Sunday, July 5, 2009

back from vacation

Just in from a three-day vacation in Pennsylvania with the dogs. I was visiting my folks, and away from the farm since Friday morning. Thanks to the help of my amazing neighbors I was able to leave knowing the animals would be taken care of in my absence. It takes a village. It really does.

I had a wonderful time in Palmerton, but when I returned to Cold Antler I discovered my duck and another rooster (Sussex, my favorite, pictured above) had been swiped by the predator. This has me rather concerned since the animal taking my flock seems to come while I'm at work (not in the dead of the night). I am researching my options, but does anyone have any advice for a free-range flock? Is there something I can buy and spray, like a deterrent?

I've never had this sort of problem with birds before. Certainly not in broad daylight. And while I have no qualms shooting a fox or fisher if I catch one around the place—catching such an animal seems nearly impossible since it's happening while I'm earning my paycheck...

25 Comments:

Blogger info said...

Ambush.

Saturday or next day off play possum, keep the dogs inside. Be ready. When predator shows . . . terminate.

t

July 5, 2009 at 9:01 PM  
Anonymous sylvia said...

Just feathers or were there chicken pieces and parts? Or no feathers at all?
http://ohioline.osu.edu/vme-fact/0022.html has a great depiction of chicken predators and how the remains will look after the kill. One of the ones they leave out -- humans. I actually had to run a weirdo neighbor out of my backyard one day. He hopped over the 6 foot fence, claiming that he saw a coyote run (in the middle of the day) and he was chasing it. With a big canvas bag and my chicken net. HMMMMM. Don't think so.
I also use a humane trap since our predator was a raccoon. I periodically set it out, with bait. Occassionally, I'll catch an oppossum. 3 times I caught big, huge raccoons. All of these animals have been hauled up to the lake and released. Here lately, I've caught nothing. Which I take to be a good sign of wildlife management.
Good luck. I have cried my fair share of tears over dead or missing birds.

July 5, 2009 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

We've had problems lately with raccoons, and they've been coming out in the daytime, which we thought was unusual. Also, coyotes hunt in the early morning and early evening (at least around here), so depending on what times you leave and return, it could be that. We let ours free range every day, shoot or deter any predators we catch in the act (and sometime we do wait up nights for them) and accept that we will have losses. We have lost quite a few, and that's even with me being home all day - you can't watch them all the time even when you're there. That said, our birds will all eventually be eaten by us, so even though we enjoy them a lot, we don't get too attached.

This might be helpful - it's to trap fox, but can be used for coyote also (and maybe raccoon, who knows?).
http://backyardchickens.yuku.com/topic/3962/t/The-HAY-SET-step-by-step-for-easy-fox-trapping.html

One more note - we recently had raccoons causing havoc in our barn. We couldn't shoot them because, well, we couldn't shoot safely inside the barn. We got a Great Pyrenees shortly after that to watch over our goats, and presto - NO MORE RACCOONS. Or anything else for that matter. Sometimes the young ones kill chickens for sport (they are dogs, after all and haven't learned better) but most don't seem to bother with them, because they're not a threat.

July 5, 2009 at 9:34 PM  
Blogger Rois said...

Have you looked around for foot prints of any kind? Finding some might give you a clue as to where/ how to start.
I liked the ambush idea.

Rois

July 5, 2009 at 9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try using electric poultry netting from Premier1 Supplies. I've had very good luck with it so far with my free range chickens. . .

July 5, 2009 at 9:50 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

We use the poulty netting electric fence. It is about 43" high and seems to work well. It allows the chickens to run about all day, without wandering into the road (which is my greatest worry)It also keeps out the preds.

My guess would be it was a coyote, or coy-dog. We use to have a pack of coy-dogs near the farm I grew up on, and they would take out calves if they were born in the field after dark.

July 5, 2009 at 10:42 PM  
Blogger Tami SouthStreetShabby.blogspot.com said...

Other than to set up a camera while you're away...I got nothin'... I am sorry though...I grew up with small animals and we lost them occassionaly.

July 5, 2009 at 10:43 PM  
Anonymous Lynnanne said...

Hey Jenna,
Around here (Indiana), coyote can be seen any time of the day, raccoons too, as many animals are feeding young now.

I've read where if you have dark colors of chickens (opposed to white) it helps somewhat, especially when it comes to birds of prey. Those white birds stick out like sore thumbs.

My neighbors had problems with mink raiding their chicken house and going after the chickens. You are close to a creek, yes?

Just a head's up, if it is a hawk, or any other bird of prey (including the buzzard / turkey vulture), it is against federal law to shoot or injure these birds (or any other bird for that matter with exception of european starling and house sparrow -- a little off topic as they couldn't hurt your birds). This law applies to the U.S. and I believe Canada... it falls under the Migratory Bird Act.

Good luck, and I'd look for some mink tracks. You might also try to fence them in for a while (including the top, in case it's a hawk), and put them up at night, until the hungry one gets fed up and wanders elsewhere.

July 5, 2009 at 11:14 PM  
Blogger djp said...

I'm just a city girl, but the electric fence sounds like a good idea. And do keep an eye out for hawks... Free range birds in Europe are fenced in from above to diminish the risk of contact with wild fowl that can carry avian flu, but it would be effective against avian predators too.

July 5, 2009 at 11:24 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

Lynnanne makes a really good point. When we're having predator problems, we do tend to keep our birds closed up, if only temporarily. They'll be fine, and sometimes just taking them out of the equation for a few days might make an animal give up and move on. It seems to me that ALL predators, given the choice, will go for the easy food first.

July 5, 2009 at 11:34 PM  
Anonymous Annie said...

I have lost lots of chickens over the years I've been keeping them. I think the options are
1) leave the dogs out during the day to protect the flock (unless they'll eat them)
2) keep the flock locked up in a chicken wire run. We have ours in the run most of the early day and let them out in the afternoon after they've laid their eggs. We made the run with upright 4x4s sunk in concrete, chicken wire stapled around to a height of about 6'. The top has hog wire topped by chicken wire. At night they are locked in a predator proof house.

The first year we lost 4 or 5 to foxes. The second year we lost a bunch, including half a dozen babies, to weasels or something small enough to get through chain link fencing and rip their throats out. So far we haven't lost any more to predators now that we have good housing and big dogs roaming the area.

July 6, 2009 at 12:37 AM  
Blogger David Shearer said...

Jenna,
Coyotes are opportunists and will hunt whenever it suits them. Usually, but not always, night. I have seen coyotes out in the middle of the day in downtown Los Angeles, of all places! I learned to accept predator losses as a cost of doing business with free range poultry. But you do what you can to limit losses. Humane traps have had little effect for me. A 12 gauge shotgun and a lot of patience has worked better, but it scares the shit out of my birds! Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
David S. Shearer

July 6, 2009 at 1:40 AM  
Blogger Patsy said...

Since it is happening during the day, sure sounds like a hawk to me. I live in a small town and there was a hawk across the street that even took my neighbor's kittens. It would sit up in the tree and wait. It came after the squirrels too.

July 6, 2009 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger J and J Oxrieder said...

Spray Deterrent:

I know you wanted something to spray to discourage any predator animals, I found this:

http://www.critter-repellent.com/raccoon/racoon-control.php

It works for all kinds of small ground predators (even deer) and might work for what you are experiencing. Although if it is a hawk I doubt this will do it.

Good luck! And sorry about Sussex he was a beautiful rooster!

July 6, 2009 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Eleanor said...

Two ideas: If you have coyotes in VT, they LOVE fowl. (I know this because my cousin in TN has lost several roosters to the varmits.) Once solution is to get a hound dog who is protective of it's property or a great pyrennes. Also, llamas are VERY protective of any animal which they consider "part of the herd" and will rare on its back legs and pummelto death the offender with it's front hoofs.

July 6, 2009 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

i'm from pa...i'm missing the laurel highlands lately. hope you had a great trip:)

July 6, 2009 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger SusLynn said...

How about getting a critter to chase away anything that comes your way? Maybe a llama? And as a bonus, it can be trained as a pack animal and will give wool too. I don't know if they take to chickens but they love sheep and goats.

http://www.nhlama.org/NHLA/NHLA.ILA.asp?code=3

July 6, 2009 at 12:33 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

this advice is great, but I can't get another animal or a llama to roam the neighborhood freely while I'm at work...guardian animals are out.

July 6, 2009 at 12:34 PM  
Anonymous René said...

I agree that identifying the type of predator should be the first step. Do you have a video camera you can set up to run during the day? Maybe a coworker can loan you one? Keep the birds in during the day and see what comes around the run looking for a quick meal. Even a cheap webcam might work with the right software. You should also check the area for unusual animal prints that might give you a clue. With the birds put up for a few days it might just give up and move on.

July 6, 2009 at 12:39 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

Stay home quietly. Maybe even park your vehicle up the road or something. That critter might be pretty smart. Once you know what you have then you can make plans.

July 6, 2009 at 4:49 PM  
Blogger Tami SouthStreetShabby.blogspot.com said...

I have to say, although this is a somber and serious topic, David Shearer cracked me up about scaring his birds. :-) Patsy mentioned a hawk stalking small animals. Some other birds do too. My neighbor was just telling me the other day about a crow following a couple of geese and goslings across his yard and when nobody (the geese) was looking he nabbed one! Well, needless to say the goose heard the commotion and stormed off after the crow, the gosling was too heavy and the crow dropped it. He did try again, but the goose chased him a way! This all happened while Mark was sitting in his truck after pulling into the driveway...in about 3 minutes. I realize this isn't what's happening to you, but I thought it was kind of an interesting story.

July 6, 2009 at 6:52 PM  
Blogger finsandfeathers said...

"Finn, this is your Uncle Larry the Llama from Jersey. He's gonna help out with the problems we've been having...."

The Guardian Llama cracked me up. :)

We lost a few chickens too but our chicken abducter worked under the cover of darkness. The predator got away fast and left no clues and no feathers. My vote is for a fox or cyote. Maybe a bobcat?

July 6, 2009 at 8:18 PM  
Blogger silverilex said...

Try human hair (from a barber or hairdressers) in old panty hose tied around various parts of your fences. Renew every week or two. Possibly dog hair from grooming brush to mix in. Also, human urine, especially men's, around the perimeter, again has to be renewed frequently :-S. Rat shot in a shotgun stings but does little damange if you don't want to kill the animal. Llamas are supposed to be good guard animals too.

July 7, 2009 at 6:27 AM  
Blogger Gretel & Steve Adams said...

maybe a hawk, we have that problem here. we give our chickens plenty of protection by giving keeping them close to trees or other structures. also racoons sometimes come out during the day as well.
www.oursunnymeadows.com

July 7, 2009 at 10:35 AM  
Anonymous Brenda Campbell said...

Love your writing, your story of the fox reminds of the one that I read to my girls when they were little. Great stories.

July 8, 2009 at 6:54 AM  

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