Updated: Aug 23, 2019
In total we had 27 baby chicks, 2 baby turkeys, 6 hens and 2 roosters in our poultry department this spring. By midsummer the count is 11 baby chicks, 2 roosters and 5 hens, loss to predators: two feral cats and either a hoot owl or hawk. The mother hens left their chicks about 6 weeks after hatching to fend for themselves. We left their shelters near our bedroom window so we could hear of any distress and several went missing without a sound, enter hawk or owl. Others we heard the distress but came to late to the rescue, enter said cats. The decision to move them to the larger coop with the hens and roosters in the back was made when we were losing a chick nearly every other day/night and the grapes are starting to ripen (the chicks like to roost on the vines).
Let me set the ambiance of this scene. My husband has his big toes wrapped two days post op and can barely walk let alone run, it's dusk and light is fading fast and our yard is anything but level with lots of obstacles (random holes, fences, bricks, rocks, trenches, tree roots, etc). So we (my husband, his mom and I) gathered and corralled the baby chicks with the hens and the roosters towards the larger coop (shiny one on the right above) all good so far, but then it was like a game of tag. One would walk the plank almost into the coop and another would tag it, it would then a. fly and roost in the nearby fig tree or b. run flat out to the front yard. This ensued for an hour, dusk had faded and trip hazard increased by 100% we had only managed to get three of the baby chicks inside at this point and we were forced to start catching each chick one by one and placing them in the coop.
Have you ever tried to catch a chicken? Have you ever tried to catch one in the dark without putting pressure on your big toes? It was MAYHEM.
We managed to catch four more and place them in the coop, one decided to find shelter in an old coop so we secured and resigned to leave it there. We still had 5 on the loose, four had fled to the front yard to roost in the vines, we found and caught three but couldn't locate the last one in the front but did locate and caught the last one in the back. We walked the vineyard with flashlights twice trying but no luck. So 12 out of 13 were secured but as our luck would have it the night predator won and then their were 12. The following night we started the corral again as thunder was rolling in, the storm broke into a heavy rain storm so they were left to seek shelter or else. Well at around 2 am we hear a break in the rain and then the worst sound of distress. We saw the cat but were too late to save the chick so we are now down to 11 baby chicks. Free range chickens are a wonderful but it is a deadly game of chicken. Rest in peace my dears.