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Preparing to Defend my Flock

June 1, 2011

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A predator crept onto the property then quietly left with a hen in its mouth. I didn’t witness the scene but that evening when I stepped into the running pen to gather eggs, a large clump of feathers and hide was lying beside the feeder. The headcount was one less.

I had spent most of that day outside spreading wood chips. I didn’t hear a peep. No loud squawks. No rush of flapping wings. No warning honks from my pet turkey, Miss Boo Boo. On the rare occasion that the chickens have fled for safety, I’d hear their shrieks from inside my house. This time, I didn’t even hear them while I was working outdoors. Whatever species the predator, it was sneaky, rapid, inaudible as a silent movie, and as deadly as a bear trap.

The next evening, a sick hen that I had nursed died. For several days, I had carried her to the water bowl then the feeder.  She seemed happy to be eating and drinking. Still she was fading. Afterwards, I’d put her into a nesting box to protect her from the other hens. A flock will peck at a sick or injured hen to establish hierarchy status or to remove a weak member.  It’s a terrible scene to encounter so I do everything possible to stop muggings in the running pen.

When I discovered the hen’s body in the nesting box, it was late and nearly dark so I laid her in the tall weeds outside the coop. Early the next morning I returned to bury her but the mysterious predator had come back. (The details are too horrible to share.) Angry with myself, and the beast that robbed a hard-working chicken of a dignified, humane burial, I decided it was time to learn how to handle a gun. Later, I called my son, Jason, and the following weekend he came over with his 22. He set up water bottles then gave me safety instructions and shooting lessons.

The distance between the stock and the barrel was a little long for my short arms and my eyes kept seeing double. Still, I managed to hit the bottles. I also hit the nearby silver maple leaves and the foxtails. When Jason went home, he left his gun so I could practice. Having done so several days now, I realize that by the time I get to the gun, unzip the case, take out the 22, get to the bullets, load, and go outside, the predator will have eaten the whole flock. I suppose I’ll have to set up camp in the running pen. I too can be a sneaky, inaudible predator. Copyright © Dianne Marie Andre

4 comments

  1. …i like the last line…get ’em.

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  2. Wow, what a terrible experience. But looks like you are ‘taking the bull by the horns’ and getting prepared!

    Speaking of predators, my neighbor called over the backyard fence today when I was working in the garden. “Bernadette,” she said. She still calls me Bernadette after 10 years of living nextdoor, so I just answer. Then she told me that on Thursday night about 9:30 p.m. there was a BIG raccoon in her backyard. She said it had a head as big as 3 cats heads.

    Then I rememberd our cat “L” scurried in the open door last Thursday night about the same time, lickety split – and hid for an hour after she got inside. We also heard a big ‘thud’, went outside to look around, but nothing was amiss. Now we think it was that BIG raccoon. And the scary part is…we live in the city. I guess predators can infiltrate anywhere. bernadine

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  3. Sorry about your loss. Hope this weather improves for your “taking up camp” experiences.

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    • No camping yet, but no sign of the predator either which could have been the huge raccoon dead on the side of the road.

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