Tuesday, February 17, 2015

St Valentine's Massacre, or Trouble comes In Spades

UGH.  Can I just say that again? UGH!

While Valentine's Day is traditionally the day that birds choose their mates, we had devastation in our poultry yard.

Yesterday afternoon, the Firebird met me as I was going out the back door and he was finishing up the poultry chores...
"We've got a problem...a guinea has been decapitated."

The four guineas are kept down the ridge in the old outhouse.  I went down and found not one but two dead guineas with heads pulled throught the gap under the door.

I cast around for tracks..."MINK!"  I exclaimed.

After some debate, I decided to secure the old rabbit hutch for the two remaining guineas.  It had served as last year's winter quarters, but once I knew I was dealing with a mink, I knew I had to secure every last gap.

Finally fixed to my satisfaction, I moved the two guineas to the hutch and we finished night chores.

About 10 pm the Willow called down, "don't you guys hear that?"

Some commotion from the guineas mere feet from the kitchen window had awoke her, and I heard a feeble vocalization and dashed out with the Firebird to investigate.

We saw both guineas prone inside.  I realized one was still alive and grabbed it and brought it in.  WIllow suggested the cat carrier and provided a towel and I gently placed the guinea in the carrier, after noting two puncture wounds on the neck....mink

The Firebird assured me the other bird was dead, and then I wondered what to do about the geese, on the ground in the very unsecure chicken coop.  The Firebird had raised looey from a hatchling.

I crawled under the house and retrieved a large animal kennel I acquired-free!- last summer, made some room in the toolbox area by the bathroom, and the Firebird and I each grabbed a gander and stowed them in there for the night.

Pluto wasn't very happy, we acquired him several years ago from a neighbor who acquired him from a livestock auction, so carriers meant doom to the poor old guy.  Still, we knew they were safe for the night.

The Firebird had seen the mink at one point, and noted that it had made a tunnel in the snow, so after we secured the geese I went out and stabbed the snow shovel and he with the firepoker.  I believe in live and let live with the wildlife, but we were on the verge of a serious problem.

Today I borrowed a live trap from the neighbor...not as easy as it sounds, they are elderly and it was in one of two outbuildings that had over four feet of snow between us and them.  I took my snow shovel (with my golfer's tennis elbow if you have been following me) and dug a knee deep path and we finally found a trap, her husband who suffers many health issuse pulled himself out of his recliner and got down on his knees and showed me how to set it.

The Firebird was away for the day , so the Willow an I baited it with a smelt an rubbed some canned chub mackerel on it, and set it in the rabbit hutch, the last known location of the mink.

I had let the geese out for the day, and although I usually block them off the back deck bcause they sit there and poop all day, I made allowances today.  Louey spent the day snugged up to the back door, and several times they honked and I burst out the door expecting to see the mink at their throats, and they ran off the deck because I usually yell at them to get off the deck....

Around 3 I heard a commotion in the chicken coop and ran down to find our only rooster on the floor covered in blood, and a mink in the coop.  It jumped out a gap in the chicken run door. and I waited.  It jumped back in and I held still.  I grabbed a rather long stick, the only thing nearby, and waited.

The mink looked at me, looked at the bloody rooster, and started for the rooster,.

Well, I am old and mink are fast, and twice I tried to smack it and twice it jumped out and then back in, and finally I gave up and grabbed the bloody rooster and ran to the house and stuck him in the other cat carrier.

Then the Willow ran out with the dog and the firepoker but the mink had left.  So we had some discussion and finally decided to take the live trap and stick it over the run door.  Then I blocked either side and disguised the pedal with some hay and feathers...yeah, feathers everywhere... and apologized to the hens on their roosts and said a prayer the mink would go in through the trap and be caught.

Pluto honked alarm from inside...at this point I had grabbed the ganders and put them back in the big vari kennel in the house.  So I went out and checked the trap from outside and it wasn't tripped and the chickens were quiet so I went back in and waited.

Around 9 tonight I had to go pick up the Firebird, and when we got home I had the light from the blazer on the coop and I thought I would just check things out....and opened the door to see a pile of dead hens.  I could see movement so I knew at least one hen was still alive, so I parked and we reconnoitered and I armed myself with the gravel rake and headlamp and ran down to the coop.

I opened the coop up and there was the mink on top of one of the cages.  The coop is a small building and I used to house rabbits in there, so I have several suspended cages with plywood tops.  The chickens usually roost up there. 

So there was the mink, and I started trying to get it with the gravel rake.  I don't like to harm animals, but this thing had blood lust and was just killing every single bird and drinking the blood and grabbing the next one.

I had called my grain store earlier in the afternoon to ask for advice, and one thing she told me was if I was going to go after it to make sure I hit it hard and got it by the second try or it would come after me.

Well, that's what happened.  I missed a couple times, and that thing launched off the top of the hutch straight for my face.  I gave a yell and jumped out of the way, and it fell at my feet and dashed around the coop in a flash.

So then we had to see what was left.  I found one barred rock hen, and grabbed her, screaming bloody murder, and ran her up to the house and stuck her in a box.  Thenn I went back and counted the dead.  I was missing one white hen...I turned around and she was perched on top of the door frame, still alive!  I had an old canary flight cage and yanked that out of the snowbank and made that cozy and put her in there, and then put her sister the barred rock in with her..  Yes, they were the last of the chickadoos that I had hatched in a homemade incubator and raised myself.  I had put them in with the main flock this summer, and they never quite fit in, which probably saved their lives tonight.

White wing the crippled guinea had been in one of the separate rabbit cages, and I had thought him safe...no, the mink had found a way in there and white wing was lost as well.  5 dead hens and white wing.

I put them in a bag and the smell of blood and dead was soooo strong....I was out of bags and in a panic decided to do what all the locals do and go find a place to dump them along with the three dead guineas from yesterday....

I couldn't risk every predator in five miles being drawn to the scent here.The goats are rather unprotected with the electric fence shorted out, and the snow deep enough to walk over the four foot fence in places.

We have coyote and bobcat in the area, and with this deep snow and bitter cold everything is looking for its next meal.  We have had mink around for years and years and I never had any trouble.

So I loaded up the carcasses and drove around...finally thinking I found a good spot and chucked the bags over the snowbank.  And there they sat on top of the snow bank.  Over four feet of snow and thirty pounds of chicken and it stays on the snow in plain view. I drove down the road and found a better spot, so I went back for the bags I had left, over shot them, had to turn around again, thinking if anyone was one awake at that hour I was being very suspicious.

I waded through the snowbanks &reloaded the bags, and headed back down the road.  Then I overshot my dump point.

So I went along and picked another spot far from houses and got out and slung the bag as far as I could, and then the three small bags with the guineas along into the woods.  I searched the ground figuring with my luck I would have accidentally dragged my wallet out of the car and dumped it on the road.

I finally made it home.  I have a:  probably-going-to-die rooster, a bit guinea that might recover, two hens, and two ganders remaining....all in my kitchen...and a psycho mink running around outside the house.

I KNEW I was dreading this winter for a reason.

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