Jumping mouse, lethal chicken

Babycakes makes her first kill

Babycakes sifting through leaf litter, looking for edible morsels like mice!

Babycakes sifting through leaf litter, looking for edible morsels like mice!

I just witnessed my little ‘Babycakes’ kill, and begin to devour, a mouse. As she was scratching at some leaf mould in the garden, a mouse suddenly jumped out from under a leaf; she grabbed it by the back of the head, shook it, stomped on it, shook some more, stomped some more, until it was a twitching wet lump. Who knew that chickens were predators? Until this moment, I had not thought of them in those terms. Now, I will have to seriously reconsider whether or not I need a barn cat!

Babycakes is a young chicken that I incubated and raised this spring. She was one of two eggs to hatch–and the only one to survive the first two days–of a batch of 42 eggs (it turned out there were very few fertilized eggs in the clutch). She hatched early, late one Friday night when I was not expecting the eggs to begin until Saturday at the earliest. Needless to say, I was incredibly disappointed in the hatch rate and, at first, resented the work ahead of me for ‘just one chicken’. However, she was a stroppy little creature and I admired her determination to survive from the beginning. I got attached to her quickly; this happens when you have to hand-raise a solitary baby.

Babycakes hunting down grubs in an old stump.

Babycakes hunting down grubs in an old stump.

When a wee creature spends its first days of life nestled inside your bra keeping warm–thanks to poorly timed power outages–you can’t help but bond with it!

The first couple of months were more or less a solitary confinement situation for her (apart from the time spent down my bra), because I didn’t have any other baby chicken at the time to socialize her with. She spent her formative months in the garage: first in a box and then in a small ‘transition house’. Her only socializing was with me when I came to feed and water her, or just plain talk and pay attention to her. She was a chatty little thing, so often I did more listening than talking.

It wasn’t long before her name just slipped out of my mouth one night while addressing my husband: ‘So, did you check on Babycakes when you closed up the garage?’ This is how animals are named on my farm. I don’t set out to do it, but sometimes it just happens.  With a name, Babycakes will likely live out her days on the farm until she dies of old age, or meets some otherwise unpreventable demise.

This is the closest I can get to Babycakes, and she won't stand still for the camera!

This is the closest I can get to Babycakes, and she won't stand still for the camera!

Once she got big enough to move into the chicken shed with the others, she revealed an independent spirit and maintained a separate existence from the other chickens: she roosted on the watering can instead of the roosts with the others, ran towards my gumboots  asking to be picked up whenever I entered the paddock, and generally chirped her little head off throughout the day.

She still roosts on the watering can even though she is now nearly 5 months old, but no longer feels the need to take comfort in my gumboots. She has come into her own.

She is a pretty chicken but very camera shy. I tried to get a nice shot of her a few days ago, and again today with her grand prize in her beak, but she won’t have it. One day when I do get a nicer shot, I will put it up.

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9 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Chickens, Sustainable Farming

9 responses to “Jumping mouse, lethal chicken

  1. Here’s that recipe for Elderflower Champagne you wanted. What a wonderful blog – one day when I have lots of time I must read through it!

    http://hedgewizardsdiary.blogspot.com/2007/06/flowery-prose.html

  2. Now *that* is a good looking bird. I can’t believe you saw her maul a mouse. Who knew? I imagine her, with that curious face, thinking, “Hmm. What’s this? Maybe I’ll peck it.”

    Thanks for the note and sorry for your comment problems on my blog. (I have no idea.) I’ll head back over now and add you to my list so I can come back often!

  3. She’s a pretty bird. She’ll go after frogs, salamanders and most anything else she can catch. I was alarmed the first time I saw a hen running around with a screaming frog (ya, they scream) in her beak while being chased by a half dozen hens that also wanted the screaming frog.

  4. City Mouse,

    If you want to see my really pretty chickens, (rooster’s actually) check out the ‘chickens’ page where there are a bunch more photos and much more photogenic birds:

    https://howlingduckranch.wordpress.com/the-provisions-project/poultry/chickens/

  5. Cool! I love when my chickens catch a nice bit of protein. It makes me laugh (in a sad sort of way) that folks think chickens need to eat only vegetarian feed and cows can eat recycled animal parts. Makes you go, ‘hhmmm?’

  6. Yep, hmmmmmm indeed. Especially, since I’ve recently learned that it is ILLEGAL to give kitchen scraps to chickens in the UK. Can you imagine? I don’t get it. As you say, all from the powers that be who allowed cows to be fed ground up cows (and worse). It is a matter of the ‘powers that be’ (whoever they are) using so called ‘public health’ as a scare-mongering tactic to pass laws that benefit the larger corporations and put the smaller farms out of business. It is a crazy world we’re now living in.

  7. Robin–sounds like ‘screaming frog’ would be a good title for something, like a blog, or an English pub. Yes, meet you at the Screaming Frog for a pint!

  8. carrie z

    I am looking into feeding chickens meat scraps and found your article. I totally agree that chickens will eat and obviously hunt for protein sources like mice, frogs, etc. but I can equally understand that feeding chickens leftover meat scraps is not only distasteful, but totally unnatural. It is one thing for a hen to eat a frog that she caught; a whole other thing to feed her pork from a pig she never could have caught… or beef for that matter. I feel better feeding my hens food that had they been out free-ranging they would have a fair chance catching/digging up themselves… I think of that when I consider animal by-products in my flock’s feed.

    • Hello Carrie,

      I totally agree with you about being wary of what kind of feed you buy! Much of it is of questionable merit and I always ask for an ingredient list. In addition, I try to keep feed that they enjoy and learn their tastes by providing them with a few options and discarding the foods they don’t eat with relish (for example, none of my chickens would touch the laying pellets I bought in this spring even though the list of ingredients were acceptable to my eye). So, I’m now feeing them a variety of grains only and all the access to pasture they want.

      Having said all that, I wouldn’t hesitate to feed my chickens table scraps and have done so on many occasion. When I can fish, they get all the scraps and access to the bones. For one thing, that is part of the farming cycle and closing the circle–anything you bring in should stay inside the cycle. For another, chickens, being native to Malaysia and South East Asia in general, would have access to wild boar. So, it is quite likely that in the wild you chickens would eat wild boar carrion. I have seen free range chickens make short order of a dead possum in New Zealand as well as road kill rabbits and squirrels here. So, while we think about them killing frogs and mice and other little creatures, rest assured they will devour anything they get access to–I’ve even had them kill and cannibalize each other (which believe me, gave me pause). What we think of as ‘natural’ is not necessarily in keeping with what they consider natural and they do need access to good protein. Of course, like any animal, they also need a variety in their diet to stay healthy and feeding too much cooked food would likely make them sick. But, if you have the odd scrap of meat from the table and don’t have a dog or cat, I would let it go to the chickens before I would throwing it out as waste.

      cheers,

      HDR

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