R.I.P. Nuggets.

Last year, we started our backyard chicken adventure.  It all began because a friend of Stuart's at work knew that we homeschool and she thought it would be neat for the kids to incubate some eggs and watch them hatch.  She also knew that I was kind of interested in having backyard chickens so we could gather our own fresh eggs each day so she told us we could keep some of the chicks that hatched.  We started with 32 eggs.  The first one to hatch was a little black and yellow cutie.  Stuart named it Nuggets.

Nicholas fell in love with Nuggets.  Eleven total chicks hatched but none ever came close to his heart like Nuggets did.

We all loved Nuggets. 

She got a lot of attention and was often flown around the room in a Star Wars ship or had MagnaTile houses built for her.

As our eleven chicks grew, Stuart made a coop for them outside.  For our size lot, our town only allows us to have 4 hens and no roosters are allowed. But ours were still too young to determine the sex.  They didn't have fully developed combs and waddles and their tail feathers weren't fully grown yet.  So we just kept them all until they would start crowing like a rooster and then we would bring that one back to our farm friend.  It turned out that we were left with exactly four hens out of our bunch.  They were Nuggets, Black Bolt (aka Mr. Troubles), Fire Bolt, and Eleven.  But Nuggets was still everyone's favorite.  She was a little smarter than the rest.  And she liked to swing.

Nuggets is the one standing on Nicholas' leg.

She would come to the kitchen window to visit the kids while they did their school work and the other chickens would follow her.  

She was calm even when being worn as a hat.

Occasionally the kids still bring the chickens back inside.  One day Nicholas had finished his school work and I found him sitting quietly on the couch with Nuggets wrapped in a towel on his lap.  He looked so peaceful and in love.

But Saturday morning, Nicholas went out to check on our girls and Nuggets was not in the coop and there were black feathers scattered around outside of the coop.  We know that there is a bobcat in the area so we are pretty sure that is what got her.  We had heard that a bobcat recently got our neighbor's free range chickens and Stuart thinks he saw a bobcat near the coop one night a few weeks ago.  A while back we stopped letting our chickens have free range of the yard all day long (mostly because they seemed to always come to our deck to poop).  We still let them out if we are out there with them and can shoo them away from the deck.  But they are always in the coop if we aren't out with them and they are always in the coop at night.  

After Nuggets went missing, we studied the coop to try to figure out what happened.  We found a piece of chicken wire had been peeled back where the coop and the run meet.  We knew there was a small gap there but it was too small for a chicken to get out through it so we didn't expect that anything bigger than maybe a squirrel could have gotten in.  I still don't think the bobcat actually got into the run but he must have gotten his arm in there enough to grab Nuggets and pull her out.  We looked around the yard and found no signs of Nuggets other than the black feathers right outside the coop.  No blood, no body.  We did find a bobcat print in a muddy spot on the sidewalk along the side of our house.

I'm still amazed that this could have happened.  Here are some pictures to show you how small of a gap there was.  First, a tour of the coop.  It has 2 nest boxes and 2 roosting bars, and a hanging feeder.  The roof lifts up for access.  There is also a little door on the left side.  Since we added the enclosed run, we no longer open and close that door so it is tied in the open position all the time so the chickens can come and go whenever they want.

Stuart build these two enclosed runs and attached them together and attached them to the coop.  The big blue bucket is their water.

Here is where the bobcat must have gotten Nuggets.  The green netting on the right is on the coop and you can see that the little door is open.  The chicken wire of the run usually covered that gap more than this but it had been pulled back by the bobcat. 

Here is the same corner from a different angle, looking into the coop.  I'm still amazed at how he was able to get Nuggets through that little gap.

Nicholas was obviously upset when he went out yesterday and figured out what had happened.  But I'm so proud of him for quietly coming back inside and getting Stuart.  He didn't want Rachel to get upset because she was about to leave for a birthday party.  After the party, we sat down with her and told her.  Of course, she cried and it broke my heart.    

Needless to say, yesterday there were lots of modifications to the coop and the run.  Hopefully this time it is truly bobcat-proof.

R.I.P. Nuggets.  We love you and miss you.

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