Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Murphy The Weasel and Other Jerks

It is Murphy's Law that the day after I write about sanctuary to predators the farm gets hit with a triple threat of marauding animals. Since Sunday evening there has been a large black bear on the farm, ripping open feed sacks from pushed-over metal garbage cans. A weasel chewed right into the brooder in the barn, right through the plywood and took meat bird chicks. He left the tell-tale toothmarks and limp bodies, happy to have his vampire feast of blood and left the carcasses to rot. And last night something took my oldest hen, Zombie Chicken, and I saw the feather mess this morning. This all hit within a 30-hour period! Holy Crow, some times this ride needs seat belts.

So what to do?

Well the first thing I am doing is setting up some havahart traps around the barn, where I am fairly certain the culprit of Mr. Raccoon or Mr. Fisher Cat will appear. All the chicks in the brooder have been removed to greener pastures (literally) and are now outside in chicken tractors away from the scene of the crime. I set a baited trap inside the brooder as well, hoping that a repeat performance will occur and I'll find my critters.

Besides that, there isn't much else to be done. I find that once a year a wave like this happens. As a rule I always purchase a third more poultry than I need, expecting to lose some to the inevitable ariel and woodland predators that come with an entirely free range life. Some birds end up feeding the wildlife, but not many. These chicks and this hen are the first of this year. I had lost birds in that same brooder before but that was inside the house with a rat who came from under the porch and chewed into another (patched) spot in the wood and dragged the chicks out so in the morning there was no evidence of the crime in the form of body count. Just a handful of chicks where forty had been the night before.

Farming in the forest is a lot like playing chess. My move now.

This has been going around, at least around here. Friends with farms have lost as many as a dozen birds in a night (raccoons). A gal I sold a half dozen birds to last spring lost four in one rough night because they flew over the four-foot electric fencing and roosted in low branches instead of the coop. At the feed store the other day I bought the last large havahart trap in stock, the clerk told me they were also almost out of poison as well. Yikes…. we are under attack!

So, those of you also raising chickens, chicks, geese, ducks, and rabbits. All of you with small livestock out there. Do you expect to lose a few animals to predators? Have you lost any this year?


Blogger Tasha Raymond said...

We've lost three hens to a fox. We've had no luck catching the bugger, either. It's been a month since we've set the trap and the only thing that we've caught is a skunk - the same skunk - twice.

Our ladies are now stuck in a run unless both my husband and I are home and outside. It's hard, but we have a small enough flock that losing three has made a huge dent.

June 24, 2014 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Deltaville Jamie said...

I've lost some chickens to fox and hawks over the last couple of years, but nothing as exciting as a bear. Haven't seen the fox lately, most likely due to me chasing it at 6am in a hot pink tshirt, lime green shorts and a pair of nasty blue crocs waving a pitchfork and screaming. Chased is nearly to the back of the 6.5 acres. True story.

June 24, 2014 at 3:14 PM  
Blogger kuber... said...

I saw a big ol' fox sniffing around our henhouse just after dusk the other night. I too, wearing Crocs, ran out screaming, and since then there's been a box of chickens in our bathroom every night, until we can fortify the henhouse. Sigh. They're so persistent, foxes.
Another danger to chooks around here (Brisbane, Australia) is carpet pythons, but I'm yet to see one. I know they're around, though.

June 24, 2014 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger The Morrissey said...

We've lost two hens in 4 years, both to a hawk, the neighbors lost their entire flock plus 4 turkeys in a weekend to raccoons I suspect. You could hit their coop from ours with a well thrown rock so I think we got lucky. And Waffles the terrier is very aware of what goes on in HER yard so I'm sure that helps.

June 24, 2014 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Helena said...

So far this year I lost my two favorite hens to a raccoon and bobcat, respectively, and last week lost another to a hawk. Then there was the one that escaped into the woods, never to be seen again. We're down to 3 hens and a rooster. Just bought our first-ever batch of chicks last week to try to raise the next generation of layers--here's hoping we've got the predators under control, though there's not much we can do about the hawks.

June 24, 2014 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Helena said...

So far this year I lost my two favorite hens to a raccoon and bobcat, respectively, and last week lost another to a hawk. Then there was the one that escaped into the woods, never to be seen again. We're down to 3 hens and a rooster. Just bought our first-ever batch of chicks last week to try to raise the next generation of layers--here's hoping we've got the predators under control, though there's not much we can do about the hawks.

June 24, 2014 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger live pura vida said...

I don't raise animals, but one extra large groundhog has found a way under the solid wood fence and reinforced brick barrier of my garden to eat the leaves off of every single one of my cruciferous veggie plants. I've used diluted peppermint Dr. Bronner's sprayed directly on the plants and dog hair to deter the nibbling. Next up is getting a bottle of red fox urine around the perimeter of the garden.

June 24, 2014 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger Controlled Jibe said...

We've lost 2 ducks and a chicken to racoons and 1 duck to an eagle. Sigh. I suppose this is the downside of having free ranging girls. We do all we can to keep them safe, but sometimes the wild critters prevail. We try to console ourselves that they have to feed their families too...but often they don't even eat much of the birds! Frustrating.

June 24, 2014 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger Ohiofarmgirl said...

"...and other jerks." ha! yep. for us it's the stupid rats. we finally got rid of the foxes with dog patrols, strategic pig placement, and good fencing... but the rats have us vexed. our two best hunting dogs have them on the run and our best assassin (our barncat) regularly brings me nice fat rats too. it's so frustrating. you can do everything right but you still have losses. :-(

June 24, 2014 at 8:16 PM  
Blogger Margaret said...

with a bear around, how are the bees?

June 24, 2014 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth Seymour said...

Well most of our losses this year have been to a neighbor's dog. We have coons, lions, bears, fox, coyotes and wolves but we loose birds to a dog?.....go figure....

June 25, 2014 at 12:32 AM  
Blogger PansWife said...

Everything loves chicken! I just wish people would not use poison, other innocent animals find the carcasses and then you have dead turkey vultures and coyotes.

For the person battling a woodchuck - scent deterrents do not work with them. Bait a Havahart with cantaloupe and you'll catch him.

June 25, 2014 at 3:56 AM  
Blogger PansWife said...

PS: Best deterrent in all cases is an electric fence.

June 25, 2014 at 3:58 AM  
Blogger sheila said...

I got Great Pyrenees, no losses after they were put on night duty. They do bark all night though.

June 25, 2014 at 5:27 AM  
Blogger aart said...

Murphy's law was the first thing I thought when I heard of your losses so soon after speaking for the coypups! Sigh. I appreciate the balance with other beings, but can't afford to lose any of my small flock so keep them confined. Lots of youngsters out there right now with increasingly sized appetites, so understandable but man I hope that bear finds somewhere else to be. They can cause massive facility damage as well as be a physical threat to larger livestock, dogs and humans. Hard to balance that.

What will you do with any trapped preds? Feed to poultry and hawk?

I only have a couple dozen chooks, for 9 months now, and I grow only garlic anymore...so tho my 15 acre property is heavily wooded and I have seen most the usual predators here at one time or another, I haven't suffered any losses as there's not much to interest them...tho there's been damage and annoyance with rabbits and groundhogs. My 'yard' is fenced with always a dog or two inside, which helps keep the 'jerks' on their side of the yard fence even when they wander the surrounding small fields.

The chicken coop(inside a large shed) I call 'The Envelope' - 6 sides of 1/2" hardware cloth attached to framework with washered screws, all doors are caribinered, both pop doors have locks. All shed eaves and opening windows are hardware clothed. Runs, sides and tops, are all 2x4 welded wire fencing with aprons, keeps hawks out for sure and will slow any daytime preds.

Rascal my Standard Poodle, whose been known to lick baby rabbits to near death, brought me a quickly dispatched (I heard the death squeal) juvenile ground hog the other day....Good Boy!!

June 25, 2014 at 6:22 AM  
Blogger beccaWA said...

Have had chickens for 3 years now, and haven't lost any yet. They're locked up at night, but free range in the day. I have a lot of cover on my acre though... spruce trees, woodpiles, shed & the coop.

We do have plenty of predators, mostly red tail hawks, stray dogs, coyotes.

My six young ducks are in a small pen attached to the coop. The first day I let them out onto the acre they, of course, went right out into the open. Luckily I was out there, because a red tail swooped down and almost got them. The only thing that saved them was they were running along the wire fence line. Hawk couldn't get a clear shot. Now they are penned unless I am out there.

June 25, 2014 at 11:30 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I lost a bunch of hens to the neighbors dog :/ I penned my chickens up and have only lost some chicks that were able to get out of the pen and into the yard. I also lost some chicks to a wild cat that pulled them through the wire of their coop (fixed that with hardware cloth). I live in the woods so it's a little weird that it's domestic animals getting my birds.
Sorry about your losses. Hope you catch the critter!

June 25, 2014 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Chris Davis said...

I don't know whether y'all are making me feel better or worse. This is my first year doing any farming at all, and right now I have a garden that is producing an awful lot of zucchini and not much else, and some animal has now taken 2 of my guinea keets. The first one disappeared with no trace, but the second one, which was pulled out of her tractor, was found just a little bit away with only her back end bit off. I have 30 chicks and 4 guineas now and am very nervous about losing more, but I guess I should just get used to it.

June 25, 2014 at 5:28 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

I've lost a dozen chickens over the past six weeks. I hate keeping them contained I tractors but that's what it's going to have to be until the fox kits leave the den.

The record was set last year when I lost sixteen half-grown chicks in one damn day.

June 25, 2014 at 9:09 PM  
Blogger sandalfoot said...

My girls, three hens, are well secured in a cage with wire buried a foot deep, all sides and top covered. So far we have seen only one raccoon trying to get in. The girls were in a ruckus. Dogs chased the raccoon away, caught him the next night in the live trap. Hope he is enjoying life elsewhere. We live in the midst of predators....foxes, raccoons, coyotes, hawks, owls, you name it we have it. We do have an electric fence and the scary red night lights, so maybe they are helping. But to answer your question, of course there are always losses if the animals are free ranging. My feelings are that the hens have a better life free range, we do what we can to keep them safe when they are ranging (ours are free rangin from 7am to 4pm), and we coop them up at night when predators are out. But I could not keep them cooped up all day and night, unless there was no other option. So I think the answer to your question is, yes, I expect some losses. So far so good.

June 25, 2014 at 9:19 PM  
Blogger Erik said...

Back when I lived in CT we had six hens...when I moved, my dad was taking care of them, until a fisher cat came and took all six.

June 25, 2014 at 10:16 PM  
Blogger doglady said...

I lost 14 half grown chicks and 4 poults to fox one night in May. I've also lost a few wandering hens to fox and a couple to hawks so far this summer. Since there haven't been any losses for a couple of weeks, I'm thinking we've moved into a new phase. In the past, I've lost chicks to crows and ravens. For some reason, all across New England, bear are foraging close to humans rather than eating their natural diet. Strange behaviors. I think the best defense against predators is an intact male dog as the girls just don't have the same territorial marking ability.

June 26, 2014 at 6:14 AM  
Blogger Jennifer Montero said...

I would feel churlish complaining of our losses as, at most, we battle foxes and badgers, maybe the odd stoat. Bear, bobcat and 'coons?! That's REAL predator worries.

For the most part, electric fence and netting solves our pest problems, but I did lose a hen turkey sat on eggs and I'm still trying to work out what in the h*ll was big enough to drag it away and eat it! I baited a trap to try and catch the culprit but I'm pretty sure it went away and died of obesity...

June 26, 2014 at 6:22 AM  
Blogger KirstenJL said...

It's always what you don't expect. I raise true Araucanas (rumpless, tufted) and keep them pastured in electronetting. I'm in rural Ohio and have fields, woods, crop land nearby. Plenty of critters around, but the electronetting deters the four-footeds and bird netting, natural cover, and my resident crows foil the raptors. So this year it's the flies. Lost a rumpless rooster to flystrike last week, and now his son has it too. I took off work today to treat him, but so far I can't catch him. Something about rumpless roosters draws the flies.....

June 30, 2014 at 6:15 PM  
Blogger Caitlin S said...

I had raccoons stealing eggs and I caught and shot 2 of them. Then I lost 3 hens and a rooster in one night and so far all I've caught is another raccoon. So we shall see if anything else turns up or if the last raccoon was the perpetrator.

July 1, 2014 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger Thomas said...

we've lost several full grown layers and three chicks so far this year to raccoons. Have trapped in shot two raccoons so far including one last night.

July 2, 2014 at 10:34 AM  

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