We spotted him! While I was tracking a coyote across the field I heard the tarp on the pen fluff up like the wind caught it. Funny, no wind. Anita came over and held the spotlight while I got the telescope (upside down and backwards- but still looks right in the coop) into position. There he was hopping from side to side, and over the nights body count (3 by the way). He looked trapped. Anita ran out with the camera and a flashlight while I kept him distracted by the light (brave of me, eh?). She got stationed there and held the light on him while I made my way out. We snapped a few pictures while the beast was planning it’s next evil move. We had to open the tarp to give him room to fly out. Trust me it is difficult to facilitate the escape of an owl that has accounted for some pretty heavy losses. All predatory birds are protected so we will just have to make a better coop in the future. Unfortunately, this owl will have had the taste for chicken and will know where to get it.
Our best guess is that the owl got in through a small gap in the tarp (4 inches maybe). Then the chicks piled up underneath the gap while the owl was munching on necks. Then with the terrified chickens blocking the escape route the rat was trapped. We secured things a bit differently and called it a night. Hopefully, the coyote that I was spotting earlier will not be back tomorrow!
We are loosing more and more chicks at night as the last batch of the season heads for the home stretch. The trickiest part of predators is figuring out which one. Sometimes it is easy…..skunks for example. We have lost 4 birds to skunks and have killed one skunk. There is a lingering question about skunks- how often can they spray? I ask this as my lovely wife sent me out with a shovel and the sage advice of: ‘once they spray they can’t do it again for 24 hours.’ Seemed reasonable at the time. So off I we went, first poking around the coop while lifting one end to get the varmint out and then trying to whack it with the shovel. The first time the skunk made it between us and off into the bushes. The second time we got when it turned to fight. The question lingers in the back of my mind- could skunks only spray once every 24 hours….or was it an evil set-up that was only interrupted by the business end of a shovel…hmmm..
A couple of weeks ago we had a red tailed hawk get in coop. We are not sure how it got in; however, we have found out the hard way that owls or hawks do not need to swoop in and grab and go. Rather they sit on the edge of the coop just right and drop through a very narrow gap between the tarp and the edge of the coop. The hawk came through in the mid-afternoon and got one of the chicks. So far this has been our ‘favorite’ predator. The hawk was the first one to actually munch down the chick. The skunks just seem to eat the heads off and never even touch the body. The odd thing about the hawk was that we found it before it could figure a way out of the coop. Needless to say, we were not welcomed in for lunch. I can’t believe I didn’t take picture- I even had a camera in my pocket!!?!? Anyway, we rolled the tarp back and let it fly out. The adrenaline was flowing watching this raptor take off and hoping it flies away from us.
Currently, we are battling a Great Horned Owl. It has gotten a couple a night for the last couple of nights. Not only does it eat the necks off the birds but the survivors are huddled into the corner so much that a couple more get crushed. Well, what now. We cannot really figure out how he is getting in. We tightened up everything a bit after the red tailed hawk incident. We really only have a two clues. 1- we see the owl perched on the side of the coop several times a night. 2- Only one or two birds are hit each night and only the necks are gone- an owl trait. We have yet to catch the owl red handed- but we will keep you posted.