Monday, June 29, 2009

Something evil this way cometh...

We've had our share of poultry mishaps.  In six years, we've had dogs, rodents, disease, a marten attack, and even human callousness take some of our flock.  But something is plaguing our barnyard this year, and I can't figure out what it is...

I'm pretty sure a skunk took the 14 turkey eggs from their nest.  But they were on the lower property, and we don't monitor that plot for wildlife like we could.  But up near the house is the layer flock and the goose, with housing for chickens, chicks, bantams and the like - all within 25 yards of the house, and all secured - or so we thought.

It started two months ago when something ate the wing off our bantam hen.  Yeah, the whole wing.  I wasn't telling you about this one, because I thought maybe it was too much...but now is the time to come clean.

I went to the bantam house in the morning to open them up, and there was the hen, with a big patch of blood on her side - way too much for the usual pecking or pestering of fellow poultry.  Not actually bleeding anymore, but bloody.  Upon closer inspection, we realized her wing was bitten off.  Gone.  We can only figure that she fell asleep in the laying box and her wing dipped down through the 1" ventilation slot on the side, and something got her.  They left only one small drop of blood on the wood, and nothing else.  At a loss for what to do, I slathered the wound site with Super Salve, and housed her inside the small poultry barn to give her time to heal and be away from the bugs and sun.
This is a picture of her right side, showing the feathers growing back over her stump.  She was posing on the top of her coop, and was actually so "recovered" that she struggled to get free and consequently moved her pretty little head right out of the shot.
As you can see, she has recovered.  Having one less wing doesn't seem to hinder her, and so I have dubbed her "Lefty".  (Madison does not share my dark humor, BTW and still calls her Jelly.)   

As soon as she was recuperated, I returned "Lefty" to the bantam compound, and to lessen the cramping in the house, I moved another broody bantam and her five eggs to the indoor cage.  Everything was fine for a few days, and then I went to check on Ms. Broody, and all the eggs were gone but one.  Gone.  Overnight and they just disappeared.  No shells, no mess.  She was totally over the idea of sitting on the remaining egg unfortunately, and I returned her to the bantam house.

Two weeks ago, I was doing the evening chores and I spotted a baby grey catbird, hopping about after Candy the goose.  No parents were anywhere around, and it was too young to fly.  I didn't want to leave it to the after dark predators, and it was peeping desperately, so I scooped it up and brought it to the barn.  I locked it away in a small poultry cage with some straw and Candy to watch over it, and thought I would figure out the next steps in the morning.

Well, come morning it was gone.  Gone.  No sign of a struggle, no apparent opening large enough for the thing to escape.  Just gone.  I told myself that it must have squeezed out and found another small way out of the poultry shed overnight.

Now, two nights ago, I "graduated" two of our largest turkey poults (2 and 1/2 weeks) to a cage on the floor with larger mesh, (but none large enough for escape) and put the lone 6-week-old bantam pullet in with them for company.  It was the same set up I had used for the wounded bantam as she was recovering, and for our broody bantam.  They seemed to like the arrangements, and did well for 36 hours.

Last night, it struck again.

All three are gone.  Gone.  No feathers, no bodies, no sign of a struggle.  The littlest Narragansett poult and the Bourbon Red poult next to them in the smaller mesh cage were untouched.

WTF????

I have set the trap in the barn.  But I don't expect we'll get an answer...

16 comments:

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

That is truly a terrible mystery! I can't imagine; could a snake slither in there?

Kara said...

I know this is an odd suggestion and wouldn't apply to the hen with the wing gone, but could a large snake or rat be taking the eggs and the chicks?

Christine said...

I agree. I'm thinking snake. Ick.

BTW, I nearly spit coffee into my keyboard when I read the part about lefty. I very much share your dark sense of humor.

kristi said...

Well, I stink at solving mysteries so I never read those kind of books but I do know what WTF stands for & in regards to "Lefty", you need to be more sensitive to those with special needs:)

melanie said...

Ladies - I have taken measures against rat this morning...don't think there is much I can do against snake...the trap was sprung but the bait was intact this morning. Gong to try again tonight.

Kristi-I am simply embracing the circumstances and recognizing her strength rather than her deficit (cough, cough) isn't that how educators do it these days? (*grin*)

Milah said...

Hi!

Christine from Front Porch Indiana sent me over. I don't want to hear this! I just started raising chickens and this is freaking me out! I'm also thinking snake. I hope you get your answer and fast.
My condolences.:(

bananajoe said...

Do you know anyone with one of those motion-activated hunting cameras? If you do, you maybe able to put it up and try to atleast get a photo of it.

melanie said...

Milah- don't give up or get scared off! Raising poultry has been a highlight of our budding farm - just let us show you what NOT to do!

We have put out poison and have changed the housing arrangements for the "indoor" babies...

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

I don't know a lot about skunks but I do think they might eat an egg, but they don't have the right kind of mouth to carry it off. Also, they generally don't attack things as far as I know.

This sounds more like a rat or a possum problem.

Maybe you need to wait in there one night quietly just to see who shows up.

melanie said...

(Barbara clearly does not understand my loathing of rodents. The thought of staying in there and having a rat show up is enough to make me puke...) Although I always welcome ideas!(*grin*)

thecrazysheeplady said...

I think it's a raccoon. I could tell you a story about a raccoon getting a friend of ours rabbits, but I won't. The lesson though is they are very crafty and strong and can pull things through very small and (we thought) secure cage wire, so I don't put anything past them. :-(

Deb said...

The Scots were great at breeding many types of Terriers for taking out all sorts of vermin. 'Anyone ever try keeping Terriers around livestock? I'ver read about keeping herding dogs, guardian dogs, even "nanny' dogs, but has the day come to bring back 'critter-killers' to the farm?

Chicken Herder from Westville said...

We have raccoons eating our chickens. We set a live trap and have been catching one raccoon for the past five nights. They can pull a chicken through some pretty small wire fences and not much will be left to show for that chicken.

We lost one bantam rooster and one regular size White Plymouth Rock. My heart was broken when I lost the chicken, not so much the rooster, he was very mean and spurred me each chance he got. I would of preferred an easier death for him though.

I hope you get what is killing your chickens/turkeys/birds.

Kathy said...

I don't think it's a snake, Mel...after eating that much in one meal, a snake would not be able to move fast enough to totally disappear by morning. They are sluggish at night when it's cooler and if they have full bellies to boot, they move even slower. Chickens would also peck at a snake.
It sounds like a raccoon to me. They are extremely agile at getting to things with those five-fingered-paws. It may also be more than one.
Just be careful if you put out poisons that you watch your cats. Cats can die from Secondary Poisoning when catching animals weak from ingested poisons. Then the cats die from eating the poisoned creatures. Not a good thing for the kitties.
Do you have badgers in your area? They can take poultry as well, but this sounds more like 'coon or possums to me. Maybe adults bringing the kids with them?
You can sift flour on the floors (if your poultry won't disturb it) to get tracks of whatever it is.
I sure hope you catch the varmint and tack his weasily little butt to the barn door!

Tammy said...

I would guess rat or raccoon. Rats will carrying off/kill small chicks and also eggs, and I can see one gnawing off a wing. I don't think a snake would eat that many eggs or chicks at one sitting. (and be able to get back through the wires!). As Sara mentioned 'coons can pull parts of fowl through the wire and eventually the whole thing if small enough. Also not sure if weasals or something like that is common in your area? Thankfully that is one little bugger we don't have to deal with.
Good luck, hope you solve the mystery, that would be very disinheartning to lose so many and not know to what.
Tammy

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

There's an award for you over on my blog. :-)