I gotta be free!

So, it’s been a tough road with the current chickens. Not that they can’t cross the road, clearly Flora has that inherent chicken skill. Though I don’t know why she does. But these are like indoor vs outdoor cats; they’re backyard vs full free range chickens. Not really farm animals, but more weirdo emotional attachment than a goldfish (sorry all you nifty goldfish). But, since Flora proved her ability to fly over the fence, the street, and into a neighbor’s yard and tried to evade capture up on their roof, I knew she was going to be relegated to the coop/run rather than the rest of the yard for the foreseeable future. Especially with Monarch continuing to be a big bully.
so, Flora has mostly been in the (adequately spacious coop/run) predator/escape/bully free environment for several months and I just wanted to give her more yard freedom. Bully chicken is off  in her own space I have chicken catcher at hand.

It might be a fish catcher

Gol Derned Freeloaders…or not?

There’s been a lot of stress in mini chicken land. Chickens introduced, chickens not getting along, chickens not making it. And this is a tiny Chicago yard with only 2-3 chickens at a time. Schedules are difficult and the cluckers may not get out of the coop at the same time every morning. (I’m fairly sure that led to Flora trying to break out of her coop. Halfway broken door. No sign of predators. She just kicked the door’s butt. Because doors have butts.)

We still don’t know how old Flora is…she still might be pre-egg laying. She might have been at the chicken rescue ‘cus she just doesn’t lay eggs. But, yeah, no eggs from her.

But! For a couple of months Monarch had started giving us an egg every day or two! She seemed to have started after Beaker was lost to the raccoon; it was quite a surprise.  And then the dark times came and Monarch stopped laying. Assumed it was a combination of heat and stress. Chickens can apparently decide whether or not to lay eggs–can’t say it’s conscious, so decide is probably too generous of a term.

Either way, 2 chickens, no cup…I mean egg. In the meantime they’re getting more and more high maintenance. Wish I had the pictures, but there’s been a lot of chicken petting and chicken cajoling and coop cleaning and blah blah blah. Monarch and Flora just don’t get along.

TLDR SKIP TO HERE: So, tonight, looking around the little backyard that’s become an urban jungle thanks to the crazy rain we’ve had (we have a mini pond with gold fish and lily pads), my eyes caught a glance of Chicken Island.

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A double or triple-bathtub-sized pond with goldfish and lily pads and a mini-island with a tree, lights and a tiny waterfall :). Chicken Island. ‘Cus the chickens have generally found it.

And then I seeIMG_0983

!!!

I wish I could really show how small this whole thing is and how surprising it was that Monarch had managed to lay *14* eggs without my seeing, but she did!

So fun! Freeloader no more! (Flora better get to work.)

Lottery

Yeah…I’ve been away and lots has happened that I haven’t posted. I think I follow the normal path of the normal casual blogger. In fact, I have several anecdotes that would make good standalone posts, and I hope that I get around to sharing those stories. But I wanted to throw in this little fun bit!

So, we had some chicken complications. After a year and a half of low-level chicken keeping, we’ve had our share of learning. Things I’ve mentioned–hawk, rats–things I haven’t updated yet–polar vortexes, raccoons (little jerks).

The chicken complications have been highly concentrated in the past week. Among the results was acquiring new chicken Flora.

She’s a frisky one, Flora is. Fast as heck. When she looks at you directly, when her neck ruff is fluffed out, she’s all floofy, but from the side, her face is surprisingly hawk-like. Got her from the Chicago Chicken Rescue along with a Red Star hen we’ve named Gertrude. This was in the aftermath of losing Beaker to a raccoon–a trauma that has impacted my opinion of all those little Trash Pandas. When I can catch her, she’s perfectly willing to let me pet her. But catching her is an impressive workout.

So, new chickens in the yard Tuesday. By Wednesday afternoon, Flora has already flown the coop. I’m crestfallen. We’ve already lost a chicken and now we’ve brought in a new chicken and immediately lost it. Plus, despite reinforcing the coop, the raccoon managed to get it’s paw in and swipe at Gertie’s comb. And Monarch is being all territorial and pecking at Gertie.

Status: One recently-deceased chicken, one newly-acquired-but-now-injured chicken, one newly-acquired-but-now-escaped chicken, one remaining home-base chicken who’s being an asshole.

From camera footage, we can figure the time of disappearance of Flora to be a little after 5 on Wednesday. Between Wednesday and Thursday Jeff and I both make various sweeps around the neighborhood in the unlikely chance of finding Flora. Keep in mind this is a Chicago city neighborhood. Streets, cars, dogs, asshole raccoons, endless directions to go, etc. Of course no luck. I’ve put up a notice on our local neighborhood FB page. In a last ditch, completely without expectation attempt, I made a lost chicken sign:

I knew this was like playing the lottery. Especially since I knew the rainstorms that night were going to tear down all of the signs (in fact, my original plan was to take them down before the rain, but I got lazy).

But I had one advantage. We have a Little Free Library outside of our house (which also doubles nicely as a Pokemon GO stop and a Harry Potter Wizards Unite greenhouse) which gets good neighborhood foot traffic and provided shelter for the flyer from the rain.

Lo and behold, the next day, while I was at work, I get a notification on my electronic doorbell on my phone. I can answer the doorbell through the Ring and talk to him even though I’m not home. A guy from down the block has spotted the chicken! She’s just across the street in the neighbor’s front yard! But I’m still at work. And he’s walking his big ol’ Pit Bull and can’t do anything about the chicken. I kinda ask if there’s any way he can let someone else around know to throw the chicken in the yard or something, but he just walks away.

I tidied up as much work as possible and drove home, thinking about my plan, even though I figured he was just talking about the neighbors chickens (they occasionally let them out to roam…drives me crazy, but if they didn’t, I never would have had a chicken in the first place 🙂 ). About 10 minutes away from home, a call from an unknown number!

Hi, uh Jennifer? Yeah, I caught your chicken and threw it in your backyard.

And he had.

There’s still much pecking order being established amongst the three chickens, but it seems to be mellowing. Nobody gets to walk around the yard unsupervised. But I’m still reveling in the amazing luck that we got back one of our new feathered friends.

I’m currently putting together a thank you package for the chicken catcher.

New Chicken

Well, after losing Comet to the hawk, I knew that Beaker was going to need another companion. But I hadn’t realized how much she needed one. We kept her protected in the covered run for the past few days with plenty of food, water, and shelter. But she ate less. She started to look kinda scrawny. We let her out to free range while we worked on yard work, and she started to perk up. It became clear that we were her flock. She stretched her wings, started to explore again, and started to eat and drink with gusto. But it’s hard to be there for her all the time. I’m afraid enough of the hawk returning that I don’t want to free-range her without supervision, but it’s cold, wet and rainy outside. She doesn’t mind so much, but I can only stay out there for so long. Honestly, her covered run is a pretty good number of square feet, so I don’t feel guilty about keeping her in there. But without some company, she definitely gets droopy. Went out to sit with her yesterday and she wouldn’t stray more than 3 feet away from me.

So! Today was new chicken day!!!! Went back to Chicago Chicken Rescue which is a super cool place in Hyde Park. I will do a specific post on them someday if it’s okay with them. Looked around the yard at the chickens, many of which were quite pretty…think there was a silver wyandotte and a buff orpington and a pretty black one and a pretty white one. Oh…and an adorable bantam rooster of some type. Then I saw the niftiest brown/gold chicken with little black tracings around it’s wings. I knew some chickens were off-limits due to the son of the proprietor’s attachment. But, no…this was not one of the claimed ones! We cornered it, eventually. (Chickens are tricky SOBs).

We now have a second lovely chicken. They’re going through their initial pecking order fighting, but they are both sleeping in the coop together tonight. I think Beaker is gonna like having a new friend. Next step…naming.

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The nature of nature.

Went out to give the chickens some leftovers this morning. Unlike on a typical day, no chickens came running to beg for food. Looked in both of their coops. My eyes scanned around the yard. Then I saw it. A fairly impressive brown and white hawk with a curved flesh-ripping beak, doing just that–ripping flesh. A pile of blood and feathers marked Comet’s last stand. There was no ‘checking if she was alive’…clearly ex-chicken. Pretty bold hawk, too. Not scared of me at all. I probably got within 5 feet of it.

Eventually it flew up onto the back of one of our lawn chairs, then to the roof, then off into the distance.

After a careful exploration of the yard, eventually found Beaker hiding under a table behind the tiki bar. I closed her into her enclosed coop/run and brought her some food and water. She seems shaken. Maybe another trip to Chicago Chicken Rescue will be in order for this weekend. She needs a friend.

Chicken Alarm! Chicken Alarm!

It’s nighttime, so I couldn’t get any decent pictures. If I were clever, I should have recorded some sound. I happened to go out to the backyard late at night tonight to look for something in my car. Comet, the chicken who likes to roost rather than going into the coop at night, was all up in arms baw-bocking like crazy. Bokka baw! Bokka baw! Head up, full alert. Now, this is not her normal nighttime behavior. Or even daytime. Our chickens are pretty quiet. From all of the stuff I’ve read online, this seemed like a warning signal. Maybe that’s why she likes to roost. Maybe she’s the protector chicken!

So…what’s the predator she’s cawing about? I didn’t actually expect to find one, as I generally think she’s a pretty random chicken…but…I looked around the yard…and YES! There’s some random cute, gray adolescent and/or skinny-alley cat in our backyard! Was my first reaction to run it off, as my chicken thought it was a threat? No, of course not. I tried to call it to check if it had a collar, give it food and water if needed, etc, etc, but it ran like lightning. I searched the yard, the alley, the yard again, the alley again. Nope. Cat is long gone.

And the end of the story is (for a story must have a beginning, middle and end, at least some of the time), cats can take care of themselves and listen to your alarm chickens.