The Case of the Disappearing Hen

Once upon a time, on the island of Maui in Hawai`i, there was the story of an escaped “big cat.

Everyone thought it was a black panther or something similar. That mystery was never solved, but I know someone who can verify the existence of such a big cat that was roaming around in his Up Country neighborhood on Maui. In fact, one article states that this same cat was seen “crossing an intersection going into the mountains at 9:11 Maui time on the 6th of January, 2011.” You need to scroll down to the section on Hawaii to read it.

Another story about the Maui cat can be found here.

Now I wonder if the same thing could have happened here on the Big Island of Hawai`i? Listen to my story, and if anyone knows what the predator is, please let me know.

Over the past few years, I’ve had several of my chickens either die, or be pecked to death by other hens in the coop in the traditional “pecking order” fashion.

Finally, I was down to two hens that still managed to give me eggs occasionally. When I went out to feed them one night, I took the picture above.

The next morning, there was only one hen in the coop. I searched all over for her, but found nothing. There is no way she could have gotten out. The other hen was not doing very well, scrunched down and barely moving.

I wondered if there had been cannibalism going on, but I honestly don’t know how one hen could have eaten up another whole hen over night! Each day I searched again, hoping I had overlooked a spot where the other hen could be.

The front edge of the lid to the nesting box had been chewed up and there were holes, as though something had clawed or gnawed at the soft wood.

I didn’t think much about the size of the holes until a friend came to visit. He said that the holes were too big to be from an ordinary animal. The holes were slanting downward, as if a claw had attacked the wood.

He placed a 3 mm drill bit into several of the holes and it fit them all. It’s has to be a very large animal that caused these holes!

The one hen that is left is badly damaged, as if a huge claw had come down on her back and pulled. The skin and feathers have been ripped open down to the bone.

After a week, she is beginning to move around a little more. I keep thinking she might die anytime, but she keeps eating, drinking her water, and clucking at me.

The scenario we have put together goes something like this…

The animal was strong enough to stick a nose under the lid of the nesting box and grab the hen that was there, take it away, and eat it in private. This animal must have come back later, tried to reach in to get the other hen, but she got away somehow. Because the hen wasn’t able to get back up into the nesting box, the animal couldn’t get to her, and hasn’t come back.

Does anyone know of an animal that might be roaming around, or anything that could do this sort of damage? I keep thinking of a bobcat or lynx, or maybe even an owl. If a cat, it would have to be a pet that had gotten away from its owner. We don’t have “big cats” running around on the Big Island….or do we?

A hui hou!

Ready for Eggs?

FRESH EGGS
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FRESH EGGS

 

Eggs like the ones shown here are the reason I wanted a coop and chickens. It doesn’t matter how “protected” they are, I refuse to buy mainland eggs that have been shipped across an ocean, kept in a cooler, then left to sit on a shelf for who-knows-how long before I buy them. Eating these eggs each day is such nirvana to me. Any trouble connected with raising the hens is completely negated the second I sink into the rich yellow of my girls’ eggs.

I have written about and shown my chicken coops in other posts. I’ve also shown the coops of other people whose gardens I’ve visited and written about. This time, I thought it would be a good idea to pull it all together and show you several varieties of coops, and the purpose they serve. As I find more, I’ll post them for you to see.

I’ll start with my own coop. Last March, when my two daughters and one son-in-law came to visit, Harry put together my coop. Here he is, still trying to figure out exactly how to put it together. Fortunately, he is creative and very handy with construction tools.

BEGINNING THE COOP
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BEGINNING THE COOP

 

He was able to take the metal frame of an old futon sofa-bed I had, take it apart, and recreate a useable coop. It is very clean and beautiful here. A friend said “It will never look that clean again,” and he was right! I’d hate for you to see it now, even after I have just cleaned it out!

FINISHED COOP
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FINISHED COOP

 

Here are my girls at one month of age. Because I didn’t have room or facilities to take care of newborn chicks, I opted to get them at one month of age. I got them on April 13, 2008, so they are not quite a year old yet. And the coop still looks clean.

ONE MONTH OLD CHICKS
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ONE MONTH OLD CHICKS

 

Here is another shot of the coop with the new birds. You can get an idea of how it all works. Harry took an old screen door for the largest part of the coop. It can be lifted and supported on each end for hosing out the coop. The smaller brown lid lifts for getting in and doing smaller stuff without opening the entire top. The nesting boxes are on the left end of what you see here.

NEW COOP WITH CHICKS
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NEW COOP WITH CHICKS

 

Here is a close-up of the inside of the nesting boxes. We closed it off to the rest of the coop until we knew the girls were ready to start laying their eggs. I didn’t want them to just go in there to roost at night, but to know this is exactly where the eggs are to go. Then I put in ceramic eggs so they’d get the idea, which they did right away! I use bags of my shredded paper as nesting materials and they seem to love it. Since this picture, I’ve made it into three separate boxes, rather than two.

NESTING BOXES
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NESTING BOXES

 

As the girls grew larger and started laying, I knew they needed more room than they had in the coop. With the help of a friend, I opened up the opposite end from the nesting boxes and added a nice run. It’s hard to tell much about it here, but maybe you can get the idea.

STARTING A CHICKEN RUN
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STARTING A CHICKEN RUN

 

Oops! Caught in the act of a little screwing. At least I’m wearing my “Sisters of Perpetual Annoyance” t-shirt under my Farmer Jones outfit.

AT WORK ON THE RUN
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AT WORK ON THE RUN

 

Plans are underway to add another big side room onto this run. Here is the run completely finished and the girls are already enjoying more freedom. On the right end where you cannot see, we put an opening where I can dump in weeds and tall grasses. They love to scratch around in it and find weed seeds or bugs.

COMPLETED CHICKEN RUN
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COMPLETED CHICKEN RUN

 

You also can see in the above picture the little ladder we created for them to get back up into the coop itself. They never did use it, but they simply fly up. In the next few pictures of other people’s coops, there are ladders even longer than this one. I asked if their chickens actually use them, and all of them said “Yes, they do.” I’m not sure why my girls didn’t want to use the ladder.

Here are shots of the coops from Bob Elhard’s place. I had two posts about his garden, but decided to save the coop pictures for this post. You can see that he has allowed for a lot more headroom than mine. He can actually walk into his coops, and as you can see, he has a long ladder for his chickens – one they actually use!

ELHARD’S CHICKEN YARD
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ELHARD’S CHICKEN YARD

 

Basically, he has coops inside a fenced-in area, complete with trees and other growing plants. I love this idea, and it may be something I think about in the future. He can gather eggs from outside the fence. Here is another view of the same set-up. The vegetable beds are not inside the fence, even though it may look like it here.

ELHARD’S CHICKEN YARD
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ELHARD’S CHICKEN YARD

 

And yet another view. Bob has used a fairly open wire for his fencing. I’m not sure how he keeps dogs out of his chicken area. So many of the people here in Ocean View have lost all their chickens from dogs that are strong enough to tear apart wire fencing like this. It’s the reason I used a heavier gauge with smaller openings. I think it would be fun to walk among my chickens!

ELHARD’S CHICKEN YARD
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ELHARD’S CHICKEN YARD

 

Here is a distant view of Bob’s chicken yard. This gives a better perspective on how tall it really is. The vegetable garden in front and the Japanese bridge add a bit of class to the chickens.

DISTANT VIEW OF ELHARD’S CHICKEN YARD
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DISTANT VIEW OF ELHARD’S CHICKEN YARD

 

I think I already showed you the coops on McDaniel’s Farmette. Here is a bit more information about them. This first shot is of their “old” coop. I think their chickens still use it sometimes.
 McDANIEL’S OLDER COOP
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McDANIEL’S OLDER COOP

Here is the “new” coop they built. There are several levels – one for roosting and one for laying eggs. Again, you see a ladder, which their chickens do use. I wish I knew why mine didn’t use the ladder we created for them.

 

 McDANIEL’S NEWER COOP
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McDANIEL’S NEWER COOP

Again, they use a standard chicken wire, but they haven’t had any trouble with dogs getting to their chickens. Also, they let their chickens run loose in the yard. All I can say is that they are lucky!! Even their own dogs don’t bother the chickens.

 

FREE RANGE ROOSTER
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FREE RANGE ROOSTER

 

Maybe this is the best kind of chicken to have, but they don’t lay good eggs – and they aren’t nearly as much fun as the real thing!

FAKE CHICKENS
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FAKE CHICKENS

 

Have you kissed your chickens lately?

McDaniel Farmette

FARM SCENE
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FARM SCENE

I love to visit Other People’s Gardens for several reasons. Primarily, it is to get ideas for my own gardening efforts, to see what is possible on lava. Here are some of the ideas I found on the McDaniel acreage.

A path over the lava where we need to walk is critical. The lava rocks can trip up someone much too quickly, and as we all get a little older, we need that extra safety factor. Sandy and Joe have made nice wide paths all over their property.

PATH TO UPPER GARDEN
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PATH TO UPPER GARDEN

Occasionally, they’ve even put up railings to grab onto. That’s a wonderful idea!

PATH WITH RAILINGS
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PATH WITH RAILINGS

Here is a terrific idea for a large planter box. Joe has put together scrap wood and it saves the expense of large containers at Home Depot or Lowe’s. The bottom is left open so that roots can explore. This is what I’d like to build to house my fruit trees.

BOX PLANTER
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BOX PLANTER

I put up a scaffold-type construction for my green beans, but this is a good idea, too. There are enough scattered limbs from dead trees on my property to do this.

GREEN BEAN TEEPEE
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GREEN BEAN TEEPEE

Joe had bees, but many of the plants they relied on to make their honey were killed in the vog, so the bees literally starved to death. Here is the empty hive. I hope he tries to raise bees again. At some point, I’d like to consider having bees.

BEE HIVE
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BEE HIVE

Everyone I talk with says that goats are high maintenance, but it still appeals to me to have a few. I love goat’s milk and the cheese from it is pure heaven. These girls seem to be love being part of the family.

GOATS
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GOATS

MORE GOATS
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MORE GOATS

AND ONE MORE GOAT
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AND ONE MORE GOAT

I already have chickens, of course, but I’m always fascinated by the different designs of coops people have built. Perhaps someday I’ll do one whole post on all the coops my friends have. Here are the two where Joe and Sandy gather their eggs. The chickens are all free range, but they do lay their eggs in the nesting boxes.

OLDER CHICKEN COOP
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OLDER CHICKEN COOP

NEWER CHICKEN COOP
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NEWER CHICKEN COOP

Their rooster is a complete ham and knows he’s beautiful. He kept “posing” for me to take his picture.

MR. ROOSTER
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MR. ROOSTER

Some of the “girls” needed to get into the act with Sandy.

SANDY AND TWO GIRLS
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SANDY AND TWO GIRLS

In addition to the food sources (vegetables, goats, chickens), they have not neglected creating nooks of beauty. There is no doubt that this orchid house belongs to Sandy.

SANDY'S ORCHID HOUSE
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SANDY’S ORCHID HOUSE

Here are a couple of the beauties inside.

YELLOW ORCHID
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YELLOW ORCHID

PURPLE ORCHID
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PURPLE ORCHID

Even the trees in the orchard are semi-contained. They were still in their plastic when they were put into a hole. Now the trees have grown to a decent size, forcing roots through the broken down plastic.

ORCHARD
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ORCHARD

It seems I’m always drawn to playful yard sculptures. These chickens don’t need to be fed, but neither do they provide good eggs.

WOODEN CHICKENS
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WOODEN CHICKENS

Do you want to know which way the wind blows? Try putting a whirl-a-gig in your yard. I suppose the faster the wind blows, the faster she dances.

HULA WHIRL-A-GIG
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HULA WHIRL-A-GIG

Every garden needs a nature spirit.

GARDEN STATUE
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GARDEN STATUE

Even some of the plants have to work on this farm. These pitcher plants have a sticky surface that hangs onto bugs until they die. Here is a small one, and you can see the bugs inside.

SMALL PITCHER PLANT
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SMALL PITCHER PLANT

Here is a shot of a dead one on the ground that shows how enormous they can get. This must have been 10-12 inches long.

LARGE DEAD PITCHER PLANT
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LARGE DEAD PITCHER PLANT

Sandy may have “HERS”, but Joe has his own, too.

JOE'S WORKPLACE
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JOE’S WORKPLACE

His playful spirit comes through with the Harry Potter influence. If you are familiar with that series, you will recognize Platform 9, of course, with the luggage half-way through.

PLATFORM 9
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PLATFORM 9

And every Harry Potter fan knows you need a “portkey” if you want to get to another place quickly. Joe didn’t tell me where he goes when he enters this particular portkey

PORTKEY
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PORTKEY

At the end of our tour, we came to a resting spot near this delightful lily pond with Mr. Froggie at work.

LILY POND
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LILY POND

As always, I’m inspired by the relatively short amount of time it takes for people to create a haven of beauty on this new land created by the lava. It takes persistence and determination, hard work, and a desire to show love and respect to this planet.

Thank you, Joe and Sandy, for allowing me to enter your little piece of Paradise.

Thirty Plus One

OHIA IN BLOOM
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OHIA IN BLOOM

At the end of 2008, I made a commitment to myself and to NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month) to do 30 posts in 30 days. I wasn’t too sure I could actually do that, but yesterday was my 30th day! I did it – and it was fun!

Today is a little extra one thrown in to satisfy my need to tidy up, balance everything out, and make it a full month. So since there are 31 days in January, here’s the bonus post.

Several friends have asked what plants I do have, so I did a little calculating about what kinds of edible plants I have on my acre. I thought maybe my readers were curious, too, especially since my posts have been a little scattered on exactly what I have here. Most of these plants are either in containers or in raised beds. A few I have placed in a hole in the lava with some of the good rich soil I’ve made. This is only the beginning.

Starting tomorrow (February 1) I will be back to doing a longer post on Sundays. I just might do a short post mid-week, but I’m not promising more than Sunday right now.

Enjoy the list! I will expand the list as I plant more things.

FRUITS/VEGGIES
peanuts
figs
bell peppers
yams
arugula
tomatoes
beets
mustards
collards
string beans
chard
kale

NOT BEARING YET
gooseberries
apricots
blueberries
bush cherry
lime tree (still very small)

TROPICALS
Pineapple
coffee
bananas
lilikoi

HERBS
cilantro
marjoram
oregano
parsley
chives
mint
rosemary

ANIMALS
Hens for eggs

PLANTS THAT DIDN’T MAKE IT
Sage
Fennel
Dill
Kabocha squash
Papaya

Fresh Eggs (Almost!)

I moved into my house in February, 2006. So far, this blog has been about those early months of owning my acre of lava. My intent was to write about everything here in chronological order, but alas, my mind doesn’t always work that way.

I feel a strong need to tell you about my “girls,” my six hens. I’m not sure what happened to all the fresh local eggs, but it seems that most (if not all) of the egg farms on our island have shut down. I refuse to buy eggs that have been shipped for who-knows-how-long all the way from who-knows-where on the mainland.

So I set out on a quest for chickens. I knew there must be chickens somewhere because I hear roosters all over the place. (That’s another story!) The first day of my search, I asked the local feed store if they knew who was selling chickens. Right there on the bulletin board was a note from someone right here in my community who was taking orders for baby chicks.

I’d already done a bit of reading and looking around to see what I might want. So I made an order for six chicks to be delivered sometime in April. I opted to let the young man raise them for the first month. I didn’t want to invest in a brooder, or worry about losing them quite yet. Maybe I’ll try that next time I get chickens.

In my past life as a mother of four and a local community 4-H leader, I’ve helped to raise everything – pigs, horses, goats, sheep, rabbits, guinea pigs, dogs and cats – but never chickens. This would be a totally new experience for me.

I started checking books out of the library and looking on the internet for ideas on chicken coops. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, but knew I needed to have something ready for them when they arrived.

My two daughters (Debbie and Inga) and my wonderful son-in-law (Harry) came to visit in March during spring break. Harry, is a general contractor in California, so I asked his advice.

And “would you please build a chicken coop for me?”

I think he knew what was coming, because he flew from California with his tool belt and his own power saw! He quickly set up shop.

He was as confused about what I wanted as I was, but anything to please a mother-in-law, right? He took an old metal futon couch frame that I’d left sitting behind my shed and converted it into a beautiful coop.

I showed the finished coop to a friend (his wife raised chickens). He took one look and said, “It will never be this clean again.” He was right!

When I got the call, I was ecstatic, but as nervous as when I was having babies. He brought the “girls” over at one month of age – three Rhode Island Reds (who will lay brown eggs for me) and three Araucana (who will lay blue or blue-green eggs). The Araucana girl in the top photo is a color called Wheaten.

Here they are on April 13, 2008. Just below the log perch, is the Wheaten Araucana. At the bottom right is a Rhode Island Red and there are two mottled black/tan/gold Araucana. I haven’t been able to figure out the exact name for that coloration.

Here they are, six weeks later – and they are growing like weeds! One of the Reds is in front and an Araucana behind her. Not sure why they find that bare piece of wood so fascinating!

By early June, I knew they needed to get out and scratch around. So I enlisted the help of a friend to build a “chicken run.” We opened up a square at one end of the coop, added a removable door, and built a run for them to use. They get down through the door and a little ladder-type arrangement. Here you can see the beginning of the framework.


CAUGHT!

It was finally finished and the “girls” got their first taste of relative freedom.

You can see the entire run better in this next picture. Sometimes I toss a bit of corn scratch in through the top and let them search for it.
They are now four months old – big and plump! I expect them to start laying in about another six weeks or so. Stay tuned!