Predators: a real and ever-present danger

Hawks, fox, racoons, coyote, snakes, you name them and we most likely have them here all trying to find their next meal. Just last week we were gone for the day picking up our new puppy when we received a call from our daughter who was home. She was working when she heard a commotion with the chickens. She described the sound they were making as shrieking. She looked out the window to see a shepherd sized coyote assessing the chicken pen trying to figure out a way to get inside. This happened in the middle of the afternoon.

Keeping the chickens and ducks safe is always one of the biggest challenges.  All the birds have a secure house and we lock them away at night to minimize the chance of a predator having access to a good meal. Typically with birds, especially chickens, they do not want to be locked away until dusk, which means that we put all the goats away, but then must go back outside when it’s almost dark and make sure all the birds are in their houses and the doors are shut.  Some nights the ducks refuse to cooperate, so we’ve learned with them that we need to keep the morning feeding light so that they are hungry in the evening and will come in from the pond. 

We had one night recently that we forgot to go back out to close the coop doors, and what a giant mistake that was.  At 4:26 am we heard the baby ducks loudly quacking and we both jumped up in bed and said “Oh no! we forgot to close up the ducks”.  I jumped out of bed, grabbed a flashlight and went outside to close them up.  They were all huddled together quacking loudly and very shook up.  I scanned the flashlight around and saw that some predator had managed to grab one of them and partially devour the duckling from the outside of the chain link fence enclosure.  It was an amazing feat and I could tell that the predator had tried to pull the duckling through the fencing, couldn’t get it through, so ate as much of it as it could through the fence.  So horrifying to see that!

I closed all the birds up and then went back to bed and tried to get more sleep.  I wasn’t able to sleep and kept thinking about how stupid it was that we both forgot this chore and lost an animal because of it.  The next morning when I went to tend to the grown ducks I saw signs of digging under the duck house.  This is in a spot that we had identified earlier was a weak point in the enclosure where a predator could possibly get under the duck house and then into the enclosure.  We didn’t address it with reinforcements, but rather said we needed to do something about this, and then failed to do so.  I counted the ducks and we are missing a grown duck too. 

When I let the baby ducks out of their enclosure and took a few minutes to see the condition of the remaining 4, I could clearly see where one of them has 2 injuries on its neck.  So whatever predator it was that partially devoured the other duckling had tried to grab this duckling and it managed to get away. 

It’s been a struggle to keep the ducks alive because they seem to be a favorite of all the predators.  We’re blocking the area under the duck house where we saw digging and we’ve vowed to be more vigilant in not forgetting the nightly routine of closing all the ducks and chickens in.  It was a hard reality check that these predators aren’t going away nor are they ever giving us a break.