Friday, October 2, 2009

Somethings Eating Our Chickens!

Two days ago, we noticed we only have 24 meat chickens... did another one get out?

Yesterday, we were down to 23. Where are they getting out at!

This morning, we had 22.5 chickens in the pen. Only half of one got out! Hmmm. Time for the Mystery Van and the Scooby-Doo team to solve the mystery of the Half-eaten Chicken!

The first clue was that there were NO signs that anything got into the pen, and nothing got out. No digging or feathers around the pen perimeter. Couldn't have been a 'coon, skunk, or coyote.

Second clue was that the dead chicken was in the middle of the pen.

Finally, under the big tree at the edge of the pen, there was a fresh set of droppings. Owl!

Man, farming in the Pacific NW is tough! Predators all around.

We have a bunch of 'deer netting', and so we decided to string it up all over the top of the chicken pen - hopefully to deter the owl from swooping down and in.

This stuff is black and hard to see in the daylight -hope the owl sees it at night!

Can't say that we blame the owl for eating these chickens - they are butterballs! The biggest ones are more than 5 lbs now, and they've mastered the art of lazy. Here this fat one demonstrates 'lay eating'. They just lay in front of the feed trough, and pack it in!

Kind of like eating at the Chinese Buffett...

Here is the pen with the netting over it. Just a few zip-ties is all it took to hold it on and cover the pen.

And guess what - the owl is back! Just after dark tonight, as we were canning on the porch, the chickens started squawking loud! The dog and I ran out there, but were cautious as we got close - could be a skunk! There he was - a HUGE Great Horned Owl! He jumped out of the tree as we got within 20 feet of him - he is BIG and he is SILENT! He flew up above us and roosted where we could see him. He isn't about to leave those plump birds!

So far so good, though. The netting has kept him out of the pen. A couple of firecrackers spooked him off, too. It looks like his wing-span is at least 5 feet across or more. We're keeping the windows open to listen for the chickens in case he comes back... kind of spooky with him out there in the dark!