Friday, July 4, 2014

Things that Scream in the Night

It started with one of the chickadoos.  Early spring the poultry were allowed to free range around the yard, and one of the incubated pullets took to laying eggs under the hay pallet out back.

One night I went to lock them up as usual, and came up one short.  I checked around the usual places and thought maybe she would turn up the next morning.

I found the feathers the next day, a few yards off the property line not far from where she had been laying her eggs.

I assumed some raptor must have gotten her, because they like to pluck birds after they kill them.  Also, the ice fishing had just come to an end, and several fishermen had been tossing their catch on the ice to flop to their deaths, to be enjoyed later by the bald eagles in the area.

I figured the eagles were probably nesting and the free food supply had dried up, so they saw an opportunity with a wayward hen and took her.

The poultry went on lockdown the next day.  That inconvenienced me to some degree, because I had bought the guineas because I heard they were good at taking care of ticks, and I had to make a pen to keep them in if I couldn't let them free range.

I also had to do something about Chooster, our ancient giant barred rock rooster.  I had been keeping him with the chickadoos after his last hen died, but he really didn't seem interested in any young chicks.  He kind of beat up on the new rooster in the group, Elvis.  But, Chooster seemed to get along pretty well with the guineas, so I decided to keep him in with the guineas.

After about a week I came home and noticed Chooster in the back corner of the guinea pen with blood on him.

I Immediately took him out and examined him, and noticed some bad wounds on his back.  I cleaned him the best I could, he was such a good guy. In retrospect I should have put him on antibiotics and treated the wounds with iodine.  He died from his injuries.

About that time someone dumped two bantam cochins at the pond.  I saw them in the morning standing there looking lost, and when they were still there in the afternoon I decided I couldn't leave them abandoned. There was a piece of paper from the inside of a box near them, so you could tell someone had dumped them.

The hen was in bad shape and was easy to catch.  I figured exhaustion and shock and put her up in isolation with food and water and she perked up but still had some difficulty breathing.  The rooster was a lot harder and I spent some time trying to herd him back over to my house, through the woods around and around.  Finally when the kids got home I had them help me, and once he saw the hen he calmed down and we were finally able to corner him and put him in with her.

She continued to gasp, and I diagnosed her with gapeworm.  I treated her topically with ivermection injectible but she died a few days later.

So we lost the little hen and Chooster and gained a new rooster we named LB. That's because I called him little bastard.  He had red eyes and would attack my hand when I tried to feed him.  Willow took over his care and called him little buddy and got so she could pet him.

Then one afternoon she saw something had tried to dig into his pen.  I figured it was a skunk after the grain, and since it was part of the old goat pen I thought the bedding was so deep it would discourage digging, so I told her to put a rock there and figured that was good enough,

Well the next morning there was another hole and lots of feathers.  We tried to follow the feather trail through the woods but lost it after about 100 yards.  Willow and I felt awful about that.  I found a chunk of hair on the fence and Willow thought raccoon but it didn't seem right to me.  I started thinking Fisher.

During all these events the guineas had been laying eggs.  Lots of them.  The main flock of chickens has also been laying lots of eggs, so I decided to let the guineas keep their eggs thinking they might hatch some.

Two nights after LB was taken, the next day we found something had dug under the fence in the guinea pen and undermined the nest and had an eggs feast.  Like, egg shells all over, and eggs too.

This was getting to be a serious problem. 

I figured given the time of year something must have some hungry babies it was feeding, but boundaries are boundaries.

I looked things over and took stock of what materials I had on hand, and ran a hot line from the goat fence. I put the line about 6-8 inches off the ground all around the guinea enclosures and the goose pen.  That took most of an afternoon.  Then for good measure I found a metal bed rail-the one I was looking for when I was making bow stock-and laid it on the ground right in front of the hot wire where the nest raiding had occurred.

Things had been kind of dry, so I damped the ground and rail down pretty good. I read about 2000 volts on the fence tester. I like my fences to be about 3500-4000 but I recently hit the fence with my arm and shoes on at 2000 volts and it made me yell.  I figured 2K would be good.


The Willow and I were watching the tube that night and the Firebird called downstairs that something was screaming and crashing through the woods.  I stepped outside and heard all kinds of screaming down the drive a bit, so I jumped in the car and drove down.  I couldn't see anything but the screaming stopped.

I have to admit I must have some sadist in me, because I thought that was pretty funny.

The next day I went out and checked the damp ground for tracks.  I saw LARGE and small feline track.  Uh-oh.  Looked like Bobcat and baby bobcat.

I had seen bobcat track and seen a bobcat within a half mile up the road.  I heard one had been shot a half mile down the road a year or two ago. So I knew they were around but didn't think they would come around.

Two nights later we all heard a bleating that sounded sort of goat like and the Firebird yelled down again.  I grabbed the flashlight and ran out to the goat pen and took a head count. While I was counting goats a heavy chuffing was coming from down the ridge about ten yards away.  The goats and I ignored it. The goats were looking past me down the drive and I was counting goats.

"Huff, huff huff!"

My light is really bad and I couldn't see what it was.  The goats were all accounted for, so I went back in and got the maglight going with fresh batteries and a bulb out of another light. The chuffing was still going on down the ridge.  The Firebird said he heard a truck go up the road right around the time the bleating happened, so I started down the drive to see if a truck was stopped.  The chuffing had moved along the ridge towards the front of the house (I was on the other side) I didn't see anything down the drive.

I went back in the house and Willow and I listened out the bathroom window at the chuffing.

Then a barred owl started calling, first down the drive where we first thought we heard the bleating, then out back where I first heard the chuffing, and then where I last heard the chuffing, and then down to the marsh.  It was very freaky.  It was like the owl triangulated the whole scene.

"Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you-hoo?"

We thought maybe whatever it was was in the lower pasture, so I went back out and unplugged the fence so it could get out, thinking maybe it was trapped in there.

Finally I couldn't stand it and went out afterWillow went to bed.  I had the maglight and a stick.  LOL.  I went to the top of the ridge and tried to scan with the light, but the fenceline was just at the edge of the light.

But I still wanted to see what was down there, thinking maybe a hurt deer but not wanting to approach a hurt deer or a rabid chuffing raccoon or bobcat or whatever. I crept about halfway down the ridge and could hear something moving along but still couldn't see it. I called it a night and went in and loaded up my favorite search engine.

I decided that the bleating was a faun, or baby deer.  The huffing was it's Momma.  The next day I went looking and found deer tracks outside the fence on the house side.  So Momma was not in the fence.  The fence didn't look disturbed at all, so most likely it was not baby getting zapped.

Finally I found baby deer track along the drive, but lost them.  No sign of blood. Thought I saw bobcat track by the mailbox.

Did the bobcat grab the faun? I read that bobcat can take faun.

The next night, or rather 3 am this morning, Willow and the Firebird both yelled and woke me up.  Something screaming.  I listened,  Silence.  The I heard a yowl and another yowl. Then an owl-Hoo! Hoo! The saplings insisted it was horrible and went on for twenty seconds or so.  I got up and grabbed the light and stepped out on the deck.

I couldn't see anything and went back to bed, figuring the bobcat or a regular cat had hit the fence.

Right now it's midnight and I unplugged the fence about an hour ago because we had wicked thunderstorms coming through.  Now it is just raining lightly so I am thinking about plugging the fence back in.  I just don't want the charger to take a lightning hit, which it is prone to do with all that metal fencing nailed to trees out back.

I just wish I didn't have to go around the house in the dark to plug the fence in. Who-WHO knows what's out there?


*~*~*~*~Tonia said...

We have had a fox visiting lately. I had 3 hens separated out but not under lights and with in easy reach. We lost 2 out of the 3. I scared him off with lights.. Then made sure all the poultry were under lights and secure at night. Then one night we were sitting out side and heard the awfullest screaming sound. Kyle was insisting it was a bobcat. I was like nope that is the fox. Sure enough we looked it up. It was a fox. I had heard it before and looked it up. Freaky sounding scream in the middle of the night. They usually don't bother us but fence is off and lights were not all on. We have watched them ever since we moved here. Every year about this time we see them.

Dave said...

A few years ago I lost two hens to a mink and one to a raccoon. None of the predators lived long enough to enjoy their prey.

tree ocean said...

Tonia, I have seen fox on the next road over. And my oldest lost almost his whole flock during daylight hours including a roo to a fox this spring. There was a den not far from him and I used to hear them all the time there.

Dave, you must be pretty quick on the draw to catch the raiders!