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Farmette 1769

by Monica Melograna-Ward

Tag Archives: fowl

We had a surprise visitor this week on the Farmette – a falcon graced us with her presence. Luckily she was smaller than our free-ranging rooster. He made it safely to the cover of the bushes. Our other chickens, after screeching up a storm, huddled in the nesting boxes of their coops.

I took this pic through the window of our master bedroom;

Hungry falcon on main chicken coop

After flying to the maple tree

Peregrine Falcons are part of the wildlife of North Carolina and help keep nature in balance. If they are persistent and you need to scare them away from a free-ranging flock, firing with a shot gun works. Don’t aim at them. They are protected birds of prey. The noise will be enough. And who would want to harm this magnificent creature?

Surprisingly, the falcon did not attempt to pull our injured chicken from her pen on the ground. It was likely just too close to the house. After the falcon left, I thought of that hen and checked in. She was managing to eat and drink. Mostly, she remained slumped in the corner.

When a chicken damages a leg (especially in two spots), its fate is decided just as that of a horse. If it cannot hold itself off the ground, the earth reaches out to take it back. Splints and wraps did not work.

We had kept her in the garage in a box of pine shavings for a while, but she complained a lot and often called to her buddys outside. She was moved out front and seemed more content, but the inability to roost & groom took its toll. It was time to make a decision.

Euthanasia is an unpleasant but necessary option when injury or disease overpower us. It ends the suffering of a lost cause where the will to survive has managed to lengthen the dying process.

I talked to our son about it. “We need to kill this chicken in order to end her suffering.” Not thinking of my selfish avoidance of being the one to kill her, I continued and said. “Or, should we let the falcon take her for a meal?” He said “NO!” – not wanting to see feathers/leftovers strewn about our property. This also was the smart response, since the falcon would likely come back for more – and more.

After witnessing the botched injection of “eternal sleep potion” for a deathly ill pet at the vet’s office, humane euthanasia, in my mind,  has become “the quickest lethal method”. Blunt force, neck snapping and shooting are all fast and painless when done correctly.

I was still feeling selfish and managed to wrangle my husband into carrying out the unhappy task. I have been the poultry’s grim reaper before and will be again, just not today.

We told her that she was a good, strong girl and stroked her feathers. We told her that her pain would soon be gone.

On a farm, animals are keep in herd or flock form. Cost/practicality are crucial to the survival of a homestead that keeps livestock. Many would argue that a farmer’s methods of destroying livestock is not humane. It is an obvious subject of ethical debate.

My own take is that you do your best to make a choice and live with your decision. We wondered if her death was truly instant. We had to watch our son cry. We must look at the empty cage. And now we go back out to feed and water our beautiful flock.

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This is the first deformed chick that has hatched here on the farmette. I really should not joke and call him a freak. His name will be Chance II since his survival will hang in the balance where eating and drinking are concerned.

The story can be told mostly in pictures. As much as his beak is twisted, he is able to drink. That is good. Food will be a challenge. Instead of having a shallow food bowl, I am going to try one that is deep. It will be filled with chick starter food (fine crumbles).

Chance II is an amazing chick so far. He cracked his way out of his shell with that crossed bill. Maybe it was an advantage and worked like scissors (I really should not joke).

Surprisingly, despite this baby’s special physique, he is strong and healthy. He peeps and runs around behaving just like the other chicks. If you look down in the brooder bin, you really can’t tell that anything is wrong.

I saved the best view for last. This angle shows the left side of his face as normal, but he right side gone a-rye in development. He can see fine out of his left eye. The right one did not form into something usable. I am glad that he is not completely blind.

It was hard to get Chance II to keep still for photos. This is a good thing. Maybe our oddball chick will not only drink, but eat some chick starter food soon. 🙂

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She should probably be considered a kitten. This seems to be a young cat. I had seen this one scamper out of the chicken area, but did not realize just how small she was. Due to her petite body frame, I am guessing that this kitten is female.

Just when I had given up on the animal trap, I decided to figure out how to reset it (very easy) and used some leftover turkey from Thanksgiving as a lure for the fowl connoisseur. It was quite a surprise that it worked.

My husband often works a later shift and did not arrive home until 11pm. I had stayed up late last night to capture a bit of time with him. And I had forgotten (again) to lock up the chicken coop. As we were chatting happily inside with the ice rain beginning outside, I remembered the unfinished task.

I wandered out in my husband’s big coat, pajamas and flip flops. He came after me with a flash light. We closed the coop and counted the chickens after realizing that something was crying in the trap.

Semi-feral Kitten

All the chickens were accounted for and the light was then turned on the cage. This young feline had beheaded, maimed and killed many of our little chickens. She was at our mercy.

The trap was locked to a metal chair to prevent theft (animal control probably goes through a lot of traps – and they are pricey). Luckily, my husband is a big guy and carried everything into the garage. I put an old towel over the cage to help keep the cat from freezing.

Well, I am such a sucker. We cannot have a house cat due to my husband’s asthma. We cannot have a bird killer loose outside. But I still wanted to keep her. She is just scared and hungry.

The animal control officer mentioned a feral cat rescue enthusiast that will pick them up from the shelter. I am hoping that happens with this one.

She may be deemed docile enough to put up for adoption. She seems pretty healthy, considering her home in the woods. You never know when someone is ready for a challenge.

Maybe she started off at a home and was dumped on the side of the road. There are no signs of aggression or crazed panic.

I feel like getting on my “happy life on the farm” soap box. So many people drop off their former pets on these country roads thinking that they have a better chance at a good life instead of being put down at an animal shelter.

Farms can only handle so many animals. They do not have the funds to be a haven for unwanted pets. And certain animals cannot co-exist with others. Cats that grow up with cat chow and big mean roosters do well on farms. But, starved strays that have a taste for easy domestic prey do not.

The pet owners are doing what they think is best. But, I do suggest that kittens, cats, puppies and dogs be taken to a shelter if a new home cannot be found. The fate that awaits them loose seldom ends well.

The chance remains that this kitten will be put to sleep. Ugh, I hate to hand her over now, but I can’t put the birds in harms way.

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It is hard to write about the hard times on the Farmette. But it is important that everyone know that it is not all fun and games. Sometimes you lose livestock – and not to old age.

Parasites, illness and predators are a constant threat. The last chicken purchases may have brought in an illness. It could have been mice sneaking in to salvage any uneaten grain. It could have been carried on the wind from other birds. We lost several birds to sickness recently.

It is difficult when you are attempting to keep your Farmette natural and organic. I try to hold back as much as possible before treating birds with chemical based solutions. There are two little hens in a crate in the garage right now. Since they have both had the eye/sinus infections twice, I finally let go and am treating them with store bought antibiotics in their water.

This illness seemed to be compounded by some type of internal parasites, even though everyone was recently de-wormed. A couple of them just did not put on adequate weight as they were maturing. They were the ones became sick and did not recover.

One of the young guineas caught his head in the fence when poking it in the turkey coop. Fowl are very territorial. The turkeys pecked him to death in his vulnerable position. Our lovely little bantam hen, Pumpkin, ventured into the back fenced area with the dogs. The pack instinct set in and she did not make it back out.

Then there was the pen massacre. Something (weasel, cat, racoon…?) discovered an easy way to get a meal. The really nasty part about that was that it must think that bird heads are a delicacy, since it left the remainder of some of my little birds for the gruesome discovery.

There are no pictures for this blog. I’d really like to get all of those images out of my head.

So, now only the bantam chicken group is allowed to free range and only during the day. They get locked up at night now. Actually, the pigeon and 2 remaining guineas join them for sleepovers. They roost high off the ground, so they are the super free rangers, but they must feel safer still in the main coop.

The main coop needs work. If the funds can ever be raised, we would love to have a big barn to shelter the whole crew. But, for now, the coop seems to be keeping Jack the Ripper out.

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July begins with parades and fireworks displays. It seems to be a good time to have a chicken e-show too.

In addition to taking inventory, deciding on the keepers and checking the health of each chicken, the parade of chickens is an opportunity to exhibit the individuals that make up our flock.

The Spring hatch chicks (ones that we kept) have reached a nice size. We’ll start with one of them.

The most ridiculous looking chicken we have been working on is the Silkie Showgirl and Polish Top Hat cross. Chick pics have been posted previously, but they are now looking different as juveniles.

Silkie Showgirl X Polish Top Hat Pullet

This one seems to be turning into a super ugly hen. In addition to her neck and chest, part of her forehead boasts a bare patch of skin. She takes after her mother, the white fluffed, black skinned, Showgirl Silkie chicken. But, she is getting feathers instead of the Silkie type down and looks like she’ll be sporting a 50’s style Top Hat.

Best Oddball Pullet

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