Sunday, June 19, 2011

A bird in hand is worth two in the coop?

Despite the cold rainy weather, the chickens have been doing really well. I put them outside in the coop earlier than I did last year. They were younger but bigger. Last year they didn't eat grass or chase bugs or anything. They just sat there. This group is much better and eat a lot of grass and run around like they just discovered gold when they find a slug. (It's so funny to watch that I'll even pick up a slug just to see them run around.) But last year we were lucky. No predators gave us any trouble. I didn't knock on wood loud enough apparently. This year we weren't so lucky.

I like ravens. They are an interesting bird. Smart. I like the different vocalizations they have. The families they keep. But they took one of my chickens last weekend. 

Such an odd thing to have happen that the more I talked about it, the more I questioned what I believed happened. The chickens are kept in a portable coop so they can enjoy the benefits of being free range without running all over our property, pooping everywhere and getting eaten by numerous predators. Shady would probably kill every one just for fun if given the chance. She sees them as her play things and runs around the coop scaring them, just to see them scatter. She is a bird dog, I can't blame her, but I also won't give her the chance to actually kill one.

Last weekend we went to my parent's house for the night. When we got home I noticed 3 ravens fly up from beside the coop. This was odd. Not something I would normally see. So I went to check on the chicks. The chicks have all their feathers and weigh about a pound. They're a good handful.  When I counted I could only find 9 chickens. One missing. The ground around the coop was all scratched up. A three foot section was mainly focused on and I could see where they had dug under the wall of the coop.  The hole looked too small for anything to go under let alone a raven with a chick in it's maw, but there were only nine left. It obviously happened. By raven or not.

Everyone I've told this story to have been stunned. A raven taking a small chick, sure. A family of ravens digging under a coop to steal a chicken, unheard of. That's when I started to question what I saw. Maybe I was placing the blame on the last one seen at the scene of the crime. Maybe they didn't commit it. Maybe it was a mink or weasel. I would think another predator would dig a neat little hole and be in and out, killing every single chick. Not wasting time digging the length of the wall just to take one. I was sure of one thing though, whoever took the chick would be back. There were nine meals left.

I devised the only barrier I could around the coop by lying tall buckets on their side. It looks like the coop is on pontoons. If the culprit was a raven the chicks should be safe. (Ravens may be smart but I dare them to dig under buckets that could roll on them and under the coop.) If it was something else, they were doomed.  When I got home from work that evening I was sure my story was accurate. On the fence sat 3 perturbed ravens. In the coop, nine happy chicks. 

1 comment:

Natalie said...

That's some badass theorizing AND problem-solving!

I love reading about your farming world!