The Realities of Fresh Eggs

Not much beats collecting a colorful handful of fresh eggs that you know will be food for your family that week…

We, like many before us who choose to try to provide more of their own food supply, have chickens. While the coop that was built into our small 2 stall barn on the property can house up to 18-20 chickens, we haven’t had more than 12-13 at a time. Mainly due to the fact that 12 hens can give you 10-12 eggs A DAY during peak laying in their first few years… and it’s just my hubs and I. Thats a LOT of eggs, y’all. Plenty for the two of us (and during peak, even enough to sell!)

Loss happens. Whether age or predators or injury or culling, having a flock means learning to handle when that flock gets bigger or, suddenly and unfortunately in most cases, smaller.

Today, when letting out the birds and checking on feed/water, hubby found Tonks (our olive egger) dead. *cue creeping dread and flashbacks of horribly losing 75% of our flock to a weasel three years ago*

They were shut in and secure in their run/coop, but as winter arrives and the food/water sources become more limited, all sorts of ‘unfriendly’ critters move into the barn and seek out what our ladies have – secure food and water.

We aren’t sure how it happened. That is often the issue with these cases. One day you lock up the ladies, do your head count and – ‘wait a minute, that’s not right…let me check again.’ So you count again. And AGAIN. Then you walk around their run… and their fenced in area in the front… nope. Someone is definitely gone. Then determine who it is… then try to figure out the when, where and most importantly HOW.

It’s the tough part of having a flock. Only second to having to make the decision to cull.

Today, as we have only a few options of how Tonks was taken, I’m setting up one of our trail cams in the barn.

Potential culprits:

YES, they can go after chickens. Although we love these critters for the benefits of tick removal on the property, there is a risk. We have seen several recently and it is a possibility as there are tunnels from groundhogs, rats etc all under our raw floor (dirt) barn a small one could have used for access.
UGH. Honestly, it is near impossible to keep rodents out of your coop unless you make this your SOLE PASSION IN LIFE. If Tonks was injured or keeled over, yes, most certainly a large rat would take advantage…
TRASH PANDA. Highly unlikely in this case, but raccoons are dangerous predators for chickens. Sneaky lil bastards, who will reach through the chicken wire and pull a head close enough to kill the bird. Again, highly unlikely but we have many raccoons around our property.
Ninja. Acrobat. Sneak. MURDERER. These lil bloodthirsty serial killers can take down a whole flock in one night. Last issue we had with one, did not end well for our flock… or the stoat.

Now, to figure out what it is. We found Tonks on top of a hole in the shavings. She had an injury to the area slightly below and under her wing. She also had (TW: graphic) portion of her head missing. On top of the hole suggests that something pulled her to the hole. A weasel does not take its kill, it drains the blood and leaves the carcass. A raccoon could not fit into that hole. A small opossum could and would try to take what it could. A rat would be an opportunist about it and would drag to hole to try to take away, but then would leave with what it could, ultimately giving up (like the opossum.)

Tonight we might learn more (and hopefully not have any additional loss.)

We will put up one of these:

Quick and easy mounting. Waterproof with night vision. Show yourself, meanie!

There is a chance she just got injured in the enclosed run, passed away and a rat took advantage. But who knows… hopefully we will find closure with images from the trail cam.

But yes, this is what it means to take ownership of your food. If you are in the country, it means MANY potential threats to your flock, and often times it means YOU playing the First 48 IRL to determine what actually happened.

This morning hubs gave Tonks the best sendoff we could with the ground frozen, saying a few words and sending her back into the cycle of nature with our thanks for her years of being part of our life.

This is the hidden cost of fresh eggs, friends.

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