It has been an eventful week at the Oliver Farmhouse. Our “farming” is very small-scale and very much an experiment at this stage. We have 11 laying hens, 1 rooster, 14 pullets, 1 rare breed whose gender is still a mystery, and a bountiful garden that has as many weeds as it has vegetable plants.
It’s not a lot, but some days it feels like too much.
Monday was a long day with news of unexpected expenses. When Chris was gathering eggs that evening, he discovered one of our hens was sick. She was hunched over and her comb was pale and droopy. We immediately separated her from the flock.
Thursday was a reprieve full of sunshine and just the right amount of dirt. We moved our pullets and white-feathered mystery chick from the small starter coop into a bigger, more secure coop until they start laying when they’ll join the others.
Friday. Friyay? More like Fri-no.
I had just put the girls down for a nap when I heard a very loud, very strange noise. As I got up and moved closer to the unfamiliar sound, I realized it was our Great Pyrenees, Samwise. He’s about eight months old and barks at cyclists, birds, sirens, tractors–you name it. But this wasn’t a normal Sam bark.
As I stepped out onto our enclosed back porch, I could still only hear Sam, but I could see another dog in the yard. When I found Sam, I realized that he was not injured, but was torn between his instinct to protect us and our flock and his knowing that he could not take on this unfamiliar foe.
I stepped inside for a moment to call Chris. When I returned, the dog had found the chickens. We have an electric poultry netting around the coop, but the ground was wet and the dog was running laps around the fence, cutting corners causing the fence to collapse a bit more with each round, with Sam close behind.
I have been so pleased with our rooster, Atlas. He sounds the alarm when a hawk is near, bringing Sam bounding through the yard to chase it away. If he finds bugs or other good grub in the yard, he gives the ladies first dibs. They fight over who gets to roost next to him at night.
I have never been so impressed with him as I was yesterday. He jumped the fence to defend his flock against the intruder. The dog took a bite out of his backside, leading me to believe from my limited view that he had killed him, but the next thing I knew, he was up and running again.
Not long after this, our neighbor came to collect his runaway. (He was very apologetic.) I went hunting for Atlas, but to no avail. I went to the coop to count chickens, but there were only four to be found.
Helplessly watching this animal wreak havoc on our animals was pretty traumatic. We know that losing livestock is part of farm life, and we’ve lost hens before to coyotes, possums, hawks, but I’ve not been a firsthand witness to these events.
I continued to search while Chris made his way home and finally found Atlas hiding under the car.
We found two hens in the garden.
The rest came back on their own throughout the course of the evening.
We didn’t lose a single animal. Atlas paid with his tail feathers. Samwise was brave and smart.
Our sick hen was safe on the porch and our pullets, who were in a small, unsecure coop in the middle of the yard only hours before, were safely kept in a larger coop on the other end of the property. My children were upstairs in their beds.
It’s not a lot, but some days it feels like too much. Most days it takes more than we can handle to see God’s goodness.