Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Murder on the Farm!

Today started out badly. Shirley Puppy was barking outside our window at 5 a.m. Johnny heard her first and woke me. I jumped up, slipped on the lined coveralls I keep by the bed for just such occasions, and ran outside and to the barn for the big flashlight, which I stupidly had left there instead of in the house. Shirley led me past the machine shed to the arboretum, where my light found scattered feathers, blood, and a large scat (feces). The feathers were from our peahen, who had been nesting I knew not where in the arboretum. The scat was from whatever had killed her.

Shirley led me onward to the fence, where there were more feathers and blood and a place where the woven wire was stretched and the predator had obviously gone through with my peahen. Many down feathers had been rubbed off on the wire as the hen was dragged through it. The neighbors' side of the fence is heavily wooded with a dense brush layer. I could not see into it.

I knew I shouldn't let the peahen nest outside but the turkeys are nesting in the indoor peafowl pen. I had hoped to find her nest and protect it somehow, but that was unrealistic. I should have locked her up. Too late now. Sad and discouraged, I went back to bed.

Two hours later I went outside again and turned the chickens loose. They are barricaded inside at night to keep any more from getting eaten. First it was Mighty Mouse, my bantam rooster, and then, a week later, a second chicken was nabbed when I forgot to prop the heavy concrete block against the door one night. A raccoon nudged the door aside and managed to kill one of only two Buckeye pullets that I'd bought with that group of chicks neighbor Irv raised for me. Since then there's been a live trap set in the chicken yard at night plus a barricaded door. I've caught nothing.

I had been hoping to sleep in this morning after our early morning wake-up yesterday. We had to be up at 4:15 to make it to our first survey point by 5 but Shirley Puppy awakened us at 3 a.m. instead with her barking. That time a raccoon was in the cherry tree on his way to the chicken house roof and then down into the chicken yard. The concrete block was in place so the coon could not have nabbed another chicken. At least, I hope not. However, a raccoon with a taste for chicken needs to go to the happy hunting grounds in the sky. I called Johnny out with his gun.

So this morning's predator could not have been yesterday morning's marauding raccoon. Besides, today's killer left a scat that was way too big for a raccoon. I took photos when I went out at 7 a.m. but sort of doubt anyone reading this blog wants to see my photos of blood, feathers, and feces.

At 7, I looked for the peahen's nest and found it close to the path, with four peahen eggs undisturbed. The tall grass the nest was in was beat down where the predator had taken the peahen to the spot where I'd found the scat and feathers. Too bad I had not looked for the nest at 5 a.m as the eggs might still have been warm then. The scat and blood were fresh so the evil deed must have just been done. I took the eggs anyway and put them under our setting bantam hen. They were cool but not cold. Maybe, with a lot of luck, the embryos within will survive and hatch.

I do not know what killed the peahen. It could have been coyote or bobcat. We have both around here. From what we could tell from Shirley's barking, she was keeping a healthy distance from the site where the peahen was killed. That makes me suspect the predator was a bit too big for her to tackle. As soon as I have time to deal with a pup, I will get a second livestock guardian dog to help Shirley out.

Well, that's life on the farm. And, although the day started out badly, it ended well.

We had our first salad greens from my raised box plantings this evening. Delicious.

And, best of all by far: this is the first day since Johnny's back started seriously bothering him a month ago that he has been out of pain all day. Here's hoping every day from now on is pain free for him.

...And here's hoping the local predators find some wild prey to feast on instead of my poultry.

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