Last Updated: 4/16/10
Sugar and Spice
March Massacre Revisited - fox attack
I have not yet read over this page since I moved it to this directory so it may contain errors that I hope to correct soon.
On 4/8/02, we got two "female" Easter egg chickens. They were part Araucana. I named them Sugar and Spice. They were born on 4/6/02. The lady we got them from had lots of chickens and placed an order to McMurray Hatcheries. She agreed to get us a few chicks. Sugar and Spice were darling! I have photos on the chicken photo page. She also gave us six of her chickens' eggs for me to try just that one more time to hatch my own eggs. She gave us four kinds of eggs. Three were assorted bantam eggs that were small. One was a bit larger (maybe a Phoenix mother). One was a huge brown egg, probably from a cochin (dark brahma with feathered feet) mother, and one was a large red egg (I have no idea who made that! This is the one that turned into Beebee.). She had hens and roosters of bantams, Phoenix, cochin, and others (I forgot!). If these hatched (I thought), who knew what they would turn into! They were started along with the rest of Salty's old eggs on 4/9/02 to see if I could get any to hatch this time. I increased the incubator temperature a degree up to 101 degrees F at the top of the eggs. If those new eggs hatched, then Salty's eggs maybe did not hatch because they were hers with all her problems. Sugar and Spice were in a 2 foot by 2 foot cardboard box with a red heat lamp over the top. They cuddled together and pecked at each other. If I removed one, the other cheeped frantically and got very upset so they had bonded. They were eating and drinking well. I was sure they would shoot up like weeds (and they did)!
Update on 5/3/02 and 7/26/02: They were so big and almost ready to spend warm days outside. By six weeks old, they were living with Salty and Clarice. Sugar was obviously going to have large amounts of white and black while Spice was a nutmeg/mustard yellow/brown. This would seem to indicate that Sugar was going to be a rooster! That was fine as I wanted one. By June, there was no doubt that Sugar was a male. I hoped Beebee would turn out to be a girl (no such luck)! On 7/26/02, at only a day shy of 16 weeks old, Sugar awakened me with his crowing. I was told roosters do not crow until they are 6 months old but he was not even 4 months old!
Update on 10/15/02: Sugar was now six months old and crowed at 4:30 am, 6 am, 7 am, and 6 pm or so. Spice, or Spicey as we called her, laid her first egg on 10/10/02. It was green!!
Update on 3/18/03: Sugar was mean. I had to carry a shovel in his presence which he attacked and swung back at me. He was a jump kicker and a biter. I had a few scars from his bites. Salty was all torn up on her back because he violently mated with her often. Spicey was also torn up some. Sugar even managed to mate with Clarice quite often. She had not laid an egg in over a year until that started. Then, she laid daily. And they say that mating is not required to lay eggs! Pepper never could catch Clarice but Sugar was violent and grabbed her neck in a death grip to get his way while she screamed.
In the fall of 2004, Spicey starting acting ill and lethargic. She would sleep in the nest box instead of in the enclosed area or out in the open on the roost so I started carrying her in at night on really cold nights. We thought at first she was dying but then she got better but started holding up her foot. My mother thought she was egg bound (no eggs since spring from her). On 1/1/05, I finally realized what was wrong which was SO obvious! Just like Salty had, Spicey has bumble foot, just not as bad. I could see a pus plug in her foot. To fix it, she would need surgery, a month closed in a small pen with oral and topical antibiotics and foot treatments like Salty had. In most cases, the foot will just get infected again. So, I do not know if it is worth the time, money, and extreme effort if it will all be for naught. [Update: She never got surgery.]
As of 4/24/02, five of the six eggs the lady gave us were growing. One died early that was covered in feces. The 14 Salty eggs and 2 Clarice eggs were all clear and removed. It looked like only one of Salty's eggs developed just a few days that was the oldest egg. It was obviously fertile but held too long in the basement. The five growing eggs were due to hatch on 4/30/02.
On 5/2/02, two days late, one of the eggs hatched! After four attempts at incubation with 50 eggs from 15 hens, only one finally hatched. The egg was rose colored and medium in size. The baby broke the air cell at exactly 22 full days of incubation at 9 pm on 5/1/02. I held the egg the next morning for a second, and it cheeped and wiggled. I cheeped to it for encouragement. At 6:30 am, it pipped and made a tiny dent in the egg. I had taken the previous two days off to be with the 5 eggs that were full term to see them hatch. Only one hatched. But, when it finally happened, I had to go to work. My mother said the egg had a small piece missing at 11 am, she went out, and the baby was running around (but damp) at 1:30 pm when she returned. The baby was mostly dark black with yellow feathers underneath. There were some feathers on the foot so it may have been the cochin/brahma which is great. The lady had either a blue cochin or a dark brahma. I tried to come up with a name. I put together blue brahma and got BB but then thought that would also work for baby buttons. I changed the name to Beebee so it would not seem like a type of ammo. The poor baby was so lonely with no siblings or mother. He cheeped for 5 minutes, unbelievably loud, then slept 5 minutes, and then repeated it. While in the incubator, he moved all the other eggs and thermometers and tried to get in trouble. At 9 pm on 5/2/02, I put the baby in the 2' x 2' cardboard box I had rigged up with a heat lamp and paper towels over newspaper. The baby drank some water on its own. Beebee was so loud and rambunctious! He liked to go under my shirt and go to sleep. There are a bunch of photos on the chicken photo page.
I opened the rest of the eggs on 5/5/02. Four of them were full term and never hatched. The large egg had a baby that would have looked like Beebee with black and yellow (that changes to white). The four bantam eggs had two mostly black chicks and two that were black and white striped down the back like skunks. They would have looked neat had they hatched. Beebee was growing like a little weed. He was an acrobat that was leaping a foot at five days old!
Beebee began to spend time in a cage outside with the others at about 4 weeks old and was put in with them full time at 6 weeks old. The other chickens did not really want to accept Beebee but he would not take no for an answer! He butted his way into whatever interested him. By 7/26/02, he was 3 months old and thought he was in charge. Too bad that Sugar and Salty and Clarice thought they were in charge too!
Beebee or Bertie as I often call him was really a confused dude! Bertie had very long tail and neck feathers. He puffed up and chased like a rooster. He attacked my feet and defended the hens from the cats outside the pen by running after them. But, he let me catch him to give him kisses (but I did have to give chase) and talked into my ear. He was five months old. I had not heard Bertie crow or seen Bertie try to mount any of the other chickens. Sugar was doing both at four months old. Bertie had tiny spurs growing (the hens did not). Bertie had a large comb and dewlap. So, Bertie would seem to be male but not interested in crowing or mating. We were all confused! In another month, Bertie would be six months old, and if Bertie was really a masculine female, he would start to lay eggs. If not, then my mother thought Bertie was homosexual. But, he showed no interest in Sugar either. I tended to think that Sugar's presence suppressed his crowing and courting of the three ladies. Spicey chased Bertie around and did not like him. When I gave mealworms to Sugar, he did not eat them but put them onto the ground for Bertie and Spicey to eat so he thought Bertie was female! Sugar was trying to court the girls with offerings of bugs but then was pretty rough when he jumped on them. I was so confused! By physical appearance though, there seemed to be little doubt that Beebee was male. I just hoped that Sugar continued to think Bertie was a female, or the two roosters might try to kill each other.
Beebee turned on me. Beginning in October, 2002, he began to peck my boots. No big deal. Then, on 10/28/02, when feeding them mealworms, he bit my finger and held on. I figured it was a mistake and offered another. He bit and held on again. He hated me. My baby had turned into a monster. So it is the way with roosters! I just wish he had stayed small, cute, and huggable forever. Now, I had to chase him around to even catch him.
Update on 3/18/03: Poor Bertie was not as mean to me now as Sugar kept attacking him. I never saw much of the fights but the blood squirted all over and minor to moderate injuries to Bertie's comb, etc. were the result. Most of the fighting occurred during the two foot snow storm we got back on 2/17/03 when the chickens were cooped up. Even after I dug them out, they had much less space for a while. Starting in early March 2003, Beebee finally started to crow. At least I thought so. Sugar's crow sounded like a normal crow pretty much but then from midnight to about 5 am, I started hearing these horrible wailing noises from the chicken house that woke me up. It must have been Bertie trying to learn to crow. Why he waited until he was 10 months old instead of 6 months like most roosters, I will never know. Maybe he was intimidated by Sugar. But then, it did not seem to bother him. Yet, I had never heard him crow during the daytime nor had I actually seen Beebee crow. Maybe Sugar just sang awful at 1 am and not at 6 am? Bertie was very vocal otherwise and liked to talk to me and attacked my boots when in with him. Sugar, on the other hand, attacked my legs and jumped up and kicked and bit. When I got both of them next to me, the one shovel was not enough to keep back an attack. I tried my best to keep Sugar shut into the other main cage when I was in their house and vice versa to keep him away from me. After all, I had to go in and get eggs and bend down and go in and get bowls and bend down which is why I had scars on my arms! Bertie was still my baby but I was less attached to nasty Sugar who does not live up to his name at all! Also, Bertie seemed to have taken Salty as his friend and lover while Sugar got Spicey and Clarice (although they did not like him; he forced them). So, maybe they were happy enough not to kill each other! Bertie and Salty roosted on the low branch which they were supposed to use while the other three slept way up on a beam where they were not supposed to be so they could dump poop into their food and water!
As the two roosters were removing most of the three hens feathers from continued mounting and neck biting during such, my mother thought that we needed another hen to reduce the pressure on the other three. We drove 50 miles to a small farm with organic chickens to adopt another on 7/6/03. Since my brother was in Paris, and I speak French, my mother wanted a French name. I threw out some names, and she liked "Poulet" which is French for "chicken." Le poulet is chicken, and la poule is hen actually. It makes her sound like dinner, not a pet. "Poulet" is pronounced "poo-lay" which is what you get when a hen potties on her egg after laying (that is a joke!). Poulet was a 2-year-old ancona. They are also called black leghorns. Her feathers were black with white tips. She had yellow feet and a yellow ear flap and laid white eggs. One site says they are "as good as the best at winter laying" which we shall see. [As I review this page on 12/11/04, I can tell you that Poulet has not laid an egg in like 6 months now! So much for good eat laying!]
We put her into the pen and Salty attacked her quite a bit. Spicey fought with her too so Poulet kept out of their way on perches. Four days after we got Poulet, I had yet to see her drink or eat. She stayed on perches out of the way of the others and clucked (probably saying, "Hey, give me a break!"). The boys, of course, were trying to woo her with gurgly noises! By the end of the week, Poulet was bonding with Clarice who was the lowest on the chicken totem pole.
Update 9/26/03: All the chickens were okay. Salty had grown back some feathers as she was almost naked from the males having their way with her. The boys seemed to be getting along. Sugar was dominant. Poulet and Clarice spent 99% of their time up in the rafters. They only came down for a few minutes to grab food and water after the other four finish. All four girls had virtually stopped laying eggs! Spicey laid one every month or so but used to lay every few days most of this year. The other three had not laid a single egg in months! Poulet had never laid one since we got her! I do not know why! Any ideas?
How do I even express the pain of losing Miss Crackness (aka Salty) and Bertie (aka Beebee)? Salty was always so sweet and the first to gobble up food. Her excess weight and bumble foot meant that she had to roost on the low branch. Bertie let me pet him sometimes but bit me a few times. He made funny sweet noises and loved Crackness SO much. He would roost with her. Sugar, being dominant, would roost up high with Spicey, Clarice, and Poulet. The mornings of 3/22/04 and 3/23/04, I noticed a small hole by the door to the roost house. It was only the size of say a walnut so I did not know if it was just a squirrel or a predator. The morning of 3/24/04 around 7:20 am, I went to feed the chickens. Again, that small hole was there so I scooted my boot over it to fill it back in again. Then, when I looked up, I saw feathers strewn all over the run and a hole in the opposite side (later measured to be 13" wide and 6" deep). I flung open the door to the roost house. Salty and Beebee were not there but the other four were still up top. I closed them in and looked around. Salty's body parts and blood were all over. Except for a very few feathers, there was no sign of my Bertie. I will never know what happened for sure. My guess is that a fox or two dug in under the board which is buried a few inches. He came into the roost. Bertie jumped down (he was very tenacious) and attacked but was killed swiftly (I sure hope!). Then, Salty was murdered, and they made a mess of her body, eating 80% of it after dragging it back through the hole and about 20 feet away from the pen. Then, they dragged Bertie away, perhaps to their den (we do not know where that is). The hole was only 6" deep but Salty and Bertie were bigger than that so they were probably dismembered. The board above the hole was covered in chicken blood. We searched our 5 acres and found no sign of him. Salty was about 15 pounds while Bertie was about 9 pounds. Foxes are about 7-9 pounds. Could they have dragged him off? I do not know. All I know is that I loved them more than I thought possible for chickens, and they are gone forever. Bertie was the ONLY egg I have ever hatched after trying 50 eggs over 4 incubations of chickens and turkeys. He was a miracle, and his life was ended quickly before he was even two years old. I also feel guilty that the run did not have fencing going out on the ground to prevent digging or, if I had only shut the door to the roost, they would be fine today. I did shut it on really cold nights but with the sun getting up earlier, I wanted them to be able to run before I came out to feed them. The run has vinyl coated dog wire on ALL sides and top (but not the bottom) as well as a row of chicken wire over the dog fence along the bottom and a base board. I am guilty because I did not hear Salty and Beebee scream and cry during what must have been a loud battle for their lives. How could I not have heard that? When this happened, whether in the evening or overnight, I was close enough to hear a crow, so certainly a death fight I could not have missed, and yet, I did. I hope this is because they died fast and did not suffer. Even then, why did not the living four chickens squawk their brains out? There are so many what ifs that would have saved their lives but there is no point. Evil always wins in the end. I have to continue working nonstop so that my other animals can live as best I can provide until their murders. Then, my life will be at an end as well.
Well, Sugar, Clarice, Poulet, and Spicey all get along and sleep up top. Most of the problems I worried about I wish I could have to worry about but, with Bertie and Salty gone, things are pretty boring around the chicken coop. Bertie was all rooster by the end, crowing forcibly. I always preferred his call over Sugar's crowing the last year or so. He loved to side dance and gurgle to impress the girls while Sugar evil-eyed him. As I write this (3/25/04), I have a small scar on my left hand where Bertie bit me a few weeks ago. I hope it lasts forever. He really did not try to bite me that much lately and let me pet him when I came in (if I was wary). And Salty's gurglings will be sorely missed. It just took me over half an hour to put all references to Beebee and Salty on my site into the past tense. It allowed me to update things a bit but it is very sad to read what now will be a distant memory.
I used sod staples to anchor down 1" holed 3' high chicken wire along two sides of the pen including the side where the foxes dug. I put some cinder blocks on the outside of the chicken's smaller house too. The night after the deaths, the foxes dug Salty's grave half way up but did not get to her and started to dig another hole around the run. The next night, I had installed the chicken wire and blocks and nothing happened over night that night.
By chance, we did our only computer video of the chickens with Bertie and Salty just a few months before they died. Go here to see it.
In 2005, the foxes were very active. I close the chickens in each night just in case. We found the foxes den. Here are two photos of their three red fox kits at the den on 4/13/05: kits and kits.
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