No gruesome photos. No photos at all since this occurred at 10pm. Lucky you. Not so lucky us.
The chicks had a grand time on Saturday and Sunday, running in and out of the hen house and exploring the chicken run. After the last massacre, Brett put chicken wire along the sides (sunk into the ground) and across the top. Some teeny tiny birds squeeze through the wire, and squirrels tunnel in, but other than that nothing gets into the chicken area.
Or so we thought.
Last night I was sitting on the couch, with my feet up, working a puzzle on my iPad and thinking about heading upstairs to bed. It was quiet outside, with just the sound of crickets and frogs drifting in through the open window. And then, the sound of chicks chirping joined the crickets -- and then the chirping got very loud. Odd... the chicks should have been inside the hen house fast asleep.
I assumed one had gone out into the chicken run and couldn't get back in (it is a bit of a jump from the ground to the ledge of the pop-hole in the hen house door). I put on my clogs and grabbed a flash light, ready to find and rescue the chick.
The beam of the flashlight revealed a skunk, leaping (they don't run, they leap like deer) from one end of the run to the other, chasing chicks. Chicks were flying through the air, bundles of white, yellow and orange fluff. I opened the chicken run gate and rushed in (I know, I'm lucky I didn't get sprayed), shouting at the top of my lungs for Brett and screaming "GET OUT!" It didn't; and Brett wasn't coming -- so I ran back towards the house. I saw Brett coming around the corner of the garage.
"Are you okay?" he called.
"No! A skunk is attacking the chicks."
The conversation continued as we rushed back to the chicken area.
"How did it get in?"
"I have no idea."
The skunk was gone. And there were chick carcasses littering the ground. We opened the hen house door and saw more dead chicks. We found a few live chicks here and there, and then a group of eight or so huddled in the far corner of the run. I carried them into the hen house, and locked the door -- with the pop-hole shut. Between counting the dead chicks as we put them in a bag, and counting the live chicks as I picked them up and moved them, we completely lost count.
I think we lost six chicks. I counted eleven in a dog pile in the corner of the hen house this morning. They were clamboring over each other -- so it was very hard to count.
We were up at 5am, first light, to get a better look at the chicken pen. We discovered how the skunk got in. It moved the mango and grapefruit sized rocks that blocked the gate, and dug a hole under the gate. Brett sunk a board and some rocks this morning, and secured them with stakes so they can't be moved. We like to keep the pop-hole open in the summer when the nights are warm, but we won't be doing that anymore. At least, not until the chicks are full grown.
The two existing hens were roosting on the top rung of their roosting ladder. They didn't move a muscle. They are survivors, those two.
This mountain living, on the edge of the wilderness, is beautiful -- but it sure is difficult.