Losing Chickens to Predators
Losing a farm animal is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I knew when starting a farm that the animals are not our pets. We want to make their lives comfortable, but we don't name them. I remember the first day my husband texted me, "There's a dead chicken in the run." I surprised myself at how sad I got. I was sad that the animal died, but also that we couldn't keep it alive.
We spend so much time with the chickens. We let them out in the morning, we put them away at night. We check their water, collect their eggs, make sure they have food, grit and oyster shells. We make sure they are happy, warm, and protected from the elements. So even though we don't name them, the loss of life still hurts.
The Battle for Survival
Since we purchased this farm with an already existing, well built, chicken coop there wasn't much we needed to do. It had a fully enclosed large run, with coop wire all over including the top. There was door but no way to lock them in.
Once we lost the first one we installed a lock on the door. After that we would lock them in and let them out in the morning. Then we lost another one, and another two. So we reinforced the coop wire. We went all around the base looking for places it wasn't tacked down. We stapled and reinforced with cinderblock. Then no deaths for a while.
We could hear coyotes every night surrounding our place. It's so loud here. We figured it had to be that. Especially because a few were missing from the run, feathers all over the ground. Once we reinforced the coop, the deaths stopped.
Protecting What's Ours
We went two full months with no deaths. In December we bought more chickens to replenish the onees we lost. We were up to 19 chickens. Feeling good, we started selling the eggs, the chickens seemed happy again.
Then in January 2020, we had another dead chicken in the coop. It looked like the other chickens had pecked it to death. Gruesome, I'm sorry! Chickens are omnivores and eat meat, even each other. I had to remove the chicken and we double checked the coop wire. Nothing was moved.
We Finally Figured It Out
February 24th came and there was another dead chicken in the run. But this time, there was a hawk too.
A hawk was IN our run. My husband, David, locked up the rest of the chickens in the coop and waited. How did the hawk get into the run? The hawk didn't seem to know how either. He kept trying to fly, bumping into the wire, fighting to get out. My husband backed off to stop scaring it and then the hawk hopped up to the top of the run's chicken wire and shimmed under a layer. Apparently, the chicken wire on the top was just layered instead of tied together and the hawk would land on one of the layers, causing it to bow and he could creap under and into the run.
Watching him break in so easily meant that he knew what he was doing and had probably done it before. So now we are reinforcing the run's top and waiting until the group thaws to completely rebuild.
No farmer wants to keep losing animals to a predator. The more we can do to protect our chickens means the better I'll feel about the animals entrusting farmers to take care of them.