I killed my chickens! As you all may or may not know, in an effort to deal with small hive beetle, my chickens live peaceably with my bees, all fenced in by chain link fence in a run 9 X 50. Up until today, that is.
On Inspection yesterday, I found a laying worker hive. I've done this before and, although it's a drag, I wasn't worried about it. Had it all planned out how I was going to do it. . .I would remove the hive down to the bottom board and immediately replace it with a box of comb, so that returning foragers would find their home when they got there (last time I did this, there was a pile of bees waiting for me to get back with the box!), then I would take the hive over to the other lot (500 ft away) to remove the bees so that the girls--all except the laying workers--would fly back home. Tonight I'd close up the entrance and then tomorrow, I would do a paper combine of these bees with another colony (a recent split) that has a good laying queen but is small in number (about 15,000). Sounds logical, no?
Now to the meat of the matter. . .I did not smoke them because (1) I didn't smoke them last time and all went well, rationale being if you smoke them, they go into the honey cells and start gorging and it's difficult to get them out, and (2) I was moving the entire hive except for the bottom board, and wouldn't be disturbing them to any extend. Boy, was I wrong! The bees went into a frenzy and pelted me all the way to the other side of the property. I decided to go back and get my smoker before evicting them. When I got back to the apiary, I saw chickens laying all over the place and others running in a frenzy. They were covered with bees all over their eyes and wattles! hock: I retrieved all of them, tossing them in the coop and closing the door. Once they were all in, I went into the coop--which, of course by now was also full of bees--and started retrieving chickens, three at a time, and carrying them to my garden shed. Once they were all in the shed, I went back out to open all the doors on the coop so the bees would leave and I noticed that all of the hives were in turmoil!!! That colony must have thrown out some pretty strong alarm pheromone!
So now the chickens are in the garden shed. Three of the eight have died so far and I have one questionable. The other four look okay. . .so far. . .maybe the venom's just taking a little longer on them; I don't know. I removed as many stingers as I could. . .it's not easy. . .but I really wanted to get the stingers out and away from their eyes especially! I feel like a murderer.
So, lessons learned: (1) next time, SMOKE!! and (2) from now on, put the chickens in the coop before working the bees *I never have before and there's never been a problem, but. . .).