Relocating the birds to their new yard was mayhem. Poultry do not like change!
The wise thing to do would have been to load them out of their A-frame houses in the morning directly into crates, so we could have transported them to the new pen directly. But the timing didn’t work out for this, I finished building the dolly to carry the A-frames midday on a Sunday. I really wanted to finish moving them that weekend.
I thought it wouldn’t be that big of a deal to catch them all individually. I’ve done it before when we had even more birds. But this time was different. We caught the first few chickens and the turkeys easily enough, but then the rest of the birds got wise and started hiding under things and running amok.
I tried using both Gene and Maggie to herd the ducks, but the ducks just kept going from under one car to the other. The dogs don’t fit under there very well, and the ducks know it, so it’s too hard to flush them. In the end, we only got part of the chickens and no ducks into the new yard on Sunday evening. The birds that were in there were stressed out. So we called it quits for the day, I let the rest stay loose during the night and take their chances with predation.
The next day I was able to round up more chickens, and most of the ducks. The ducks hid in the ditches, which have really tall grass. So I literally had Maggie hunt them up, one by one. Her stickiness tendency in herding is a lot like the pointing trait in pointer breeds. She got the idea quickly that she was supposed to sniff out the invisible hiding birds for me, and tackled the job with her usual enthusiasm. The only challenge is that once she “goes on point”, so to speak, the suspense kills her, and if she stays there too long, she’ll eventually bite. And ducks are fragile. So I had to hustle to get each bird once she found it. Fortunately, there were no injuries, but I yelled at Maggie a lot to keep her cool! We got seven of the nine ducks, but the remaining two panicked and hid way back in the blackberry bushes.
I think I’ve figured out that when ducks hide like this solo, their chances are not good. I think one of two things happens. Either they wedge themselves into the bushes in their panic and get stuck, then dehydrate and die; or they hunker down and wait, and a predator happens by and catches that huge scent cone of duck smell and snags them. Anyway, those two ducks were never recovered, so I assume some fate befell them. That night I think I saw a pair of raccoon eyes reflected in the porch light, and later heard some crashing in the weeds… Normally, the ducks would have turned up the next day, looking for their flock mates and food. So by now they are surely goners.
After several days of running around with a poultry hook and a fish net, I did eventually capture all of the chickens, so I thought. But now we can see there is still one at large, so maybe she was able to escape. We are having a tough time catching her, she is very quick! She may become a feral chicken if we don’t catch her soon!
So, lesson learned: next time, I’m going to make it easy on myself and load them into crates from their roosts early in the morning. Sheez! But the good news is, now that the poultry are penned, our losses should reduce to almost nil. And already I’m getting many more eggs than before.