I am sad today because I had five chickens and four of them have been killed by some predator. I cannot believe we had a near-wipe-out slaughter episode because we've lived here for over eight months in the country, with the chickens free-ranging, and they have survived. Only one made a complete disappearance, which took my number of chickens from six to five. And the locals said my chickens wouldn't survive the first week out here because of abundant wild-life.
However, today, I came back onto the property to drive up to a farm-horror-scene. Clearly, my chickens had been slaughtered. I immediately could tell that something VERY WRONG had happened. My heart has sunk to my feet.
I was by myself...well...and with my three dogs in the truck. After seeing the carnage upon driving up, I could not even park the right way. I just pulled further in and jumped out of the truck, then began running around to see what had happened, and if, by some miracle, any chickens needed help.
And you should have seen me, the closest weapon I had at that moment was a golf putting club and I had it ready to wield with fury.
But, it was too late.
Feathers were in huge piles, here and there, clearly signs of a struggle. One pile appears to be an area where the entire chicken was torn apart and dined upon for quite a while. My favorite chicken that I hand feed almost daily, Beaker, is gone and her dark feathers with soft downy feathers are left behind.
The worse part is that some of the feathers were gross with bits of raw gunk on them and the puppy, Gracie, began to eat the feathers...until she got into MAJOR trouble, then she stopped, immediately. That's the last thing I need, for the dogs to think the plucked feathers taste good.
My Aussie, Howdy, is extremely protective of the chickens and I always refer to the chickens as his "BABIES!" And he is in tune, highly, with their various sounds of clucking, from soft happy sounds that have Howdy relaxing with a doggie grin, to their screams of distress that has him jumping any hurdle and knocking down anything in his path to get to his babies.
Even if we are watching tv and a show comes on with chickens in the scene, he jumps up in a panic and won't let up until we allow him to go check out the real chickens.
So, Howdy was racing from one area to the next, jumping the creek, running and running as he searched for the chickens. He was COVERED in mud. He knows their smell. He always goes up behind the chickens to sniff, as if it is his mental "count" of the hens. But, he couldn't find them.
Liyla, our old dog, just stood in one of the big pile of feathers and kept sniffing and looking up, as if to say she knew things weren't right.
And I walked and walked around the land, truly ready to shoot the predator with a .22 rifle.
For over two hours, I walked. I didn't want to give up. I went back and got chicken feed in a cup and walked the same areas while shaking the container, which is a proven method to get my chickens to come running, while knowing I was probably going to come across pieces and bits of my chickens instead of finding them alive.
Regardless, I was going to bury any remains that I found. But, there wasn't enough left to bury.
However, imagine my shock as the one remaining chicken began to literally RUN toward me, as if she were going to fly into my arms. I was so happy to see her. She walked with me through acres of land, staying by my side. Actually, she ran out to me as soon as I got out of the truck and began to inspect the first piles of obvious violence.
She was by herself. None of the other chickens were running behind her, as is usual.
Tonight, it was sad to see that one chicken in the coop by herself because she'd normally be tucked among four other big feathered friends.
All of this has prompted us to know the chicken coop will need to be given priority and a re-design to accommodate the new batch of chicks we are about to adopt for the farm. I can promise you that I am going to sorely miss all the beautiful eggs we were able to pull out of the coop every day. The one chicken remaining will probably give us one egg per day. One golden egg per day.
However, I do believe that the chicken-killing-predator has learned that a feast is waiting at this location and it WILL be back. Whether it is raccoon, fox, rogue dogs or whatever...it will be eager to fill up again.
I'm not kidding, I'm ready to sit in sniper-position outside, waiting patiently with my rifle for a return attempt so I can knock off the killer. For those of you who are regular readers, you know I am patient and determined enough to do such a thing.
The first experience with letting the trapped raccoon be free has been a hard learned lesson of the wrong thing to do and the wrong method of doing it. I am glad to have blog buddies who spoke up loud and clear...trying to warn me. I had already made the first mistake; however, there's no telling what attacked the chickens. I have also heard a LOT of shooting around the property, which means a hunting crew with hunting dogs could have POSSIBLY come through our property by mistake. I would hope that a responsible hunter would have left us a note and reimbursed us for our loss, which is what I would do if my dog caused any kind of property damage for someone else.
And I know that we will be getting more wildlife and security cameras in place so that there will not be any more mysteries about these things. I never thought about putting one up to monitor the chicken coop, but that is next.
As for the raccoon we had trapped, I now am reconciling the fact that releasing a prowling predator is not a smart decision. On a farm, in the country, the wildlife must be battled so that the livestock can survive or we must drive a far distance to release the wildlife so it won't be able to easily find its way back to a farm feast.
For now, I am grateful for my blessings, but feeling really down about having my little flocked nearly wiped out, save for one little hen that somehow survived. I think I will rename her, "Survivor."
And I will start over.