Thursday, October 23, 2014

Adventures of Hila & Hae

Chicken update!

Here at home we had 4 chickens… Ellie, my egg layer + 3 little 'whites' who are (were) growing and are (were) maybe a month away from starting to lay eggs. Two of those whites (Goldilocks and Elsa) were Americaunas, which are a breed of chickens who grow up to have beards and lay blue eggs! I had no experience with this breed previously but I could tell by watching them that they just didn't seem as smart and didn't seem as friendly/tame as my other chickens.

This is (was, I'm foreshadowing) Goldilocks. Cute, huh? But like I said, I just sensed she wasn't the smartest chicken in my flock.
The other morning I went out to feed them and everything as fine. That afternoon I went out there and Goldi was missing. Hmmmm. I looked all over for her but didn't see her anywhere. I called for her and cruised all around the neighborhood clucking like the crazy woman I have become (this doesn't even phase me anymore) but to no avail. Finally, I poked my head over my neighbor's fence and saw a pile of white feathers and a big dog looking up at me with his sweet brown eyes and I thought damn. Obviously I was frustrated that this dog ate my chicken, but at the same time, my chicken flew into his yard. The dog was just being a dog. I suppose it would have been one thing had the dog hopped the fence (impossible- it's a really tall fence) and come into my yard and attacked my chickens, but that's not what happened. RIP Goldilocks.

So I tend to deal with my grief over losing a chicken by going out and obtaining a new chicken. But I've learned my lesson about bringing in one chicken at a time to an already established flock… It's not a good idea. Chickens need at least one buddy so I knew that if I was going to replace Goldi, I'd need to replace her with a pair. And I knew exactly which pair I wanted.

If you follow me on Facebook you know that every evening I go feed a bunch of wild street chickens. It started b/c I felt so much guilt about leaving Peepers out there so I was just going to feed him, but it's grown and now there are a bunch of chickens who watch for my car to pull up every day and come running and surround me before I even have a chance to open the door.

Anyway, there's a mama hen who I feed (she is now on her 2nd batch of chicks, above) but her first batch of chicks are ones I've been feeding since they hatched and now they're prob like 2+ months old? I can't remember but something like that. They are the lightest ones in this pic. And yes, I fed them chili. They loved it.
Anyway, last night when I was there feeding them, I scooped up two of these gals and put them in a box in my car and drive them home. Peepers saw this happen and hopped up onto the hood of my car like, Um, WTF, mom?!?!

So I'm not sure what I expected would happen when I let these two chicks loose in my backyard? I did find it fascinating though to watch how Ellie and Elsa and White reacted to the newcomers. It wasn't really ugly but there were several stare-downs and some chest bumping and pecking and some feathers were ruffled for sure… But overall it wasn't too bad. My two wild ones are more than used to defending themselves against bigger chickens they don't know (if they can defend themselves on the street surely they can defend themselves against a few tame pets in my backyard?)

I made sure they ate really well but it wasn't too long until the sun was going to go down and by instinct these chickens need to find themselves a safe place to roost for the night. Here at home that place is the coop and my tame girls know this, but on the street that place is high up in a tree somewhere. I managed to catch the little one (I named her Hila which is Hawaiian for 'shy') and held her until I could get her into the coop… but Hae (Hawaiian for 'wild') flew off into my neighbor's tree where she spent the night. I was pretty much sick to my stomach when I saw her do that because what she didn't know was that directly under this tree lives a big dog who ate my last chicken. All I could think was Oh no what if I brought this chicken home trying to give her a better life and she makes it less than a day before being eaten by a dog?!? Argh. And if that happened then Hila would be alone which would be super sad… There was really nothing I could do about it last night though…

This morning at dawn I headed out to the backyard, let the girls out of the coop (including Hila who safely made it through the night in there) and stared into my neighbors tall tree, calling gently to Hae. I could see some branches rustling so I figured she was in there, and sure enough eventually she flew out toward our yard. She missed her intended target (of course) and both of my cats were there sensing a bird in distress… Oh crap… so there I am in my pajamas chasing this chicken and trying to get to her before one of my cats does… She ends up in another neighbors yard clucking her scared to death brains out… I couldn't get through that fence but Ozzie could so he continued the chase until Hae eventually ended up in our front yard where she flew onto the top of my familiar car for safety. I was able to climb up and rescue her from there and bring her back to Hila who seemed incredibly grateful to have her sister back by her side.

So that was the first hour of my day today.

I keep going out back to check on Hila and Hae and for the most part they've been back there and ok today. Hila did wander off into my neighbor's yard earlier today (we have a fence but these young wild things can FLY way better than my bigger tame chickens) and I tried to catch her but she wouldn't let me… Interesting they were so easy to catch on the street b/c out there they were always pretty much starving to death, but here in my backyard (the land of plenty) they are not so hungry so they don't come running to me like they used to… Anyway, I finally gave up knowing it was fruitless to try to catch this bird. Can I just say though how CUTE it was to watch Hae call out a distress signal and listen to Hila call back to her… eventually Hila came back, more likely b/c she wanted to be with Hae than that she wanted to be with me but whatever it takes, right?!

So my dilemma tonight is going to be to try to figure out how to catch them and get them into the coop before they go flying off into that big tree again. I don't want that to become their roosting habit because all it would take is one miss of a branch and they'd be dog food. And really, I think Hila doesn't have flight skills quite as developed as her sister's so if she attempted to follow Hae into that tree it would likely not work in her favor… Somehow I'm going to have to corner them and get them into the coop which is going to be a much more challenging task than I originally anticipated. If I can establish a nightly routine of getting in the coop I think they'll be fine but the next week or so is going to be touch-n-go figuring out how to tame these wild things.

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