No Idea

Cackle’s name doesn’t fit her nearly as well as “Caterwaul” would have. This morning I woke up to hear what sounded like a cat in heat, yowling loudly in my yard.

Bleary-eyed, I stumbled outside in my robe, prepared to chase off the predator that was undoubtedly tormenting my chickens.

The sound was coming from Cackle, and once I was outside, I realized it was some sort of crazy clucking noise. It’s the sort of sound I might expect from a hen trying to lay a particularly big egg, except that she was just standing there on a cinder block (Squawkers was “occupying” the nesting box).

Then Cackle caught sight of me, gave a final yawk, and dashed behind the hen house.

I still don’t know what that was all about.

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Peepers Back in Action

As of last Sunday, Peepers is officially out of our bathtub and back in the chicken coop.

The hen house palace isn’t finished yet, but we secured the coop so that Peepers can’t get grabbed by a predator again. Or at least, by a small predator that lacks opposable thumbs so as to unlatch the gate. The coop is now ringed by two stacked 2x4s, all the way around, so any wannabe predators would have to stand up on hind legs and reach over the 2x4s and wiggle its paw into the mesh and then reach back down toward the chicken. I don’t think a cat or raccoon has that kind of reach—its grasping arm would have to be disproportionately long—and I don’t think the dirty deed can be accomplished silently anymore either, since the animal would have to do all sorts of clambering and stretching to get over the wood and through the tiny mesh holes.

Then again, my assumptions keep getting proven wrong. So we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Peepers, meanwhile, is thrilled to be outside. She has started lying in the sun in this rather disturbing way, however. She basically lays straight over on her side with her feet sticking straight back, somewhat like a rubber chicken pose, or else with her feet sticking partially up in the air. Either way, she looks like she’s dead, but I think she’s just enjoying the sun. I will have to get a picture of it.  I wonder if other chickens do the same thing? Sometimes she will follow the sideways nap with some serious dirt rolling.

Peepers: 1 Cat: 0

Peepers pulled through.

Thanks to everyone who sent nice thoughts to us.

Peeps was up and around this morning. I took him to a bird vet who had suitable antibiotics, and the vet also gave me a pain killer/steroid to reduce swelling and pain. Poor Peeps’s little head was swollen around the scratch marks, forcing his eyes (mostly his left eye) closed. He was also reluctant to move his beak to peck for food, and when he did make a miserable effort, he pretty much missed the food.

But the meds really seem to have helped Peepers perk back up. He is still moving very slow, and he sticks close to me and Dozer (the dog) when I take him outside for some sun. But he pecks valiantly, if vainly, at grass and dirt. He does a little better with the chicken feed. And my husband brought home a feast of crickets and mealworms that Peepers, with some help, gobbled enthusiastically; I had to beg hubby not to overfeed our poor chicken on the first day of recuperation.

Peepers will probably be spending the next few days inside, sleeping in the bathtub (now that I don’t have to worry about him dying on me), until we can get some sort of defense up around the kennel. Hubby is pushing for an electric fence (?!?!) but I think a simple 2′ plywood wall around the base of the kennel would be sufficient to deter any grab-and-go cats.

Peepers Gets Attacked

Today I went outside to check on Peepers after getting back from a temp job, and was alarmed to see him slumped over on his side in a very unnatural position that basically translated into “I’m dead, or nearly there.”

It was a great relief when he lifted himself up and peeped as I called his name, but that relief was quite overshadowed by the blood all over his head.

Once inside the house, with some of the blood rinsed off, Peepers had trouble opening his eyes. He made peepy sounds when touched or moved, and kept his balance pretty well, but if left alone for a few minutes, he would sort of flop as if he had just fallen asleep.

Recognizing this as a sign of shock, and recalling the countless wild birds I’d collected from bad situations only to watch them go into shock and die within hours, I panicked and took Peepers to the after-hours emergency vet.

The vet cleaned out his wounds, which appear to be claw wounds (thank goodness, not bite wounds, as bite wounds from a cat, at least, are essentially fatal to birds), and gave him some fluids, and told me he needed antibiotics from a “chicken vet.” Apparently the antibiotics they had at the emergency vet are not legal to give to birds that are going to be used for food purposes (eating the chicken or its eggs), and while Peepers is a pet that I would absolutely not think of eating, we had hoped to eat his (her) eggs if he turns out to be a girl. I thought about saying, well, then we won’t eat Peepers’s eggs–but then I realized that if we had two other hens laying eggs some day in the future as we planned, it might become difficult to sort out whose eggs are whose unless Peepers stays isolated from the other hens somehow.

The vet reassured me at that point that waiting on the antibiotics was not going to be the deciding factor for Peepers’s survival. So tomorrow I’ll be calling around for a vet that can administer antibiotics to food chickens.

Assuming Peepers survives the night. It’s hard to say whether he’s truly at death’s door or just plain dead tired. It’s now almost 10 PM, and Peepers’s usual bedtime is about 7 PM (when it gets dim outside), so he’s likely exhausted after the trauma of the attack, the ride to and from the vet, and the vet’s treatment. He’s got his little head tucked under his wing right now, trying to block out the bedroom light and the television sounds.

I am having a very hard time understanding how something managed to get its claws on Peepers. Peepers would have had to have been sound asleep in a corner of the kennel, and the animal (cat, most likely) would have crept up behind him and somehow squeezed its paw through the mesh, the holes of which are the size of a nickle, and then gotten its paw around Peepers’s head. And then realized that the chicken can’t be pulled through the mesh–at least, not in one piece.

Today on the Chicken Front

Well, the Mystery Chick has a nice new space in a large chain link dog run. I spent several hours converting the run, but I was very pleased that we finally found a use for it. Our dog never did stay in it, for a variety of reasons.

The chain link was easy for the tiny chick to slip through, so we got plastic mesh from the hardware store and zip-tied it to the chain link. I also added two cinder blocks, standing vertically, and slipped a piece of wood into the top squares of the blocks to form a long perch. And we bought an automatic waterer and feeder.

I left the cat trap (where the chick was staying initially) inside the dog kennel with a towel over the back half; it will have to do as a sleeping spot until we can build or buy a little house. I’m also “locking” the chick into the cat trap at night, because…

…even after all that work, the chick still managed to squeeze its way out of the dog kennel late in the afternoon! Fortunately Hubby was outside doing some work on our new fence. He heard peeping and looked up to see Mystery Chick standing on a log next to him. The chick really seems to like him; I saw Hubby walking around out back several times with the chick standing tall on his shoulder (and Hubby is 6’4″).

I suspect the weakness is at the kennel door. There is a small gap between the door and the kennel wall, smaller than the chain link squares but larger than the mesh squares. If the door is carefully, perfectly shut, the gap is too small for the chick (we tested), but if it is even slightly ajar, that gap gets larger. Probably whoever was in the kennel last did not quite pull the door evenly closed (it swings inward and outward, so there is no “stop” to make it shut level with the kennel wall; you have to stop it yourself whereever you want it to be). I think I’ll have Hubby attach a board to the door so that it covers this gap when the door closes.

And finally, we stopped at a pet store today and got some tiny baby crickets. Well let me tell you, I’ve never seen a chicken go quite as loony as Mystery Chick did when I brought it the crickets. That bird attacked the crickets while they were still in the bag! He even jumped up into the air after the bag when I hoisted it out of reach (I was trying to get the crickets out and the chick was biting me and the bag and the crickets every chance he got). He really loved those crickets and gobbled them straight out of my hand.