We've encountered yet another of the pitfalls endemic
to raising poultry in vermin-infested Roswell, Georgia.
After the fox attack in late winter (we lost five of our Rhode Islands reds to one of the bastards. Contrary to tree-hugger mythology, foxes do not kill only what they can eat. In reality, they kill everything in sight, eat whichever parts suit them, and leave the rest of the dead and dying birds to rot), we took additional measures to secure the coop. So far, so good. Since then, the fox hasn't been a problem. With only one Rhode Island Red left,though, we had to rebuild our flock. We obtained another from my cousin, while a kind-hearted neighbor gave us yet another Red, and a Plymouth Rock. This left us with two vacancies to fill.
Although I didn't like the idea, we ended up getting two Leghorns, both from the same brood, and neither full grown. I opposed the idea because I didn't want to introduce yet another unfamiliar breed to the flock. The Plymouth Rock has finally become accustomed to her neighbors, but the process took time. (And I suppose the fact that she's now the size of a small turkey - which is to say that she's the largest bird in the flock - didn't hurt, insofar as carving herself a niche was concerned.)
Unlike the aggressive Rhode Island Red or the adaptable Plymouth Rock, the Leghorn, I've since discovered, is a comparatively fragile breed, and prone to skittishness. When we introduced the newcomers to the flock in April, the bigger, older birds set upon them unmercifully. This necessitated removing them from harm's way immediately, and building a temporary coop on the spot. Once we'd settled the babies in their new home, all went well until two weeks ago.
On the fourth, I received a phone call from my wife. Terribly upset, she insisted that I come home immediately. Something , she told me, had happened to one of the chickens.
It certainly had.
Upon arriving home, I discovered that one of the babies had suffered a terrible injury to her left leg. I also discovered an unpleasant fact about "chicken-kind": they attack their own wounded. We rushed her to the garage, constructed alternative quarters, and tried our best to nurse her back to health. A friend of ours provided us with the necessary medications, but cautioned us that she had only a 50-50 chance of surviving.
While the wounded bird convalesced, I took a closer look at the injury, and examined the coop more closely.
All the work put into fox-proofing and coyote-proofing the henhouses -- only to have a rat, of all things, attack one of the birds.
To make a long story short: the chick improved steadily over the last two weeks. Her appetite returned, she took water again, was attempting to move herself around, and seemed to enjoy being taken outside (under heavy guard, of course) to peck for bugs.
Then, without warning, she died this afternoon.
So anyway, if by chance, you raise poultry in Roswell; it isn't enough to protect your birds from cats, dogs, foxes, coyotes, and hawks. You must also safeguard the younger ones against large, aggressive rats.
G'night and God bless.