Friday, March 18, 2011

The Joys and Sorrows of Chickens

We live in a very rural area on the Island of Hawaii. The land is heavily wooded and filled with plants of all kinds. It makes for beauty, but it can hide a dark side too.

Almost all the people in our area have chickens. Some just run wild and make you smile when you see them; others are kept in pens for their eggs, and a few may be kept for meat. Chickens are delightfully funny creatures and many are quite frankly beautiful.

I have a flock of eight hens and three roosters who run wild on midway to the back of our property and on the adjoining property. Here is a picture of the oldest rooster and a few of them hens.

I smile every morning when they come running and flying to great me as I head out to feed them. And they follow me back to the chicken pen area talking to me all the way. These are the joys of chickens.

But rural areas bring sorrows too. Here is a picture of the ten chicks that I brought home yesterday.

I settled them into my chicken pen which I had cleaned up and made ready for the new babies in every way that I could. I'd checked for spots that predators could get in and that babies might be able to get out of and they were all tight. Or so I thought.

About lunch time, Glenn went down to check for me while I fixed lunch because we heard one of the wild roosters. He came back with bad news: A mongoose had gotten into the pen and killed one of the babies. Less than an hour since I'd left them and I'd lost one. I went back down and rechecked for problem areas. I came back an hour later and all was well.

But while I was with Keanani at her obedience class the menace struck again. Again Glenn went to check on the chicks and again, he found carnage. He came back from the pen just as I got home from the obedience class. I couldn't leave the babies in the pen. It was like I'd put them in a killing field. I gathered up my survivors and brought them up to our house. I put them in a dog crate and the crate in a storage room.

This morning, my five remaining chicks went back to Hilo Coffee Mill where they will be safe for now. My good friends there have banded my girls and they will keep them while we build a new chicken area closer to the house where my dogs can keep the mongoose at bay and protect the chickens.

Mongoose are a monster predator in a small body. For those of you who have never seen one, think weasel. They are vicious and clever and death to birds and eggs. And we have lots of them. They are one of the not good decisions by the sugar cane industry in Hawaii's past. We can't eliminate them, so we will need to build more protection and try again.

Death is part of living on a farm even if your farm means only chickens and plants. But it is never easy and the last twenty-four hours have not been.

1 comment:

  1. Oh gosh what a bummer. I am so thankful I can have my chickens in the same pasture as the Pyrenees... I can "enjoy" coyotes going by in the adjacent farm field - or gaze at the eagles going over.. since I know they are on their way to easier pickings than my place.