Tag Archives: predators

The killer has pointy ears

I came face to face with Inky’s killer today.  I saw the rounded brown form lope into the brush as I came by the greenhouse to check on the pigs.  I thought it was a raccoon because it was slow and lazy getting out of sight.

To be sure, I snuck up for a closer look.  It moved.  I moved.  It wasn’t in much of a hurry.  I found it, camouflaged in the underbrush.  A bobcat.   Sitting front feet together like a cultured cat, head forward, round face a little sad looking, like wild cats’ faces look. It boldly stared back at me, less than 20′ away.  We stared.

That’s who got Inky.  And Mayo in September, and two hours before closing the last of the birds into the greenhouse, Philippe Petit.

Losing PP was not the tragedy you might think.  It was a decision made for me.  He was good, but he wasn’t a five star rooster, and he saw Silkie hens as hens, and tried to mate them.  That is a terrible trait I don’t like to see in full sized roosters.  It’s awful to see that big blimp trying to climb on a little bitty fur hen.  A good big rooster sees the Silkie hens differently, not as sexual prey.

Usually the little hens are too fast, a Silkie rooster comes streaking in to set things to right,  or they are segregated, so it’s an occasional problem, but it’s not a problem that should exist.   On the other hand, Cheeks and Puffcheeks were in love with PP, so culling him was not a decision I was looking forward to making.  The bobcat made it for me.

I’m so glad to be able to have all my birds in the greenhouse, and to have got them in early this year.   If I’m doing the best I can to protect them, and there’s still losses,  then I have to accept that and be glad I can protect as many as I can.  I’m not over Inky though.

Zero loss is an unrealistic notion – risk is the other side of the coin from the reward of free range freedom, but I’m not going to do what Harvey Ussery calls “feeding the foxes”.   They can’t be free range all the time – that’s not realistic either for the place we live.  I’d have to replace my flock every year after they were polished off by predators that came for the buffet.  It takes a lot of work to raise up a little chicken to adulthood (ask their moms), work you don’t see when you can just buy them at the store.  So I make an effort to keep them adequately entertained and comfortable inside all winter.  It isn’t that hard.  Their physical needs are easy; keeping them entertained is a little harder.

 

 

 

 

Predator pressure

The gang’s all here.You put these here for us, right?  We needed a grooming station.

The gang’s not really all there.  A few of them are trapped in the greenhouse with the Silkie moms and their chicks today, because I was worried.  Things are going to change.  I have to get the birds under cover for their own safety, asap, and it’s going to be hard.

Yesterday I got out of my car to a bald eagle hovering overhead.  We looked at each other, I told him to leave, and he tipped and banked towards the greenhouse.

I went over there.  All the birds were hunkered, still and  silent, under the nearest shelter they could find.  They watched me.  I watched the death raptor, circling low over us, beaky head taking everything in.  The eagle and I stared each other down, me standing in the middle of hen land, with a big stick that would be next to useless (a javelin?), daring him to try it.   He conceded and left, but I have  a feeling he’ll check back later.  I have to get everyone moved in, and they’re not going to be thrilled about it.

 

No more Inky

 Inky is gone.  She wasn’t in her tree and I searched, and  found a half dozen black and iridescent green feathers. I’m heartbroken, and I’ve already been having a hard few weeks.  I want to get out of chickens, because it hurts too much.  I can’t protect them 100% and let them range.  It’s captivity, or risk.  It’s not fair though, it’s like they know which are my favorites, and get the special ones first.  Inky!   In the evening now I’m opening up the greenhouse adjunct garden, where only some root veggies remain, so that they will go in there for the last hour before bedtime and maybe be a little more protected from snatching by the fence.  The guineas were so excited about this access that they stayed out extra late.  In fact, they all went up to roost twice and came back down and  ran back out for some more rummaging.   This one still in the greenhouse:Where’d everyone go?  I thought we were going to bed.

Keet bedtime

The guinea family is admitted to the greenhouse as early as 6:30, and usually by seven.  They go to bed much earlier than the chickens. Galahad watches for my appearance, and they scamper in as soon as I open the door.Bedtime begins with some last foraging for a snack and a familiarizing walk around the greenhouse.Then they hit the ladder.  They really do use it as a ladder, hopping up a rung at a time, zigzagging, until they get to the top.Then they have to fly to the perch.  Galahad is already up there.It’s tricky, the perches swing.Then they walk along the branch, like getting off the runway.  Wings are good for balancing.      Now the rest are all gathered on the top of the laundry rack, and the ones on the branch need to get themselves organized in the order they want to be, all on the same stick.All done.  This is where we sleep.And I get to enjoy the hooting of owls:)Take a close look at Galahad’s left.  Somebody still feels needy.

The annual raccoon

Every year around this time, a raccoon wanders in and gets a little too comfortable.  I know, because I see someone’s been washing their dirty hands in the water dishes, and I have to get the trap.

The chickens weren’t quite as alarmed and fascinated as I expected, but the guinea was aghast.  He hopped back into the greenhouse to alert me, shouting.  Threat!!!  Threat!!!  Hey!  You seem to be ignoring that there’s a RACCOON out here!  He and Puffcheeks are the only birds that attempt to communicate with me, looking me in the eyes and vocalizing, like they really mean to tell me something, and giving me the benefit of the doubt that I might be capable of understanding.  The barred rocks were the most concerned, looking at it, looking at each other.

Chickens in trees

Now the snow and ice has socked the birds into the greenhouse, but in the salad days of the shoulder season when they were confined but had a yard, there were adventures.They really loved the pine tree. The Silkies loved the pine tree. And this one loved the pine tree.  She was always going a branch higher, or creeping out along the branch.And got really clever about walking along the branch out of the needles of the pine tree, to a viewpoint.I came out and found this, I’m like “What are you doing out there!?”

Oh, am I in trouble? When I made noises and gestures at her she demonstrated her side stepping skills and scuttled back down the branch to the trunk.  I was just here all along!  She’s going to grow up to be an interesting hen.  She’s clever, and not a joiner.

That explained the mystery of how hens were sometimes escaping from their yard, though.  They were getting out where the mesh didn’t enclose the tree.

Night attack

Phew!  11pm, I heard the sudden scream of a bird being killed.  My heart detonating in one beat from serene to explosive, I leapt up, yelling instantly at the top of my lungs.  The sound escalated and I burst out of the camper, running for my chickens, and pulled up short realizing the sound was coming from the opposite direction, the woods.  There was snarling and screaming. I yelled a bit more.  I wasn’t sure it was a bird anymore, but it was the chilling sound of mortal struggle.  Very close.  I grabbed a shovel and started banging it on the ground.  The apparent perpetrator moved towards me, fast, rustling, and I heard it pass our path, still snarling.  I dashed back into the camper to snatch up a headlamp and went out again with the shovel, grabbing a big steel bowl.  I made a lap around my chickens (sound asleep), banging the bowl on trees as I went along the path.  Terrifying!  I have no idea what the parties are.

Mystery thickens.  10 minutes later, noise resumes, even closer.  I go back out without yelling and ruckus seems to be taking place at altitude, in a tree.  Noise stops.  My headlight beam finds two yellow eyes a couple inches apart, 30’ up in a tree.  WTF?  I would have sworn it was moving on the ground before.  Rules out a coyote.  No idea what these thing(s) are, and I really wish H.W. were here.  Is the bird the attacker? The growler the victim? Owl and squirrel? Rabbit? That darn tabby cat?  We haven’t seen it in weeks. Possum.  Deranged porcupine.  Rare Nova Scotian monkey?

Listened from the camper and heard telltale sounds of descent and dismount from the tree.  My senses and memory (and stable heartbeat) returned: most likely it’s the beautiful and formidable marten/fisher. It all fits.  Victim unknown.  Thankfully my coops will withstand his ilk.  Then a coyote started up yelping nearby.  Apparently I’m not meant to get any sleep while H.W.’s away.  We need a dog, yesterday.