backyardchickenfail


The CHICKPOCALYPSE!

So its turns out these chickens attract more predators than Chris Hansen.  Unbeknownst to me multiple critters were waiting outside my backyard gate bearing flowers and wine coolers hoping for an easy score.

“Mr. Fox, what were your intentions showing up here today?”

“What? Whoa, we were just going to play Xbox and talk about Twillight.”

“So you didn’t instant message ‘I want to wear your insides like a mask and dance around like that guy in Silence of the Lambs while my friends watch.’?”

“What? No! And I swear she said she was egg laying age!”

The chickens were in the backyard picking out dough, when I heard frantic squawking and yelled “No child no!”  I slammed on my office window trying to scare away whatever was attacking them and sprinted outside. A single poof of feathers drifted in the air as the screech of a departing bird of prey faded away.  Barbie #2 stood alone in the yard. Rizzo was nowhere to be found.

Did a bird really just carry off one of my chickens? I knew there were Ospreys in the area, but they eat fish. I recalled a tiny  hawk I saw months ago eating a finch in my
front yard.  Could that have done it? A real life chicken hawk? You have got to be f’ing kidding me. That’s something only loud mouth schnooks have to worry about. Ya know, I said, ya know what I’m talking about, son??

As I stood there shaking my head I heard a low cackle. From behind the doghouse coop emerged Rizzo. She had survived! I ushered them back into their coop and chuckled at how they freaked out whenever a bluejay  flew by.

A few days later there was a false alarm. Again I heard a commotion and rushed out to the rescue. Instead of finding an attacker, I found an attackee. Rizzo was trying to take on a large lizard that had been crawling on the fence. They battled in an epic fashion, Cluckzilla vs. Reptillrha. She stabbed as him with her beak and he lashed out with his tail. Eventually she grew bored and left the stunned and most likely internally bleeding lizard alone. Seconds after the battle ended, a large black snake slithered out of the grass towards the birds. I chased it off cursing the damn circle of life that was taking place in my dirt patch of a back yard.

chicken punched

In the end it wasn’t an arial attack, feisty feline, or alliterative alligator that brought the chickens demise. Instead it was a four legged, low riding, badger burrowing, nazi piece of shit that got them. I am of course talking about the confrontational wiener dog from my first post.

I had just returned from a 4 day scuba trip to the keys and was happy to find both my chickens and cat alive. The multiple bowls of food and water had done the trick. If only kids were that easy. Leave a few happy meals and a litter box, then off to Vegas for the week.

When I came home from work one day my neighbor and his daughter greeted me with grim faces as I pulled into my  driveway. The back gate was open and he had garden gloves on.

“A dog got into the chickens.” He said.

“Oh please tell me he didn’t get the black one!” With a shake of his head, I knew Rizzo was gone.

<dramatic movie “Nooooooooooooo!”>

The backyard was a mess of feathers, dirt piles, and footprints. Lying motionless in a box were Barbie #2 and Riz. Of the three Rhode island red replacements, they had only found one. She stood traumatized but safe back in the chicken cube.  Art, my neighbor, had found the dog my yard and had chased it away as it tried to bite him. It made me furious to know that this was the same dog that had rushed at me in my front yard. Back then I dismissed it, because come on, you’re a fucking wiener dog. I’ll field goal your ass. But now…

I couldn’t believe it.  My chickens were gone. The first death was apocalypse meow, but this time an army of barkness had descended upon my birds.

EPIC FAIL!

The dog ended up not belonging to my early morning leaf blowing ass of a neighbor, but rather to a guy behind me  a few houses down. The fences between our yards had a gap between then creating an aboveground underground railroad like system that the fleabag could use to get into any yard he wanted. He just squeezed through a hole in the fence and went chicken killer.

Art got up on his ladder to attempt to talk over the fence to the offending dog owner. He was in his backyard, laughed, and feigned a lack of comprehension of the English language.

Pissed, I yelled “El perro en me yardo againo, yo shooto in la cabesa, comprende?”  That’s a South Tampa dialect in case you were wondering.

Two more holes were dug and the birds were laid to rest. I prayed that I wasn’t near any ancient indian burial grounds that generated Stephen King-ish zombie chickens.

It was a pleasant surprise when we found one of the replacements cowering in Art’s yard. There was no trace of the third.What was I going to do with just two chickens? I already knew the chicken chi would be askew and annoying. Starting over with more chicks just seemed pointless.  With a defeated sigh I wrote a short ad and listed the reds for sale on Craigslist.

My grand backyard chicken experiment was over.

The next post: Or is it???

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Yes, I Still have Chickens, and They Still Suck

Oh my god it’s been so long. I know you must have such burning
questions, like is silver a safe investment in an uncertain economy? Will Chaz
Bono continue to reinforce my desire to never watch Dancing with the Stars? And
why in God’s name would I pay $60 for a crappy seat to sit in the Tampa sun for
3 hours paying $10 a beer to watch the Bucs lose to Detroit? Why???

And chickens. Won’t somebody think about the chickens? Sorry I
haven’t been writing. I’ve been doing other things, like visiting 9 MLB
ballparks, driving cross country, scuba diving, transporting lobsters across
state lines, mountain climbing, pretending to be a through hiker on the Appalachian
Trail, and vehemently arguing that John Rich is still a douche even if his
celebrity apprentice charity was St Jude’s Children hospital. Hopefully by this
time you’ve adjusted and found other ways to fill the time that used to be
spent reading this blog. Perhaps you’ve taken up knitting, interpretive
dancing, or knife throwing. In any case whatever you’ve been doing was most
likely far more interesting than the intricacies of chickenry.

But you should keep reading, if only to find out how they all die.
Yeah, sorry to give away the ending to the Titanic, but these chickens are all
going down!

After the death of Barbie #1 the chi in the chicken universe was
off. Herding three chickens back into their pen was easy as two will always
group together and the third will eventually run to catch up to them. Corral
the buddy birds into the cube and the dipshit bird still running around the
yard would quickly come squawking in to join them. With only two remaining, the
buddy system was abandoned and I now had two dipshit birds running around every
hen for herself style. In an effort to keep me from punting the poultry I
decided I needed a third chicken.

At the feed store I asked about mingling chickens of different
ages. They said it was a 50/50 chance that the other birds would accept the
smaller ones. To me this meant one thing: Chicken Fight Club!

“I want you to peck me as hard as you can.”

“Ba gawk?”

“I want you to peck me as hard as you can!”

Better actors than Keanu

I bought three Rhode Island Red chicks even though I only wanted
one. The theory was that they’d have safety in numbers vs. the older chicks and
that some of them were likely to bite it, leaving me with my desired total of
3. I set up the replacements in their brooder and set to work building outdoor
housing that I could actually get outdoors this time.

Store bought coops cost hundreds of dollars, and home made ones
seemed difficulty considering my carpentry dyslexia. Since most coops ended up
looking like a house, I instead bought a $30 plastic doghouse off of
craigslist. I abandoned the cube look and opted for a triangle design that I
was smart enough to build outside this time. The resulting ghetto coop was
something any chicken would be proud to crap on.

I want to poop on you

I was weary to let the chickens run free with rogue felines
around. Research into cat deterrents lead me to a coyote/fox urine crystals
thing that I bought at the hardware store. If you had no idea urine crystals
were available, you’re not the only one. Judging by online reviews the
effectiveness of piss pellets is questionable at best. I sprinkled my yard
creating a urinary force field and kept a watchful eye on the outdoor birds.

After an uneventful few weeks I added the replacements into the
coop and was disappointed that a feathered Tyler Durden didn’t emerge. The new
chicks mixed with the old and created one big stinky feathered family. All was
going well and the thoughts of lurking danger faded away like the memory of the
BP Oil spill (eat gulf seafood).

And then, all hell broke loose…

The next entry: The Chickpocalypse



34 inches

Actually I don't recycle

I brought my chicks home in a cat carrier.  For the first 4-6 weeks chicks need to be keep in  brooder which is basically any sort of set up that keeps them contained with heat source to keep them warm. The chicks need the heat since their feathers haven’t developed yet. Living in Florida, I wasn’t  overly concerned about them freezing. Hillsborough county recycling provided my  box. Equiped with an $8 metallic clamp on reflector lamp from Wal-mart (make sure the lamp can use a 100 watt bulb), a feeder, waterer, and a wire mesh shelf I found in the garage, my brooder was complete.

There’s a lot of information on brooders online. Suggestions on directing the light,  lowering the the temperature from week to week, and more.  Being ADD I did no such thing. The chicks were kept out on the warm patio and the light went on during our chilling 80 degree nights. Gauging the birds hot/cold ratio is simple; They’re panting= too hot. Snuggled up in a shivering ball-o-chickens=too cold.  The chicks didn’t die, so my under attentive methods worked.

Chicks in a brooder are pretty boring to watch, except for when they drink.  And since they have watched their friends get plucked out one by horrified one out of the brooder at the feed store, my chicks screamed and scrambled every time I put my hand inside the box. Not a real endearing feature of a “pet.” Urge to kill: 1 point.

Already bored, I decided to start work on building the chicken cube. I purchased six 6′ x 2″ x 1″ wooden boards at Lowes and had them cut in half creating twelve 36″ pieces. For the wire, I passed on the metallic variety and opted for a roll of plastic poultry fencing that was 3′ high and 25′ long. Armed with a nail and hammer, I put the cube together on my patio and wrapped it with the fencing.

Chicken Cube. Not as good as "Cube" and "Cube Zero"

A proud graduate of 8th grade wood shop class, I was impressed with dormant carpentry skills. Until I tried to get the cube off the patio.  The carpentry adage is “measure twice, cut once.” I cut first and measured nunce (new word.) For some reason it never occurred to me to measure the width of my patio door. After failing to squeeze the cube through, I finally measured. Thirty four inches exactly, on a 36″ x 36″ x 36″ design. Shit.

I kicked open the double doors leading inside the house and tried getting the cube through the garage door. Nope. Then I tried the front door. Denied. Apparently every f#$%ing door in America is a standard 34″ wide. I don’t think that will ever be a daily double Jeopardy question, but just in case, now you know.

Defeated, I resigned myself to the fact that my great plan for outdoor housing was stuck on the patio. Guess the chickens are living on the patio now.  I put the chicks in their new coop, plopped down on my patio couch, and as a chicken Caesar of sorts commanded “Entertain me!”

The next post: “How chickens ruined Jurassic Park