Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cold, harsh reality

There is nothing like giving future homesteaders a real glimpse of reality, and that's exactly what happened yesterday -- and it wasn't the fun reality like the goat giving birth during our goat classes two weeks ago. We were doing one of our classes yesterday, and we went into the chicken house to talk about nest boxes and roosts and things like that when we discovered five dead hens: two in the nest boxes, two next to a door, and one halfway under the nest boxes. Each one had a puncture wound in its head, so they had been killed by something that just bit them in the head and then left them. From what I've heard about predators, it sounds like a mink because they are one of the few animals that kills for sport. We also found feathers behind the chicken house, so apparently one was also eaten.

We're pretty sure a turkey flew through
the window because a chicken wouldn't
have enough force to break it.
It just makes me sick to think of those poor chickens being chased and killed by some predator. As Temple Grandin says in the movie about her life, "Nature is cruel, but we don't have to be." She says that in reference to the way that predators kill animals compared to how we slaughter animals, and it is so true that nature is inescapably cruel. The stress of being a prey animal has to be so much more horrible than we can imagine. Based upon where we found each of the hens, it appears they were trying to hide or escape at the moment they died. And the scariest thing of all was that one of the windows was completely shattered. All of the broken glass was outside the chicken house, meaning that it was broken by a bird -- probably a turkey -- trying to fly through it to escape to the outside.

We left the door open last night, so that if something did get inside, the birds would be able to run out. We also put the baby monitor in there so that we would be awakened immediately if there was another attack. Other than being awakened by roosters crowing shortly after 4 a.m., it was a quiet night. We realized our livestock guardian had somehow escaped from the goat pasture and was in the pasture with the chicken house, so we are wondering if he chased off the predator or killed it. We will probably sleep with the baby monitor in there for a few more nights before we're convinced that the birds are safe.


Mama Pea said...

It's hard to read about incidents such as this let alone experience them on our own homesteads. Up here (northern Minnesota) it's Pine Martens that will get into a chicken house and do the damage such as you described. One year we lost 25 new pullets (one month from starting to lay) and the two roosters the same way you just did. We could see the battle the roosters, especially, had put up as the walls of the house we splattered with blood. So sorry you had this happen.

LindaG said...

Really sorry to hear this happened to you.
Have you figured out how it got in?

*hugs* ♥

Mary Ann said...

Are you short a turkey too? I have had possums get in, bite off the heads, and leave the bodies. I fear it, because they come to the henyards at night and eat the chicken feed left out...there is something so disheartening about seeing your birds laying there dead, killed for sport.

Fiona said...

I'm so sorry to read this -- it must have been a horrible shock. That photo of the window is especially disturbing.
We lost baby ducklings to a raccoon last year -- it ripped open the side of a wooden A-frame-type "coop" we'd just built and pulled the ducklings out one-by-one. There was feathers and blood everyone. While I was deeply saddened by our loss, what really upset me was thinking about the terror those poor creatures experienced. Knowing this is a reality of homesteading doesn't make the experience any easier...

Donna OShaughnessy said...

Two items. A gun and a livetrap. Both are essential. After loosing several birds a few years ago to a mink who simply beheaded our birds and then left them, I have no problem taking minks, possums, raccoons out of this world. They are tresspassers on MY farm!

Elin said...

It could be a mink and yes they do kill for sport. However, some animals that usually do not kill for sport might do so in a hen house where the animals can't escape so it is not dead sure. The head being bitten off does sound like mink though.

Anonymous said...

I just went through this with a mink. In the end I lost about 20-30 birds because I simply could not trap the mink until my neighbor, a trapper, put a dead muskrat in the trap. According to him, a mink cannot resist this "treat"--and it worked. It was a nightmare until it ended. I hated going in to feed in the morning afraid of what I might find. In my experience, minks are the worst predators we have in Ohio because the can squeeze in anywhere and don't have an inclination to go into traps--or they know how to steal from the trap without setting it off. We actually tied the muskrat to the trap because the first one we put in the mink took out and ate without setting off the trap! Tying the muskrat to the trap finally foiled the mink.


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