perhaps two small portable coops, to move the birds into the portable system I’ve been talking about for a few years now.

In a way, I have to thank the raccoons, they have motivated better design and immediate action. A raccoon live trap has also been set up. I know it was raccoons because of the multiple attacks happening at once. While Sidney fought the predator in the coop, another hen was eviscerated against the cage by an outside hand, typical raccoon predation. Remember that family of raccoons I caught on the trail cam? Well, it’s on now, and they will be deterred from future action by trapping, and better design on the coop.

Though it is hard to loose any animal on the farm, this attack hit home the need to have better facilities for the animals; something to work on in the coming months. It may put our plan to double the flock on the back burner this year. I may not even get chicks, as I am so upset about the loss. Until I know the birds are safe, I will not be growing the flock. I have no doubt we can build something much better, and created a critter proof space for the hens to thrive.

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