Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Possum, Hawk...and Weasel?

Before I get carried away, I want to remember to answer Lisa's question. Lisa, if you want to buy a pullet that is already about to start laying you can expect to pay anywhere between 8 and 15 dollars, depending on the breed. Some are more in demand than others. For instance the dark chocolate colored egg layers like Cuckoo Marans and Black Copper Marans are very popular right now so they go for more. Before you invest in chickens I always suggest to read first on housing, basic care, predator proofing, nutritional needs, health issues, such as diseases and parasite control, both internal and external. There are no avian vets around here, so I have to do my own doctoring, Jeffers Livestock Supply online provides a wide variety of vaccines for poultry among other useful things. Some of it will be a learn as you go thing, trial and error. Things happen, you learn from them. Everyone also has their own way of doing things. You just have to find out which way works best for you, whether it be parasite control or nesting box preferences.

So, we had a possum coming and eating the cats food every night, and I managed to trap him and take him off to the deep woods where he wouldn't find anyone to bother. Ian spared his life, I am not sure what would have happened to him had it been left solely up to me. He was not diseased or mange infested looking, he looked healthy, so we let him live, far far away.

Yesterday, I went out to let everyone out and found one of my older black austrolorp hens dead in the chicken house. Her head was eaten off and her neck stripped down to the bone.
This is a classic way that weasels eat a chicken.

From time to time I have to go through and do maintenance on the pens as they become unsecure. Ties may break, staples come out, the usual stuff. I knew of a couple of areas that needed repairing and did so yesterday. I brought out my trap once again last night, baited it and left it to hopefully catch what had done this. This morning I found nothing. The food untouched, the trap still open.

Also yesterday, something got a hold of one of my young speckled sussex chickens and there was evidence of feathers being pulled out of the breast area, classic of a hawk clearing the way to eat the breast meat. Except the hawk was interrupted by Shelbys miniature horse Derby. I never saw what happened, but I knew.

Shelby went to let Derby out to the back pasture and found a trampled chicken carcass. She called me out to investigate. From the pulled out breast feathers I could see it was a hawk attack. From the broken up legs and feet and bulging eyeball and many other broken internal bones I could see that Derby had tried to get after the hawk, but in his freaking out he killed the chicken. He was trying to do the right thing, but it just didnt work out.

I have learned during a predators leaner months not to let my chickens out as soon as it is first light. Thats a good way for a fox to sneak in from the field next door and grab breakfast. I wait a little bit before I feed them and let them out.

Trial and error, even ten years into having chickens. Its a battle out there. Everything likes to eat chickens. All you can do is keep trying to keep them safe. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Most of the time I think I win. I don't lose many chickens. To lose a few a year to a predator when I have upwards of 200, is not bad. I hate to lose any of them, but I have been out here long enough to know it is inevitable.

I used to cry and freak out and throw a fit everytime something like this happened. I don't anymore. Its not because I don't feel anything, its because, well, you know its coming eventually. I am not close to every one of my chickens. Sometimes it affects me more than other times. I feel sad, but I don't freak out like I used to, unless it is one I was really really close to. Then I freak out, and rightly so.

I guess this predatory season has started early. I usually don't have troubles til the foxes and coyotes have their kits and begin having to feed them long about February.

Going out there to see how things are going, lets hope I don't have a weasel. I can block out a possum or a raccoon, but a weasel can squeeze through chain link fence, and I will have to make other provisions if this is the case.


Adirondackcountrygal said...

It is a wild world out there! Someday I'll get to have my chickens too!

Barbara said...

And chickens, especially young ones can be amazingly stupid. Sitting still nesting even when something is trying to pry into their pen and they should be in alarm status.

madcobug said...

I hope you catch that critter soon. Helen