April 18th, 2014 by Ed Bruske
Something’s eating our chickens.
Yesterday I noticed our flock of Rhode Island Reds seemed a little thin. It dawned on me that one of our two roosters was nowhere to be seen. Then, after visiting with the hens out in the orchard–just sitting on an overturned bucket and watching them scratch in the turf–I returned an hour later to find an area littered with feathers–sure sign of a kill–just a few feet from our mobile coop.
We started with 30 chicks last summer. As they grew, one was run over in the driveway, another suffered some kind of an attack and was partially scalped, we think by a hawk. We definitely lost a couple more to predators in the fall, after the chickens were moved to a far corner of the orchard and began roaming the property. It just seems awfully unfair that they should be taken now, having survived unscathed a particularly harsh winter, with more than six feet of snowfall and temperatures down to 15 below zero.
I don’t know if our problem is a fox–we spotted one in the woods recently–or a bird of prey. The chickens are safely locked away in their coop after sunset, so we don’t worry about creatures that come in the night. No, these attacks occur in broad daylight and I’m not sure what to do next. Last night I ordered some electric poultry netting. I hate to give up our vision of having a flock of laying hens roaming freely about our pastures. But confining them more closely around the coop behind a fence definitely would give them more protection from four-legged critters and might discourage attacks from above. It would also prevent the hens from laying eggs in far off places we can’t find them.
I guess the wild animals outside our perimeter fence are hungry after such a long winter. Until the new fencing arrives, the chickens are confined to their coop. It pains me to keep them locked up in such a small space just as spring and their first full year as mature hens is budding. But they were able to endure raging snow storms in there. I guess they can stand a few days waiting for the postman to arrive.
Nature. You just never know what she’s going to throw at you next.