Yesterday morning at a couple of minutes shy of 6 AM I was awakened by my Livestock Guardian Dog (LGD), Natsar, he was barking. Since moving to New England he doesn’t bark as much as he used to. Well, he did at first, but we’ve managed to teach him that barking more than necessary… is not necessary. So when he barks now… we pay attention.
I jumped out of bed and ran to the window to discern where Natsar’s location was. I determined he was up behind the barn barking into the forest. So I was fairly certain it had to be a predator of some sort. In my sleepy state of mind I quickly jogged my memory of what could give us the “honor” of a predator visit. It was still dark out so it was hard to see. I laid back down as Natsar had things under control and was simply barking a “boundary/territorial” bark. As I lay there I recalled that I did not remember closing the chickens up last night. Things got a little busy in the kitchen as I was preparing supper and I did not get back out as I had planned. Normally I close up the chickens at chore time (3pm-ish) but the chickens were being rebellious and were not coming in willingly. Instead of chicken wrangling I figured I’d let them have a few extra minutes of foraging until we went out to give the goats their bottle at 6PM. Well as I said, I did not go out with my daughter because I was preparing dinner, so she went alone. When I go out to the barn I have a mental checklist that I run through, and since I did not go, I didn’t even think of it. Then again, right before bed I go through my mental checklist and even if it’s midnight I’m like “close the chickens up” (you can ask my husband because I have sent him out to do so, I’ve even been looking into that remote chicken door that closes them up automatically… moving on…).
So I grabbed my flashlight and went and shone it on the chicken house door, and sure enough… I was dismayed to find the door OPEN! 😦 Now I was SURE we had a predator visit. Especially since now Natsar was doing his rounds to secure the property. He trotted down to the gate and was spot checking certain areas.
Later in the day I went out to do chores and decided I’d better MAKE the chickens go in at 3PM chore time to be certain everyone was safe. So I ushered them all in, even rebellious little “Sparrow” the ‘lead hen.’ She was NOT willing, but I didn’t take no for an answer this time. They all filed into the chicken house and as I was waiting for them all to go in so I could shut the door I noticed one hen sitting quietly under the ladder. She was not acting normal in this instance as all my chickens know “the drill” and will get in line and go in, this hen was just standing quietly. I went to pick her up but she decided to go ahead and go up the ladder. I could see her really struggling to get up the ladder, she wouldn’t let me grab her though. So I let her hobble inside. One more hen left, Sparrow’s second in command, a hen with tufty tail feathers my daughter named “Henrietta.” She finally came in, I usually dub the last chicken “Ping” like the story book. So with the last hen shut up in the hen house I went around inside the barn to check water and food levels and I decided to grab this hen that was hobbling up the ladder. I don’t believe we named this particular hen. She has some other health issues I’ve been working to correct such as she doesn’t lay an egg with a shell very often. When she does the shell is thin. She has the same food as the others, the same foraging time, etc, but she is just a little off in this department. Anyhow, I took her into the tack room and examined her more thoroughly. I discovered that she had a nasty bite taken out of her under her left wing. I treated her with Iodine and replaced her in the coop under the heat lamp. She was warm to the touch so she seemed, other than being sore, to be ok.
This morning at 6AM I was again awakened by Natsar. Same situation except for sure the chickens were locked up. Natsar was up behind the barn barking down the trail. Tomorrow morning we may get up at 5 AM and go camp out waiting for our little predator visitor.
What do I think it was? Well at first I thought it was a Coyote, but after further contemplation I am thinking we are looking at a smaller predator otherwise the chicken would have been likely carried off. I’m thinking either a
A. Fisher Cat
B. Red Fox
IF we find out… I will post about it.
Until then… 🙂