Why Did the Chicken…?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the chickens lately and have this dream of a mobile chicken coop, called a chicken tractor, that will house fifty-plus hens. This is my dream coop. It allows you to move your chickens around your entire farm. The idea is that the chickens never run out of food to eat such as fresh grasses and bugs, meanwhile fertilizing the soil as they get rotated around the property. I’ve scoured the internet and library for the best coop for our purposes and after much research I’ve landed on the perfect design. The plan is to find an old running gear trailer to build upon and expand our flock next spring.
About a month ago we received a text from our chicken’s foster family in Gatewood. The oldest chicken, Beatrice, had begun crowing in the mornings so the city chickens had to be moved to a more rural setting. In a scramble to get our chickens out of the city we moved them to my mother-in-law, Debbie’s, near Jones, OK. Our biggest concern with the chickens was predators such as raccoons and neighborhood dogs. So when we first got the chickens out to Debbie’s home we constructed a small fenced in area to protect their coop. The coop needed reinforcing and so we felt that this additional barrier would do the trick. We left them in the fenced in area and would let them roam that small area on occasion. Fast forward one month later and tragedy strikes, but not with raccoons or dogs. A silent killer was out to get our chickens and within a 24-hour period we lost three of our five chickens.
We had spent the weekend at Debbie’s and the chickens were doing fine all seemed well, then a few days later we found one of our beloved chickens, Toni, dead and Lulu was not looking so hot. The next morning we got a phone call from Debbie that Lulu was dead and Eve was on her way out. We rushed to the feed store to get medication, but by the time we arrived Eve was gone too. The only remaining chickens were Dawn, who was on her way out too, and Beatrice, who seemed unfazed. We began treating the two remaining chickens for worms and coccidiosis, because we weren’t exactly sure what had gone on.
Shock and devastation were our immediate feelings quickly followed by regret. We started keeping chickens five years ago and this is our first experience with disease in our flock. These chickens weren’t just chickens—they had been our pets.
Let’s recap so that you all can learn from our mistakes. The chickens have been pretty much stationary for 6 months in town and then for a month in Jones. This has allowed for the coop to get rather filthy. Ideally the coop should be moved around, but circumstances did not allow for this to happen. We were not diligent over the past month with cleaning the coop, as we have so much on our plates right now that this has not been a priority. The new three gallon water fountain I bought was supposed to assure them plenty of fresh water, but one of the problems we ran into was them consistently pooping in the drinking reservoir. We would clean it our regularly, but just couldn’t get a handle on it. I also got them a larger feeding bowl, which resulted in the same problem. Sanitation was compromised on many levels. However, we seemed to have stabilized the two remaining chickens…until yesterday.
We were on our way out of town yesterday evening and swung by to medicate the chickens one last time since this is their last scheduled dose. Unfortunately we found our beloved prized Beatrice in terrible shape. She hadn’t shown any symptoms at all up to this point. We sat around for about five minutes trying to determine whether or not we should just put her out of her mystery. By the time Beau decided to put her out of her misery, she did a dance of death and was gone in a matter of seconds. I’m writing this still in shock. Beatrice was one of our first two chickens that we had and was our prize. She will be missed by many. RIP, B. If we end up losing the last remaining hen, we’ll be destroying the coop in order to eliminate whatever disease has caused this. We’ll be starting from scratch when we get settled in at The Twenty, and will have the most amazing mobile disease-free chicken tractor the world has ever seen!