Saturday, June 13, 2015

Catch up #1 - Goodbye to Wilma

We lost our first hen.  We know it happens to pretty much everyone, but it's still a bummer. 

Wilma was kind of the 'odd girl out' in the flock.  She was a Golden Polish we bought "just for looks" with the feathery crown on her head.  The crown was large enough that if we didn't give her a semi-regular "haircut" she would have trouble seeing. She was at the bottom of the pecking order and therefor a pretty solitary bird.  She was also the smallest, about the size of a pheasant hen, and at around 14 months old had not laid her first egg.  LESSON #1 - "Mark, unless you plan to show your birds, don't get an odd bird just for looks.  It's really not good for the bird, and therefore not good for you."

Wilma had not been an escape problem, but had gotten out a couple times before.  We're still not sure if she flew out, or shinnied under the gate to the run.  She was the only one still small enough to do either, and they free range a lot anyway so we didn't worry about it.  LESSON #2 - "Mark, escapes are problem even if it's just one hen.  Get on it!!"

The fence between our yard and the neighbor's is essentially a cattle fence:  Woven wire with openings that something between 6" x 6" and 8" x 8".  Fine for cattle.  Fine to just mark the property line.  Fine for dogs, although the dogs go around it play together in both yards.  Not fine for chickens.  The larger birds could juuuuust squeeze through most days.  Wilma just waltzed through anytime she pleased.  We knew that was something that needed to be addressed, but the neighbor was fine with the birds her yard and seemed to enjoy watching them.  LESSON #3 - "Mark, a fence is supposed to do the job of a fence.  If it doesn't, get on it!"

On the day of her demise, Wilma got out however she was getting out and went for a stroll though the fence and into the neighbor's yard.  There she met the neighbor's dog.  Not a mean dog, or a troublesome dog, but a dog who acts like a dog.  This dog is a Black Lab mix (bird dog - strike 1), is still a big puppy, sweet and friendly to the core and loves to play (Whatever that is, is a playmate right? - strike 2).  She is also excellent with children and very protective of the grandkids that are living with there.  (Is that thing a kid risk? - strike 3).  In any case, the dog acted like a dog and Wilma ended up with a broken neck.  They felt bad and we have no hard feelings whatsoever: Our bird was in their yard, so was their dog, and the dog just acted like a dog.

So in the spirit of "better late then never" we set off to deal with the fence issue.  We bought a couple of 150' foot rolls of 24" chicken wire fence and started lashing it up to the cattle fence.  That seems to have done the job. 
The "new and improved" fence from about fence-top height
It looks a bit more imposing from chicken head height
After stapling the new fence to the wooden endpost, we simply lashed the new chicken wire to the cattle fence with wire ties.  This worked great, but you want to be sure get the "outdoor" wire ties as the "indoor" type are less robust to sunlight (UV) exposure.  We'll clip the leftover ends off in the next week or so.

De and I worked several hours on a couple evenings to get this in so we felt we could let the birds out of the run and have them be safe(er).

As usual, the girls are not far when I'm out working.

And I always have an entourage when I go back and forth to the barn for anything.
We still have the gate to deal with but right now we have a hog panel keeping everyone in their own corner.   All in all, we lost 1 hen; It could have been more.  We've addressed the problem and can let girls out again with some sense of confidence they'll all be back in the coop when it gets dark.

Next up will Houdini and our two new chicks!

Col. 1:9-12,



  1. You are very fortunate to have good neighbors. (We do, too. Thank you, thank you.) These things do happen, but it's never a happy situation when they do. Especially when it happens to a hen who has a name and personality. Now unless some of your girls decide to become high jumpers (pole vaulters?), it looks like you have the problem solved.

    P.S. Your post title really caught my eye . . . my mom's name was Wilma and that's a name you don't hear very often! Have a good weekend.

  2. We do have good neighbors and are very thankful for it. I think we got things buttoned up so at least they won't wander mindless in the their yard.

    When we bought our chickens we got two golden polish. Fred the rooster and Wilma the hen. Looking back I probably wouldn't do that again, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.