Gaps kill. And then there were nine.

Yes, nine. For the first time ever, the population of Heedley’s Hens has dropped down to a single digit.

The weasel came back last night, and I opened the coop door this morning to find Coraline’s body by the spilled water dish, her neck chewed to the bone, as Buffy’s had been. A quick visual sweep saw Haley in the right nesting box, motionless.

We believe we found the point of entrance. The Man found Barred Rock feathers outside the coop, by the nesting boxes. When he pried up at the corner of the nesting box lid (and I mean hard) he was able to squeeze two fingers through the gap. That has to be it. Oh, please God, let it be it.

The Man screwed the lids shut, and we will be setting traps tonight.

It’s funny; yesterday was a day of bad weather, too: dangerously high winds. I am definitely seeing a pattern. We had planned to set the traps last night, but we were making beer and had guests over and it got late…I’ll add that to my very long list of self recriminations.

We’ll need to bury Coraline and Haley today. I’ve asked The Man to dig the graves, as I don’t think I can face the task so soon after digging the last three. I dread telling the Stepdaughters; upon hearing of the death of the first three a few days ago, Stepdaughter the Younger was upset, but deeply relieved that her precious Coraline had survived. And now…

Beyond the emotional toll, which I’m finding crippling, there is the practical cost. Of the five hens killed, the weasel managed to kill my four best layers. He may have killed a third of our hens, but he has cut egg production in half. I’m glad The Man and I decided to add another twelve hatching eggs to our order from The Garry Farm, but it will be a lean summer, egg-wise.

The count is now devastating. 1.0 now counts 2,1,1. That’s it. All our Plymouth Barred Rocks are gone. I feel like hatching some, to be honest. In my limited experience, they are the best layers I have found, and Abby was broody, and I hear they make good meat birds. I will have to see how the Ameraucana/Maran hatch goes. I don’t think either breed is famous for its egg output, pretty as the eggs may be.

I have obituaries to write, on their five pages. I’d been putting off moving Abby, Maisie and Dorothy over to the “In memoriam” section, waiting until the wound had healed a little. And now, there are two more. It may take me a while to bring myself to do it.

In the meantime, here are pics of our lost girls in happier days. Abby checks out Tallulah’s molting butt…one of my faves:

photo 3-1

Maisie, in the chicken hospital for a badly-ripped nail:

photo 1-1

Dorothy, checking out the Nest on Pooh Corner:

photo 2-1

Coraline, in the chicken hospital for bumblefoot (with Buffy):

photo 4

And Haley, all shiny in her new, post-molt feathers (Abby, at left):

photo 3

Oh, my poor girls; I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I failed you. You were all so good to us. Thank you.

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10 thoughts on “Gaps kill. And then there were nine.

  1. I cried as well. It’s a lot to handle. :*(

    I really do think you should hatch some plymouth rocks. They are the loveliest birds. You get the right line of them and you have extremely friendly (just as much if not more so than orps), awesome layers and broody moms as well as good meat birds. They are my favourite breed. I could not have chickens without them. The barred rock boys are my most notable roosters – very friendly. Standing on my boots and fathering the chicks.

    I know new birds do not replace the old, but it does help heal. Trust me on that. My 13 have healed me so much – though lately I keep getting flash backs and have to go out and sit with my beloved 13 to make me see the light again.

    RIP girls…

    I am so glad Hermione was spared. I know that is no consolation, but you know how I am with Hermione. <3 I sincerely hope that the gap was how it got in.. Really, really hope.

    If I had to pick someone's flock out of every chicken person I know that I am most attached to – it is yours.

    • You know, when it dawned on me that the red-feathered body in the nesting box must be Haley because I had just seen Hermione outside, my very first thought was “Justine will be so relieved.” I swear; it’s true.

      We have been through a lot together, you and I. It seems so strange that we have never met, because I think of you and your farm often. I am looking forward to the distraction of hatching, of new life (if I don’t screw it up too badly), and today was the due date of the kidding for which I’ve been waiting…could there be a doeling for me?

      I have never experienced so much loss; it is very difficult. I can feel that I’m growing from it, but it hurts like hell. Knowing that I will never hear Coraline’s baby “boop, boop, boop?” again…it’s too much.

      I just spent 20 minutes with the girls in the coop before bed, with Tallulah and Trixie fighting for my lap. I haven’t done that in ages. I feel that I don’t know who will be alive tomorrow, and I’m afraid to go to sleep.

      The Man is setting traps now. They girls are fighting more than usual, because they’re stressed, of course, but also because Coraline was Head Hen. I expect Tallulah will take over. In the meantime, Jezebel is beating the crap out of Mae.

      I am headed for an emotional break, my friend…

      • Yes I know. It’s a lot to take in. To grieve for all of them at once is really something that is hard to explain. You miss the silliest things. Like the way a certain hen would wipe her beak on your pants as she passed by, and the another would egg song just so…

        Hang in there. I know you will make it. I still can not go through pictures without breaking down. Especially if I spot my favourite hen Penny, just like Buffy was your one and only. I can swear I mourn that hen as much as I did Clementine, the dog who passed away in the fire. She was something else.

        Lots and lots of hugs. I am super paranoid about predators now. And to think that it happens when they are the least exposed right? (i.e.: they normally free range during the day.)

        I hope you catch it. I so hope you catch it.

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