Looks like another chicken killer has discovered our flock.
On Saturday, we took the girls to see the Ringling Brothers / Barnum & Bailey Circus in downtown Nashville, then went out for dinner. Chareva and the girls went to bed around 9:00 PM, but I stayed up until 1:30 AM – my usual bedtime on weekends. Just as I was getting undressed for bed, I heard the Rapper Rooster start screeching in the chicken yard. I could tell he wasn’t in the barn because the sound wasn’t muffled at all.
What heck is he doing announcing himself outside the barn in the middle of the night? I thought. It occurred to me that he might be screeching at a predator. So I got dressed, grabbed a big flashlight and a .22, and went outside for a peek. By the time I walked partway down the driveway and shined the flashlight on the chicken yard, all was quiet and the Rapper Rooster had returned to the barn.
Oh, well, maybe he’s just a weirdo who likes taking a middle-of-the-night stroll, I thought. I recalled that I’d also heard him screech in the middle of the night earlier in the week, and we didn’t find any headless chickens the next day.
When I woke up on Sunday, I told Chareva about the ruckus and asked if she’d found any chicken parts in the yard when she fed the chickens that morning. Nope, she hadn’t seen any evidence of an attack.
Not yet, anyway. Later in the day, Alana noticed a pile of feathers outside the chicken-yard fence and pointed them out to Chareva. So Chareva tried to take a head-count (not an easy task with a flock of moving chickens) and kept coming up with either 19 or 20. We lost the runt rooster to a hawk and three other chickens to leg injuries, but we should’ve had 22 left.
Rats. I guess both times the Rapper Rooster was raising hell in the middle of the night, he was responding to a predator. We’ve lost at least two and perhaps three chickens. (I tried to take a head-count today and, like Chareva, I kept coming up with 19 or 20. Darned chickens won’t sit still.) So we’ve got another chicken killer to deal with. I’m just not sure what kind of critter it may be.
When Rocky Raccoon killed three chickens last spring, he left plenty of evidence. He pretty much just bit off the heads, so Chareva was finding headless carcasses. This time the chickens are nearly vanishing. Alana found feathers on one side of the chicken-yard, and I found feathers on the opposite side when I went looking yesterday. But that’s it … no body parts, no blood, no bones.
Rocky left the carcasses in the chicken-yard. Based on where we’re finding the feathers, whatever is killing them now is capable of hauling them over the fence to finish them off. We put that one big net over the yard a couple of weeks ago and draped it over the fence, but there were a few gaps, and the net wasn’t tight all the way around. There were areas where a predator could climb the fence and easily slide under the net.
I took care of that yesterday and today. It’s not the prettiest solution, but I weaved clothesline around the top of the fence and the bottom of the net to tighten it down and close the gaps. I’ll go for something more aesthetically appealing when I’m not working in near-zero weather.
The biggest gap was between the net and the gate – and we can’t attach the net to the gate if we ever went to enter the chicken yard again – so Chareva and I strapped chicken wire across the posts on either side of the gate, attached the net to the middle of the chicken wire, then bent the top of the chicken wire over the gate. I hope that does the trick.
Late yesterday afternoon, I set the same trap that nabbed Rocky Raccoon. That’s a can of cat food serving as bait. When I bought the trap, a guy at the Tractor Supply Store told me a raccoon will take the easy meal over having to go kill a chicken. Yeah, but I doubt many raccoons are attracted to cat food that’s frozen solid — not when there are warm-bodied chickens nearby.
It was 50-plus degrees yesterday afternoon when I loaded the trap, but we got one of those arctic blasts overnight. The high temperature was in the 20s today, heading down to 5 degrees tonight, and we won’t get above freezing until Thursday if the forecast is correct. I’ll leave the trap near the coop, but I don’t expect it to snag any critters until the cat food thaws.
In the meantime, I hope the Rapper Rooster doesn’t have a reason to raise another middle-of-the-night ruckus. I really, really don’t want to check on him in the dark when it’s 5 degrees outside.