A sad day at Summersweet

All 15 of my hand-raised 7-week-old chicks went missing this morning.

When I woke and went outside to feed the chicks I found their cage shouldered (propped?) open and completely empty. No sign of a struggle inside the pen, which is odd in itself. There were little tufts of feathers here and there around my small, fenced-in backyard that their movable pen was in – but no big freaked-out poofs of feathers that I’d expect if a predator had pounced. But it was breezy so maybe they’d blown away?

All the gates were closed, but there’s a rut big enough for a cat or small predator to get through underneath.

I found this little guy – or girl? – my favorite – dead by one of the gates.

No sign of trauma, no bite marks or broken bones. A single small clump of matted feathers on his back. Maybe he died of shock?

I’m so confused. None of the scenarios make any sense.

– A predator could have shouldered opened the pen, but then there ought to have been signs of a freak-out inside. And if it were a predator, where are all the other chicks? A predator would have taken one and left. Right? I don’t know any predator that would chase and catch 15 teenage chickens one after the other. If it took one and then the others got out, they’d still be around somewhere close, but I searched all around the house twice, shaking the feeder and calling them (they come when called). Not a peep.

– Human intervention. The thought of a chicken thief seems slightly ridiculous, but chickens are extremely popular around here (the feed stores keep selling out in a day or two) and chickens this size are quite an investment. Consider that I’ve spent 11 weeks tending them several times daily (from turning eggs to moving the grazing pen to refilling water 3x a day) and spent about $50 on feed, cage, and bedding. I can’t think of another predator that would take all 15 (well 14 because the favorite was found dead). And then there is the lack of struggle.

But perhaps I’d prefer believe that it was a mama fox who caught and killed them and then carried them one by one to her kits. Is that fox behavior? I don’t know.

I feel so sick/outraged/numb/shocked and guilty for being too late. All that TIME invested, now wasted. These guys would have started laying by late summer and then I’d once again have enough eggs to meet demand. They were supposed to live in the chicken tractor I built and be my organic lawn maintenance all summer – simultaneously mowing, aerating, grub-catching, and fertilizing. I had such big plans. They would have moved into the chicken tractor day after tomorrow. I was so excited to give them all that space.

Just yesterday evening I sat by their cage and they came up to check me out and be petted. I was thinking how calming it was and how happy it made me, and how I really ought to take some pictures of how big they’d grown.

I have so much work do to and now I just have no heart for it.

12 Responses to “A sad day at Summersweet”

  1. Mrs. Brent Parker Says:

    I’m I understanding correctly, that they are all gone? So sorry.

  2. diana Says:

    Yes, all 15 of the chicks. I still have the 6 layers and 9 broilers, but now no replacement generation of layers. Also I was going to save a couple of the best roosters from this flock and put them in with my hens so I could hatch my own eggs from now on. All my dreams for them gone in a single night… :(

  3. Ayse Says:

    I’m so sorry. This has been a bad year for animals.

    If a predator got in there during the night, the chicks probably would not put up a fuss because they are young and because they shut down after dark. That would be my guess. When a possum ate one of my young hens, nobody heard anything, there was no sign of struggle at all. Of course, it did kind of make a mess with the feathers, but a raccoon would eat more cleanly.

  4. Amy Says:

    oh no! I’m so sorry :sad:

  5. Anonymous Says:

    Phil concurs the fox idea. So:cry: sorry for your loss! Poor chickens!

  6. Rose Says:

    So sad to hear this news. Very mysterious. Much discussion with my parents, who, as you know, have had chickens for decades, and they think that it must be humans. I suspect your neighbors. But of course, if it was a predator and not a human then time will tell since the predator will be back. Perhaps a predator took only 1 or 2 and then the others escaped? Perhaps you will find another one or two in the next few days? Do you have coyotes? Would you hear the chickens from your bedroom?

  7. diana Says:

    I keep thinking it must be humans too because of the lack of feathers and blood, but Ayse may be right since, if it happened overnight and not in the morning, the chicks’ response would have been to hunker down and hope not to be noticed rather than to freak out. I would rather believe it was a fox than humans, even though if it were a fox then their bodies will go towards making more foxes – hardly seems fair! But you can bet I’ll be keeping an eagle eye on my neighbors’ backyards for quite some time. I had some quite unique looking chicks in that batch and I’m sure I’d recognize them.

    It just KILLS me that they would have been predator-safe in two days – one day now. And that they were being so lovey and pettable just the evening before.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    So sorry Diana :(

  9. Rose Says:

    If it were one or two or even 6 then I’d agree with Ayse also but because it was ALL 15 OF THEM (and the one dead with no blood) it has to be humans. But goodness knows I’d rather it be foxes or raccoons or possums.

  10. ohiofarmgirl Says:

    Oh no! Honey, I’m so sorry! Here I was going on and on about the meaties…and you’re poor little heart was broken. I’m so sorry. I’m gonna say people also. You might not have heard anything at all if it were a predator… but all of them missing is kind of weird. Did you hunt all around to see if any where hiding under/behind/up in something? If it was a predator one or two may have gotten away and are scared. Oh geez… I’ve heard that people steal chickens – so its not as rare as you think.

    This is very very disappointing, I know. Even if you got paid for your loss – its the TIME that just can’t be repaid.

    Hang in there baby

  11. Amber Says:

    *sad* *HUGS* I vote humans too. Didn’t have foxes on the ranch, but most everything else. (Neighbor dogs being worst, coyotes second.) Even on a breezy day, you would have had feathers everywhere. For not a single chicken to put up a struggle is just…. unbelievable. So don’t beat yourself up with the thought of them almost being safe; a person could just as easily taken them out of a chicken tractor. And being the sweet chickies they are, not have made a fuss about someone picking them up.

    *hugs and hot chocolate with marshmallows*

  12. Sam Says:

    I vote people. My son’s BFF had a turkey stolen once, from an enclosure that a predator could not have entered. That’s so terrible, poor babies. All that work. I have chickens and raising them from egg is a lot of time & effort. *hugs*

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