Today was not a good day to be a chicken at Tubby Creek Farm.
To get the full story, we need to back up a day. Yesterday, we moved the Cornish Rocks into their new digs - the chicken tractor. We had just finished it the day before and it turns out not a minute too soon, because yesterday morning the Cornish Rocks came under violent attack from their pint sized broodmates. Cannibal chickens!! Within less than two hours - between 7 am and 9 am - more than one fluffy white hind-region was raw and bloody. So out they went into the chicken tractor. Luckily for us they seemed to have no interest in pecking at each other, even with raw bums and a clear heat light (instead of a red tinted one).
We thought crowding was to blame, that and the tempting fink flesh showing through their tail feathers. Removing the C/R's only reduced the number of birds by 25%, but since they were about triple the size of the slower growing layers - we figured we had reduced bird volume by half.
Apparently our chickens had developed a taste for blood. This morning, they turned on their own. I was out in the big field with a dead radio when the attacks began - Randy said it reminded him of a shark attack. We had to get them out of that brooder and FAST. We grabbed the worst hit and put them in a holding bucket. We frantically cleared space in the shop, swept up all the styrofoam bits from insulating the cool-room, and set up a barricade with the help of Denise and her brother, Duane. Amid their squawking protests, we caught the little cannibals and dropped them into their large, dirt floored pen. The four injured birds went back in the brooder.
This was merely a temporary solution, because the chicken pen provides no secuirty against neighbor cats and dogs and inummerable other predators. I would be sleeping with the chickens (is that anything like sleeping with the fishes?) until the "egg-mobile" was completed. I guess we had better get on that...which is exactly what Randy set out to do with the help of Duane. Adrian couldn't resist jumping in, probably because it drives him crazy to watch our slap-dash construction - him being a professional and all.
I found all of this extremely stressful and discovered that I could only draw air into the top two inches of my lungs. Denise had brought her 200+ tomato seed collection which was plenty distraction to calm me down.
All would have been well except for the fact that the skies opened and the rain began. In fairness to mother nature, we knew it was coming, we had seen the forcast, but we were still caught fantastically unprepared. It occurred to me that I had better check on the chicken tractor and saw the dry ground quickly disappearing and baffled Cornish Rocks scattering away from the heat lamp in panic and wondering why their feet were wet - having only been introduced to the concept of earth yesterday and never having been introduced to "wet". I then proceeded to run around like a chicken with its head cut off. The rain had trapped Randy in the shed but Duane helped me put up a plywood ramp on some blocks and coax the wet, cold and baffled birds onto it.
We had gone from one warm and cozy chicken housing location and everying living in peace and harmony to three different chicken containment systems - only one of which was now sopping wet, but two of which were very drafty - and only two heat lamps in total. Everyone was now cold - the chickens in the tractor, the baby hens in the pen, the four with pecked butts in the brooder, and the exptremely stressed out people trying to take care of them. We needed more lamps! Luckily, the hardware store in town had red tinted heat lamps. At this point I was 100% frantic as I peeled out, splashing mud everywhere on my way to the hardware store. It occured to me that I wouldn't be doing the chickens any good if I ended up in the ditch so I slowed down and buckled up. I tried very very hard not too look insane as I politely waved and said hello to neighbors at the hardware store while thinking "please, please don't try to talk to me!"
And that is how we end our story this evening. Re-reading this, I am not sure I have adaquately conveyed how much I was flipping out all day. It is still raining with plenty more on the way. Five heat lamps are hopefully keeping chickens warm in three chicken containment systems. I will be rolling out my sleeping mat in the shed, and hopefully everyone will make it through the night and feel a little better in the morning.