Sunday, August 3, 2014

Man vs. "Wild Beast"


A Very Secure Brooder - Hopefully!!

 When God said in Genesis 1:28:

      "And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” .....................................

Can we really take "Dominion"?

     Our first starter batch of chicks on our ranch came from The Cowboy.  Because of an unforeseen circumstance, three days after he bought one hundred chicks, he realized that he had to get rid of his fifty chicks because he wasn't going to be able to take care of them (the other fifty chicks went to a friend of his).  He bought Cornish Cross X chicks (meat birds) and that's what we were looking to buy, so we bought the fifty chicks from him.  It worked out perfectly, at least in the beginning.

     We talked to him on Friday.  The Tuesday before, The Cowboy went on a day trip.  And on this trip, he just happened to "stop by" the hatchery, where we were going to order our chicks from, and bought chicks.  When I found out that he just walked in and bought some chicks, I was a little upset!  One hundred chicks?  I wasn't upset with him, I was upset with the hatchery. 

     When I talked to the hatchery about a week earlier, I was told by them that it was going to take three weeks to get an order, so I couldn't just walk in and pick up chicks.  So how did The Cowboy do it?  I wondered.  Did he sweet talk someone into selling him some chicks that aren't there, according to the hatchery?  Did he offer to buy someone dinner?  I was a little confused.  

     The next day, I called the hatchery.

     Here are some bits and pieces of the conversation.
      ".....................but my friend just walked in yesterday and bought 100 chicks," I said.
     "Well, we had an overstock."

     "What?" I said, "Overstock?, but you told me that you didn't have chicks for people to just walk in and buy that day and take home." 
     "Well, we don't can't."  The lady said.  
     "So then why did my friend just walk in and buy some chicks and you said we can't do that?"  I asked.
     After she tried to explain, I asked, "If you don't have an overstock, and no way to feed chicks that aren't picked up, and you can't just walk in and buy some that day - but my friend did..............where did the 100 chicks come from that my friend just bought?

     "Well, they were an order that the customer didn't pick up for the day. ......................and..........what do you do with one hundred or so chicks that someone orders and doesn't pick up at closing time???"

     "Well, we don't have any left over chicks the next day", she said.

     "Huh?"  I thought.

     This conversation went on for about twenty minutes as the lady was trying to get me to understand whatever she was saying.  I didn't get it!! 

     Then the lady had the nerve to tell me that I could call her on Monday or Wednesday to see if there are any left over chicks and I could pick them up on Tuesday or Friday.  What did you just say!?, I thought!  Oh, she wasn't making any sense to me at all!!

     I kindly said, "good-bye" (which at this point was very hard for me to do) and hung up the phone and then told my family how crazy this lady was!!!!

     At this point I should have just found another hatchery, but I didn't. 

      As soon as I got the chance, I placed my order with the hatchery for our chicks and waited the three weeks for them to be ready.  Once they were ready, we decided we would drive to the hatchery and pick them up rather than have them shipped through the post office.  This way we would get to experience a new town, learn some more routes and roads, maybe find some fun things to do or visit along the way, and be able to see where these feathery little peeps came from.

     After we picked up our first batch of fifty chicks from The Cowboy, which came to us looking very healthy and chipper, I started counting down the weeks to processing time so we could enjoy some fresh chicken.

     We set up a brooder in the barn using an old round 8' diameter horse trough and put the chicks in with a fresh layer of wood shavings, two lights, water, and two feeders.  They were very happy!!

     Some of the neighbors said that you can't keep chickens around here because the predators would eat them.

     Well, I didn't want to believe them because there are other people that live in the country and raise chickens and other birds and they don't seem to have a problem, so why would we.  But, I listened to what they said and now was now more determined to not let any predators get our birds.

     Well, the first predator that we had to deal with was "our" cat.  The cat?!  I was thinking that we would have to deal with a real predator like a raccoon, an opossum, a snake, a rat, a lion, tiger, or bear.  Not a stinkin' cat!!!  Really!! 

     I have heard that cats are good and they are needed on a farm, so that's why we still have them hanging around.  We have never owned any cats so we have some things to learn about them.
     The cat came with the ranch and she recently had five kittens that she was trying to feed.  And boy was she smart:  smarter then us - at least in the beginning.   She would get into the chicken brooder that we thought was secure and snatch one every now and then.  She ate seven chicks from the brooder over the course of about a week. 

     At the same time that the chicks from The Cowboy were in the brooder in the barn, the new set of chicks that we just picked up from the hatchery were inside the house.  We had to keep them separated because the chicks from The Cowboy were about 3 weeks older and they were getting too big to mix.  The older ones would possibly start to pick on the younger ones and we didn't want that.

     Inside the house, we had four small containers filled with chicks and one of those containers happened to be close to the front door.  There was no reason for putting them there other than we had to put the containers near electric outlets so we could plug in a light to keep them warm. 

     Somehow the cat figured out where the chicks were (inside the front door) so when someone opened the door, she ran in and grabbed one and ran out faster than we knew what was happening.  She was not allowed in the house so we initially thought that the chicks were safe where we put them, but we were wrong.  The first time she snuck in and snatched a bird, we should have known to move them but we didn't.  We thought it was just a fluke that she got a chick and we didn't have to worry about it happening again.    I think she snatched 3 birds before we stopped denying the fact that she was so fast and we had to move them away from the door.

     Early one morning when the sun was rising above the trees, we went to out the the barn to check on the chicks in the brooder to give them more water and feed.  When we stepped into the barn, there was a strange sort of silence in the air.  We didn't hear the usual peeping sound of the chicks and as we approached the brooder we were faced with a horror scene.  All of our meat chickens were dead!  We just stood there for a few minutes before anyone said anything while peering into the brooder and trying to comprehend what we saw.  Just the night before the chicks were walking around and chirping and they were as happy as could be.  And then silence!  We couldn't believe it!!  They had enough water, feed, and heat, but yet they were all dead!!  Why and how were the questions buzzing through our minds.

     What was it like to be a chick in the brooder the night before to have witnessed such a horrible scene?  At first glance we didn't see any signs of anything "breaking in".    

     The first thought that came to our minds was that the cat was the one that did this.  So Landon turned around and quickly started walking back to the house to get a gun to kill that naughty little thing.  We all know that she has to feed her young, but she lives on a ranch with all kinds of other things for her to kill and serve to her little ones, so she doesn't need to kill our chicks!!

     Landon was really upset, just like the rest of us were, and rightly so.  Now the cat was in danger of her life.  As I was trying to keep up with Landon on his way to the house, I started to question what he was about to do.  Whatever just killed the chicks didn't want to eat them.  They just killed them.   And up until now, the cat only killed one chick at a time and then she passed it along to her kittens and they always ate the entire bird.  So, as I called out to Landon to tell him what I was thinking, he stopped, turned around, and we talked.  Then we both walked back to the barn to rethink about the mass killing that just happened.  And after looking over the scene and talking about it, we began to realize that it might not have been the cat. 

     Whatever it was that did this awful mess just wanted to kill - not eat the chicks.  The killer broke in, did the damage, and left without a trace.  No sign of anything other than dead chicks!   After closer inspection, we noticed that the killer left a hole in the chicks neck and it looked like it just ate the heart and the esophagus.  It was an ugly crime scene!!  Dead chicks everywhere. 

     So in a "panic", and in a-sort-of-a-kind-of-way, I wanted to help save the cats life.  I'm not a cat "lover," just a "liker" of cats.  And again, knowing that cats are good for a farm, I didn't want the cat to die if it wasn't the one that did this. 

     So, as we were trying to gather our thoughts, I quickly went into the house and pulled out my Pastured Poultry Profits book by Joel Salatin and started reading about the predators again.  Based on what I read, it was possibly a possum.  According to Joel,

                            "Opossums, which of course we call 'possums, are spiteful.  
                            They are not nearly as interested in eating the birds as they 
                            are in making a mess."  

                           "'Possums seem to just enjoy killing for pleasure.   
                            They prefer to eat the innards rather than the meat, 
                                                and will even kill adult birds."

     After looking over the brooder for any signs of entry we determined that the possum probably got in through a 4"x 6" hole that wasn't very secure.  When the boys built the brooder, they didn't think that that hole would be a problem.  Although they did put a brick over the hole "just in case".  That was our mistake.  The boys thought that the brick covering the hole was enough.  Unfortunately, some lessons are learned the hard way and this lesson cost us about $100.00. 

Our New Set of Chicks

     This time, with our new batch of chicks, we hope to take dominion and not let the "wild beasts" of the earth "win" again.  And, so far so good.

     We are using the same brooder as before, but this time, we are trying to make is super secure.  Shane drilled holes in the top of the horse trough and Landon wired the 1/2" welded mesh to the sides of the trough.  Shane's initial holes were about 8" apart.  But after the guys put the top on, they realized that the holes should have been about 4" apart because the mesh wasn't wired down tight enough.  So until they can drill more holes, this is their solution.  Landon weighted the top down with some miscellaneous "things" laying around the barn to keep anything from opening the top and getting in.

     To make it easy for us to get into the brooder to feed and water the chicks, Landon took a conduit pipe and shaped it to match the curve of the horse trough, wired it to the welded mesh, and hinged it, which created a door.  The door works perfectly, only after we lift up and move to the side the incredibly heavy "things" that he has laying on the top of it; which hopefully will be corrected in the future. 

     After these birds are ready for the pasture and they leave the brooder, then we will drill those extra holes in the top of the trough so we don't have to worry about the safety of the next set of chicks.  

     Our main goal is to protect our flock from predators.  If for some reason it comes down to loosing another chick or one of our other livestock to a predator, we will take the predators life, if, we can catch them.  We won't just kill any "wild beast," just the ones that are causing a problem.  

     It will be a challenge to outsmart the "wild beasts" of the earth.  And it's very possible that sometimes we will win and sometimes we won't.  But, our goal is to learn from our mistakes and not let the same things happen more than once. 

     I think the best way to learn how to do something, is to just do it.  For me, I can spend countless hours reading about something until I can't stand it anymore and that paralyzes me.  At some point I need to just get out in the "field" and put into practice what I have learned so far.  The "field" is where the true learning takes place.  I will make mistakes, and so will you, but making mistakes is what makes us stronger and more knowledgeable.

 Here are some pictures of our newly arrived feathery "friends."

Rhode Island Red's and Bronze Broad Breasted Turkeys

Cornish Cross X

Chicks in Their Secure Brooder


July 2014


No comments:

Post a Comment