When chicken keeping goes wrong

Have you ever had a period of time when everything seems to go wrong with your flock of chickens and you just can't seem to fix it? That was my whole summer! It started with predators but many of the things that went wrong were just weird flukes! Sometimes even when you do everything right, things still go wrong.

Injured chicken, what to do when you have problems raising chickens

Against my friends and families advice I have decided to share with you all the chicken keeping problems I've had this year. Why? Because it's not always all sunshine and roses in the backyard coop and if you found this post through a search, you're probably hoping you're not alone.

I normally I wouldn't talk about this, at least not in this sort of way but I think it's important that new chicken keepers realize that stuff like this can still happen to the old timer chicken keepers! So, here we go. Welcome to my recap of every problem I had with my chickens in 2022! It started with...

When everything's going wrong in chicken keeping!

I have had chickens since 2009 and this was the singularly worse summer I have ever had! One of the biggest problems this year was predators. I had a raccoon who burrowed under the door of the run, opened up the pop door and went in and ate my 3 young guineas!

Predators in the chicken yard

If you're not aware, a full grown raccoon can squeeze through a space about 2" high and 4" wide. Here's the you tube video showing the space he squeezed through repeatedly that night and the culprit after I caught him the first time.

The crazy thing is there is no evidence of any predators being around before the night that he got all three of them!

I thought my luck was changing the next night when I put a trap right inside the run so when he snuck under the door again he would go directly in the trap and I caught him! But because of where my truck was parked I couldn't get it out easily so I decided to wait till morning to put the trap in the back of the truck and take him for a ride up to my friend's giant property away from any chicken coops.

My husband gets home at 4:00 a.m. after work. I had told him I caught that raccoon and he goes and looks and there it is, in the trap still in the run. (I had moved all the chickens to the silkies coop before setting the trap to be safe) 

His truck has a carpeted bedliner and a bed cover, so he didn't want to put it in there either because it would stink up the carpet. So he decides to just wait till morning when we can unhook the hoses and get my truck out.

Can you believe that crazy raccoon ripped the entire bottom out of that trap? I went out in the morning to grab that trap and I felt like I was being punked standing there looking at an empty trap in the exact same place I left it! He ripped the metal right apart to get out!

Of course that raccoon comes back and takes the opportunity to break through a fence and rip open yet another automatic pop door on another coop! It takes all 6 of my Maran's chicks the next day in the big coop! That day we boarded the pop door up till I caught him, which took 2 weeks.

Raccoon in trap, caught in chicken coop

The only goals I had for my flocks this year was to expand the Guinea flock and the Maran flock. Clearly that didn't happen!

I had actually bought those guineas from Tractor Supply which I never do, but I did it this time because I needed new genetics in my Guinea flock. Oh and right after I got them as day old babies, a silkie hen was raising them and she managed to just lose one! It was just gone. I've never found it. Super weird for a silkie hen as they are excellent mamas!

By the time that raccoon came along though those 3 guineas that were left were almost full size. I only found one, but there were feathers in a trail down into the woods so who knows where he went with them.

It will forever baffle me as to why this raccoon went after the guineas who fly around like a bunch of idiots, when the silkie hens were all sitting on the floor trying to hatch eggs. I count myself lucky that he didn't just keep coming back all night picking off silkies though!

I had surgery in early May, so I hadn't really been keeping up on exactly where the guineas are putting their nests in the woods. That was totally my fault, I just didn't have it in me to follow them and walk acres upon acres looking for nests. So in the middle of May a guinea disappeared. I'm assuming she was sitting on a nest somewhere, but because I was in no shape to go searching through downed trees and brush, I never did find her.

Two adult guinea fowl randomly die. They weren't terribly old as far as guineas go, but it's still sad when it happens. I think they were 5 years old. The flock is now down to 6, when a fisher cat takes one from the middle of the yard in broad daylight!

I'm really feeling like I can't catch a break at this point! I mean, we've lived here for 12 years and never even seen a fisher till now! We have cameras on the outside of the house though, and I replayed the footage and saw him. 

Fisher cat in woods by chicken coop

Early in the year I saved the trail cam images without actually looking at them. Once I had some time to go through them I found this picture of a fisher in the woods right behind the coop.  

Incubation problems

So after the raccoon problem is all sorted out and he's gone for good, I find somebody in one of my groups online and she has some guinea keets so I go and I get a few from her. They're doing really well so at least that's good!

She asked me if I wanted some eggs to hatch too and I took a dozen of those home with me and stuck them in my incubator. This is where tragedy strikes again! I have no idea why, but my cat knocked the incubator down! Nothing was cheeping in the incubator, there was nothing that should have attracted her to it and the cats never messed with it before. But my Bengal climbed the shelf and pulled the incubator over.

The incubator I was using at this point was just a small Brinsea that had maybe 20 eggs in it. When she pulled it down the eggs broke all over every shelf underneath as it fell! Not only did half the eggs break and pour everywhere, but the others were un-reparably damaged!

I didn't even get one keet out of that dozen eggs and I had to scrub the carpet. *sigh* This was just the icing on the proverbial cake though as I had been trying to hatch guinea eggs from my own flock for months and only about 10% of them made it and they all failed to thrive.

There was a broken power supply on a different incubator that was at fault for some of those eggs that didn't hatch, which is the reason why I had switched to the small Brinsea at this point, but the failure to thrive was the whole reason I wanted to add new genetics to my flocks.

There were also a couple of odd little things that happened. Random stuff, like a waterer broke in the middle of the night and the next day I wake up and go out to the coop and there's just a wet, smelly mess all over the floor. I bought a bag of feed that was pretty much just crumbs and mold. Luckily the feed store always takes that back and gives you a new one, but it was just one more thing to deal with.

Those are the kinds of things that happen all the time when keeping chickens and normally they would be no big deal. However, with the year going as it had been these problems felt a lot bigger than they actually were!

Then there were the broody silkies who all hatched babies at the same time. This isn't odd for hens to go broody one right after another, especially silkies! At first, it seemed to be going great! Five hens had about 20 chicks and it appeared they were doing great and then 5 died in 24 hours. I took them all away from the mommas (who threw a huge fit!) and they did great after that. All grew up healthy!

But wait...there's more!

Starting with unhealthy chicks

My husband decides to buy me 7 guinea keets from Rural King. He literally never buys me critters so you know it must be rough if he's buying them! I pick out 4 different colors and they were the cutest things ever! I get them all settled in the brooder and check them before bed, everyone is great.

7 different colored guinea fowl keets

The next morning one is dead. The following day one more dies. I started treating for coccidiosis after the first one because I saw a tinge of red in some poop in the brooder. There were no other signs, but as far as I know RK does not feed medicated chick starter. This continues till I only have three left and one of them has weird feet that started curling inwards.

The one with the weird feet keeps getting worse no matter what I did to try to fix them. I did get one foot back to normal, but at that point she started walking on that elbow! This caused the other leg to splay out and then she was walking on both elbows and using a wing for balance. At some point you realize if a bird is not going to get better and since this particular guinea was bruising her wing using it, I figured the fair thing to do was to cull her. I cried.

That leaves me with 2 almost grown guineas, both royal purple colored. I had moved them to a cage in the guinea coop a few weeks prior and they really wanted out! So I started giving them supervised playtime to try to integrate them into the flock. It was going well till one day at lock up the larger one was on the run roof. I got everyone else in the coop then got her to come down and the dog chased her!

We have an Australian Shepherd that we got from a rescue when he was 8 months old named Ruger. We've been working with him on his chicken manners for a little over a year and he was doing pretty good. Unfortunately on that night I think it was a combination of the dark and the guinea running (who is royal purple so at dusk just looked like a dark blob running in the woods) that he ran after her. 

It also happened to be the exact spot the wild rabbits always are and of course the dog is always looking for them! So the guinea ran into the woods and Ruger runs after her. They happen to be timbering ours and the neighbors properties so there were downed tree tops everywhere! Literally hundreds of places to hide!

I grabbed the flashlight, put the dog in the house and looked for over an hour. Then I went back and got the thermal camera and looked another hour. Went back inside for an hour or so and then woke my husband up to help (he works nights so was still sleeping at 5 when this started) and came back out to look again using both the flashlights and the thermal camera. 

We gave up around midnight because a freezing rainstorm was starting. Went out again at dawn and finally found her, but sadly something else had found her first. 

Out of the 7 guinea keets we purchased, I have one left. I call her baby. Not actually sure if it's a female or not, but my luck...not. Some guinea are bullies and the biggest bullies I ever had were all royal purple males. At this point that just going to be par for the course if it ends up being male!

Luckily, Baby made a friend! She pals around with a pied guinea which is a relief to see since she was joining the flock alone. It can be kind of rough sometimes.

Royal purple juvenile Guinea fowl joining the flock of guinea fowl.

If you're counting that's 4 guineas that I managed to add to the flock. It might be enough to fix the genetic issues, but I still need to add more this year! Didn't manage to add any Marans though.

To add to the problems, there is a hawk that's been terrorizing my silkies and managed to get 4 over the course of 2 months! This thing is smart as a whip so I'm at my wits end! 

It's ducked under a fence that had been pulled up a little from freezing/thawing. It's ripped through bird netting on top of the run. It's waltzed right into the coop and sat there eating a hen then flew past my head when I opened the other door and startled it! He's just not afraid of me and crafty as hell! 

It doesn't help that I'm not allowed to trap or otherwise get rid of him. He seems to have lost interest the last few weeks and I think it's a combination of not letting the silkies out unless I'm literally right there and the timbering in the woods. I won't let my guard down though, because that is exactly when a predator comes back!

There were also 2 silkies that died of probably old age as they were both close to 10 years old. Don't get me wrong, I'm very grateful they lived that long! The timing was just horrible! 

Related reading: How long do chickens live?

Bouncing back from tragedy

As you can see, it was just one bad thing after another last year. I haven't had this many problems since 2019! When everything goes wrong it's really easy to tell yourself "I'm done! That's it, I can't do this anymore! I give up!" Or worse, to feel like it's all your fault when something bad happens. 

Yes, we're only human we do make mistakes. Sometimes though, you can do everything right and along comes a predator that's smarter or more determined than most.

I think no matter how well taken care of a flock of chickens is, accidents always happen, predators are always trying to find a way and chicken keeping has a way of going bad all at once. I blame myself for not being able to keep on top of things as well after surgery but a few of the incidents were completely out of my control.

All we can do is to learn from our mistakes and to keep moving forward, taking care of the flocks the best we can. I just wanted you to know that these kinds of things happen to all of us. I always thought I'd eventually get to a point where nothing goes wrong because I know how to handle all the problems...but I learned that it doesn't work that way. 

It was a really rough year, but I learned a lot and that knowledge will keep the chickens safer in the future!


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  1. Thank you so much for this article. I needed to read this. Thanks again!!