On Sunday morning, the thing I've been dreading ever since Cade decided he wanted to raise chickens 18 yrs ago, happened. Something found the chicken coop with devastating results.
It could have been worse- much worse- but it was bad enough. SOMETHING got into the coop and grabbed Early- my little Barred Rock hen who ALWAYS was the first to lay an egg. It was a gruesome sight, and I'll spare you the photos. The rest of the chickens were huddled against the back wall of the coop- not uttering a sound! They were obviously scared and on edge- the slightest noise sending them into a panic.
Bruce was working check station and not at liberty to come home to investigate. I was sickened by the carnage, and saddened at the loss of my sweet hen, but I got it together enough to barricade the chickens into their coop (hopefully keeping whatever did this out!) snap a few photos so Bruce could examine the evidence when he came home, well after dark- And I set up our game camera, in case the culprit came back.
Before I left for work this morning, Bruce ran down to the barn to check on the chickens. He said he knew I'd worry all day if I didn't know that they (and Salem, the barn cat) were safe. He reported that whatever it was HAD come back and moved Early's carcass, but had NOT harmed any more chickens! AND, he said that there were photos on the camera! We didn't have time to upload the photos then, so I had to wait until I got home to see if we'd gotten a glimpse at our murderer.
We'd spent all Sunday, Sunday night, and Monday speculating what could possibly have killed Early. We'd ruled out any sort of bird. The chickens were roosting in the hen house when owls would be about, and the hit had been made during the night, ruling out Eagles, hawks, etc. We hadn't smelled a skunk, and we hadn't found any holes dug under the fence, so we doubted it was our resident skunk who enjoys spraying our dogs (wouldn't you think they'd LEARN?). And without an entry hole, it couldn't be coyotes, either. We were REALLY worried it was a weasel... small enough to go through the chicken wire but fierce enough to kill a fully grown chicken. The biggest problem with a weasel, would be in keeping it out of the hen house. They can squeeze through the tiniest of holes. Trying to thwart a weasel would be a daunting task.
I rushed home Monday evening, and Bruce was already at the barn. We worked on the door between the coop and the chicken yard. It hadn't been closing for quite awhile now, but Bruce got it back into shape. I barricaded the door on the other side just in case, but we both commented that if it was a weasel, none of this was good enough.
(not my photo! just a stock photo from the Web- seriously, though. How can you be mad at this animal?)
The camera said it had 15 photos on it! Surely we'd gotten some good ones of whatever predator had found our flock. I slid the card into the computer, and opened the files. The first photo was of the horse pasture... maybe taken while I was setting up the camera? There were a couple photos that I'd apparently not erased the last time we'd put the trail cam out. :( Then, a photo of the chicken yard... but no animal to be seen.
The next photo was of the barn cat, Salem. Bruce said, 'Salem wouldn't! Would he?' and I was quick to assure him that there was no way for Salem to get into the chicken yard. And that Salem had never shown ANY interest in the chickens, even though he helped me feed twice a day, every day... still, I worried a bit about what the next photos would show.
The next 3 were of Hobbes! Our house cat, resident Tiger. Fierce, but 11 yrs. old, and around chickens his ENTIRE life without incident. Bruce and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. It couldn't be Hobbes. Besides, Hobbes is safely inside every night.
Then, the oddest photo! A white blur covering over half the image. WHAT???
And then..... the next photo....
(If you click on the photo, it will enlarge, and you can see it better).
or should I say Bandit? *sighs* We didn't even know we HAD raccoons around! They've never hit the garden, or gotten into Salem's food! But this one is good sized, and had to have climbed over the fence.... hence that mysterious white blur on the photo before.
SO! Frankly, it's good news! This guy is NOT squeezing through a tiny hole- and therefore, as long as the chickens are closed into the coop at night, they should be fine. Since Bruce repaired the hen house door, it's just a matter of making SURE they are snug inside every evening.... right?
I felt so much better, until I realized that raccoons aren't necessarily nocturnal. :(