When Predators Attack

We lost two chickens today.

I heard a ruckus that I thought initially was an “egg song” but as I listened, I could tell it was more than one bird and it sounded distinctly distressed.

I went out to take a look and didn’t immediately notice anything suspicious looking, until I got within 20 yards of the run and out flew a hawk.

When I got to the run, I saw our Brahma had been attacked and half eaten. So I poked my head in the coop to do a head count and saw 4. I closed up the coop. That made 5, so I looked for the other 2. The Blue Splash Orpington had been chased under the coop (which we designed to be a shelter) and hadn’t made it either. That leaves the Andalusian.

She’s still unaccounted for, and I don’t know if she escaped or not. She’s fairly well camoflauged so I’ll continue looking for her. She usually comes for treats of BOSS, But so far, no such luck. Hopefully she’s in the woods, just hiding out and staying safe.

In a matter of minutes, we lost 2, potentially 3 of our laying hens. That leads to questions every homesteader has to ask themselves…

Could I have prevented it?

We set up the coop and run in such a way that the dimensions are not (or so we thought) easy to fly into and out of by making it a long and narrow rectangle as opposed to a square. We also have the bottoms and sides of the fence chicken wired and hardware clothed to about 8 feet… I had been waking my babies up from nap. So, no. I probably could not have done much more to prevent it, short of covering the top of the run with electrified netting, which I was hoping to avoid.

How do I keep this from happening again?

The short answer is to get rid of the hawks. I love animals, and I believe it’s my job to steward God’s creation. That means looking out for the weaker, vulnerable creatures and protecting them from harm. In a sense, I failed at that today. I know you can’t possibly prevent every predator from “free food.” Heck, the birds I lost weren’t particularly intelligent or agile, and were practically a hawk buffet waiting to happen. Was I quick enough to run in and get  the .22 rifle and take out the offending predator? No… it was gone before I got to  the run, and the damage had been done. Also, it’s illegal to shoot birds of prey… That’s the risk you take with livestock. That’s really what makes me incredibly nervous about owning larger animals like sheep or cows; larger animals, larger predators. 

Do I need to invest in an LGD?

Maybe. This is a question I’ve asked myself over and over. Dogs have always been snuggly pets to me, and I have a hard time with the idea of making one live outside. But if the trade off is retention of my flock, it’s something I’m willing to get over. Definitely when we get sheep/cow(s) we plan on some form of protection for them, but I never really thought it necessary for a few laying hens… I’m rethinking that now. Seriously rethinking.

It’s never easy to lose an animal, whether it’s livestock or a pet. I can tell you in our inaugural year of having chickens, we’ve lost 11 (maybe 12) of 17. That’s a success rate of just under 24%…  If that were a standardized test, we’d be put on some sort of state watchlist for remedial schools.

Farming is hard. Homesteading is hard. And it takes planning and foresight, and you can do everything right and STILL fail. At the end of the day, you have to remind yourself why you do what you do and all the more on the hard days.

All I know is, it makes me long for restoration all the more. 

Come, Lord Jesus! Come!

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