The Half-Ass Henhouse

A few weeks ago, we lost our sweet lap hen, Hazel, to a hawk.

We have 2-3 hawks in our neighborhood (plus a large fox and a few coyotes) that have been making quiet a ruckus this late-summer. I noticed their calls in mid July and heard from the McCrearys, who live two doors down, that one swooped down on their young flock as Molly was trying to usher the hens in the coop.

Despite the McCreary’s close encounter, their distant calls and a few sightings, we weren’t too worried about the hawks as predators since our hens are pretty much full grown. It was the fox that always appeared at dusk,just after the hens went into their coop , and liked to hang out eating groundhogs behind the shed that we saw a a real threat to our free-rangin’ ladies. After all, when the hawks’ squawks neared, the hens always ensured they were under the cover of the brush in the gardens. We knew we couldn’t keep the hens free-ranging for long and would need to build a bigger coop and/or run but it wasn’t at the top of our list. Unfortunately, our delay worked in the hawks’ favor.

On a Monday, I debated letting the ladies our as I was working a number of back to back virtual meetings, as is the norm in back to school season. However, it was going to be a hot day and their adorable coop is just too small for comfort so we decided to let them out for the day. Just before a new customer meeting, Sr. came in from the garage and said, “I think something ate the chickens, there are feathers everywhere!”

With my meeting just moments from starting, I told him to get the kids and try to find the rest of the flock and put them away. I then texted Tarin to let her know what was happening and started my call. Luckily, 5 of the 6 hens were found safe, but terrified, in the ferns at Tarin’s house. Hazel was the only one missing. Sr. wasn’t lying. There were feathers everywhere. Poor hazel seemed to put up a good fight and looked to have almost made it from the treeline, where the trail began, to under the old Chevy truck where the trial abruptly disappeared. We searched the grounds to see if she might have survived but found nothing.

By the next day, we had decided that it wasn’t in the budget and we didn’t have the time to build a new coop with a run like we have been planning so Plan B would have to be another solution. We found this covered pen and decided it’d be just what we needed for now.

The pen arrived in 2 boxes– chicken wire and aluminum poles. Thanks goodness Sr. had the patience to put the aluminum frame together Thursday or else it wouldn’t have gotten done this weekend. Saturday, we all worked together to cut and attach the chicken wire roof and walls. The kids transferred the hens to the pen and smothered them all in love (they missed wrangling them) while Tarin and I did a deep clean of their coop- which desperately needed it after nearly 2 weeks of 5 hens being cooped up in there 24/7.

After clearing out a few branches and debris from under the pines, we positioned the pen over the coop and set out their food and water. We even found a small board to serve as a nameplate for their new digs.

Now the new problem is keeping the kids, especially the little ones from going in and out of the pen–1. because they’re more likely to leave the pen door open and 2. because the poor hens have no way to escape or hide from those little arms.

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