Today marks the end of the the first week in our chicken co-op experiment, and it was a bit rocky for our chickens.

They are a beautiful group of birds; composed of Black Stars, Rhode Island Reds, and Americaunas. Click the image below for a short video clip getting acquainted with their bucket feeder and the water dispenser (diy coming soon).

the first egg

With the birds in, the co-op members are very motivated to work together and care for the flock. We divvied up the daily chores for weeks and months to come. We're using a shared Google calendar to manage our time, share egg counts, and record daily reports.

We'd been told to expect the birds to enter a state of relocation shock which would stall egg production for a week or two. To our happy surprise, the hens seemed to have settled in fairly quickly and the eggs are trickling in. Here is an image of the first egg, produced sometime on day 2.

By day 4, the project was looking pretty good. Suddenly, the SHTF (as my prepper friends like to say). On the morning of day 5 that one of the ranch dogs broke into the yard and attacked the flock. This attack is eerily foreshadowed in the video clip above. The dogs you hear barking in the video actually ignore the chickens to bark at the camel (they do that every day). But, if you pay close attention to the second shot in the video you will see a very quiet, very focused puppy watching intently through the gate behind the feeders. She's the one who slipped in.

Inspecting the flock after the attack - photo by C Johannasen

Immediately after the incident, I and another co-op member performed thorough inspections of each bird. Three hens were injured, and as of the publishing of this post they seem to be recovering well. Each is missing feathers and dealing with some minor related abrasions and swelling. I fear one may not make it, as she appears to have sustained more traumatic injuries. We've been cleaning their wounds and watching them carefully since.

We were extremely fortunate that it wasn't worse, but it was a tragedy nonetheless. Just as the flock was settling in their new home was terrorized by a predator. As a result, whatever comfort level they'd gained in those first 4 days was surely erased.

The real tragedy is that the event could have been prevented. It wasn't the dog's fault that the gate contained a weakness (now shored up). Inadequate planning and our own ignorance led the near destruction of our new flock.

I am disappointed in myself and embarrassed by my lack of adequate foresight. We imagined external predators and made preparations against the likes of coyote, fox, and birds of prey. I for one, had not considered the ranch dogs a threat. That was a mistake met with violent consequences. But, we've learned from this mistake - which is why I felt it was appropriate to add this story to the RECESS record.

Stay vigilant. Evaluate your environment for every point of weakness, then check again. The least obvious threat may be the most likely - and it may be staring you right in the face.