|Mama Buff Orpington and her 2 & 1/2 week old brood of chicks|
This is the third year we've had hen raised chicks. This is the first year we've had problems. This year we have an an upsetting loss of six chicks.
|The chicks at one week old|
Since we started with 25, I might not have noticed the first one missing, except that I am a habitual counter. I find myself counting things, whether they need to be counted or not. Chicks do need to be counted, however, so it was alarming to come up one short. After rechecking my count about a zillion times, I was at a loss at to where the one had gotten to. No body, no sign, just disappeared.
|Our 3 breeds: Speckled Sussex, Buff Orpington, & Silver Laced Wyandotte|
After the second one disappeared into thin air, we became alarmed. The coop is fairly tight against intruders. It has a concrete floor, so no burrowing from underneath. It has three solid exterior walls and one interior wall of 1-inch poultry netting. The windows are covered with half-inch hardware cloth. The building is shut up at night.
|Whatever it was, was either too sneaky or more than Mama could protect them from.|
The only openings we could find were under the eaves of the roof. But what could fit through those narrow openings? We suspected a snake, so we researched how to trap snakes. From Backyard Chickens, we found this idea....
|Snake trap made from a minnow trap|
We plugged the holes in the coop and set the trap near the back of the coop and waited.
Although we didn't catch anything, all seemed well until a few days later. I was finishing up milking and it was just getting light enough to see around in the coop. I discovered a dead chick in the corner of the chick pen. It's neck was covered with dry blood. I began to count and realized three more were missing besides. We had to do something else.
After racking my brain for a quick solution, I thought perhaps we could do something with our old homemade corn crib (photo in this post. It isn't at all like a traditional corn crib). We ended up cutting it down and covering it with half-inch hardware cloth. It became a bedroom for mother and chicks.
|Our failed "corn crib" becomes a chicken bedroom!|
We also considered it might be rats, and set out rat traps. So far we've caught nothing.
|Mama Buff has done an excellent job at mothering|
Mama is none too pleased to be put into the safety cage at night with her chicks. In fact, she came up with her own solution....
|Somehow Mama Buff managed to coax all 19 chicks into a nest box.|
Looks to make for rather precarious sleeping arrangements, however.
I didn't really trust this arrangement, however, so they all had to be put into the safety cage anyway.
|It's amazing how quickly they grow up|
We're down from 25 to 19 chicks: 6 Buff Orpingtons, 5 Speckled Sussex, and 8 Silver Laced Wyandottes. The other loss was my rare breed chick, which I figured out wasn't the black one, but a Golden Polish.
So far we've caught nothing, but neither have there been other losses. I reckon as long as they bed down on the floor and can fit into the safety cage, I'll continue to put them up at dusk. Eventually they'll start roosting. Hopefully by that time they'll be too big for whatever has been killing my chicks.
[UPDATE: 19 July 2013 Chick Killer Caught]
Keeping Our Baby Chickens Safe © July 2013