We had a casualty every few days, from causes unknown, but most likely from the heat. There wasn't much we could do about that. Son tried adding ice packs and frozen water bottles to the water bucket and around the cage to provide a slight chilling affect. He rotated the cage under the shade of trees as much as possible.
It was around week three or four, when a small pack of wild dogs starting causing trouble around our property. They were spotted on several occasions out in the pastures, near the woods, near the goats, and around the baby calves, usually around dusk. We did our best to run them off and discourage them, but they seemed determined to roam around and through our property. Several times we managed to shoot a few rounds in their direction.
Most likely, the dogs had started out as friendly domestic dogs that were unwanted and had been dumped off in the area. Over time, stray dogs gravitate towards each other, all desperately searching for food and water, and eventually the wild pack behavior is developed.
So it probably should have been expected that they would eventually find their way closer to the house and discover the cage of tender little chicks.
Every so often, Son would find a clump of feathers or a dead chick either inside or outside the coop. We guessed a predator or the wild dogs had snapped at them through the chicken wire, sometime in the night.
But early one morning around week seven, two of the wild dogs managed to get inside the coop somehow by gnawing and tearing away at the edges of the chicken wire. Once inside they went on a crazy killing spree. By the time Son could get out there with the rifle, most of the chickens were dead. He did manage to kill one of the dogs still inside the coop, and later tracked down the other one that had been injured.
Even though about 10 chicks somehow managed to survive, they never really recovered from the shock of the dog attack. A few eventually died. By week nine when it was processing time, there were seven chicks remaining. Five were a good size, and two were small, possibly females and naturally smaller.
We already had most of the processing equipment, having purchased it several years ago before we knew the difference between layers and broilers. The equipment includes killing cones, a large scalding pot, a large propane burner, and an electric plucker. The one essential thing we didn't really have was a good sharp knife.
I had made it clear from the beginning that I did not want to participate in the harvesting process. After all, he had read the book and watched all the videos. But when the time came he needed help, and I was the only one at home. He gathered all the equipment and set up most of it under the shade of an oak tree. He nailed the killing cones to the tree, set up the scalding pot on the gravel driveway, plugged in the plucker near the house, and set up a table in the shade. He had bought several bags of ice in town and used tubs for the chilling process. He did all the processing by himself, so I didn't have to help with that. My main contribution was moral support and also helping to set up the equipment that had never been used.
Once the chickens were cleaned and dressed, they were left in ice water for 3-4 hours to chill. Then they were put in plastic bags and put in the freezer. We later discovered that the best method is to chill the chicken for two days before freezing which should make the meat more tender. The average dressed weight was about 4 pounds. We have enough to taste test, at least.
Son is undeterred by the setback, and has already ordered more chicks for a fall batch of pastured chickens. He will repair the cage and attempt to make it more secure and safe from predators. He is researching ways to protect and guard the cage. We will also avoid a summer batch, and instead focus on fall and spring time.
The wild dog attack
The few survivors