We recently faced some very sad news. The day before Thanksgiving our 11 year old started rounding up our chickens to put them to bed. He found most of them but couldn’t find one of our Plymouth Rock birds. We’ve seen a beautiful pair of owls flying over the farm since early summer so we were worried that one of them may have stopped by for dinner. We’ve had 7 chickens since April-May and we’ve been able to keep them safe until now with one exception. One of our chickens pecked our Australian Shepherd in the eye during a family BBQ. He reacted quickly and that was the day we learned how to butcher a chicken. It was a sad day but we didn’t want the bird to go to waste. She was a gentle bird who was laying well. When we noticed the missing bird last week we started looking over our fence and calling neighbors. Unfortunately our lovely lady decided to climb on top of the feed can and fly over the back fence into a yard with several dogs and one of them killed her. That is our best guess because these birds aren’t great flyers. We like to let our chickens run free except for the garden. We realized it was time to clip each chicken’s wing. I really thought they were safe from flying over the fence but experience has proven otherwise.
We were all very sad on that day. So we clipped most of the flight feathers on each chicken’s wing so the girls will be thrown off balance and stay close to the ground. If you clip both wings they may still be able to get over the fence. It’s the imbalance that stops the flight or that is my understanding. We left the feathers that keep our girls warm at night of course. I’d rather not clip their wings but I certainly don’t want the dogs to get them so that is our solution for now. We later heard from a friend that it helps to hold the chicken breast side up and they fan out their wings while you cut naturally. Of course we learned that trick after we were finished. Through our experiences in the garden and with animal husbandry I’ve learned to be patient with myself and embrace the failure a little more so I can get through the problem more quickly. Sitting around being sad or mad at yourself isn’t productive. One interesting thing I catch myself doing is over or under estimating what we can do. Things are hardly ever as easy or as hard as I think they will be. It sounds so obvious but I think learning not to set expectations might be one of the most helpful advice I would offer to a new gardener. I’m still a new gardener so take that for what it’s worth. We plan to order a few more chickens in the spring which will be exciting. Stay tuned for my next post for details on some big plans we have for 2021. I can’t wait to tell you all! Well I think I only have a half dozen subscribers but that’s ok.