Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘coyotes

Three Survivors

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It was hard to avoid the harsh reality of our decimated flock of chickens when we returned to Wintervale yesterday afternoon. It was the first opportunity I was able to spend any time in daylight to finally see some of the areas of lost feathers marking where 22 chickens had been snatched.

As I was cleaning up three days of manure in the paddocks, I spoke out loud to myself when I spotted the distinct feather markings of Buffalo Bill. It looked like he didn’t give in without covering a bit of distance.

The poor horses must have seen this whole attack unfold. I hope they weren’t overly stressed by the incursion happening within their fenced confines. Maybe they were able to recognize only the chickens were being targeted.

We had asked our animal-sitter to keep the three surviving pullets shut in the coop until we returned after the weekend so she wouldn’t have to fret over their vulnerability.

Now we are faced with deciding if we are going to continue that practice or not. It’s sad but neither Cyndie nor I seem to have much will to invest any more hope toward an imagined future for them with us. I hate to think this way, but part of me wonders if it would have been easier if these three didn’t survive.

Cyndie buttoned up the fence boundaries of the coop courtyard in the two places where we had created the openings for those couple of days of free-ranging before the attack. We let the three prisoners out into the fenced space for a few hours.

I wondered if the coyotes were skulking around the edges of our property watching to see what we were doing. The last four times we have lost chickens happened shortly after we had gone back into the house. That can’t be by chance. The predators have to be watching to see when we are out and when we are not.

If I thought it would help, and if we somehow decided to have chickens again in the future, I’d make it a practice to always come back outside and check on things a few minutes after having gone in the house.

I wish we could offer the three survivors some consolation for the trauma they endured. Standing within the fencing with them yesterday, it was easy to see the new anxiety they exhibited over sudden movement and unexpected sounds. They were very jumpy birds.

Maybe these three had honed their emergency response hiding tactics better than all the rest. It’s sad that I had just written about the flocks’ impressive rush for emergency cover a mere two days before the massacre. I suspect that would protect them better against an assault from the air than the packs of fangs coming after them on the ground.

If those three survivors could talk, I wonder what they would have to say about the traumatic events of last Wednesday around dinner time.

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Written by johnwhays

July 19, 2021 at 6:00 am

Today’s Lesson

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Today, Cyndie and I are trying to process what lesson we might learn from the ultimate demise of our entire brood of 14 chickens over a span of two weeks when previous years have allowed us so much more time. Whether the most likely threat was coyotes or possibly hawks, we feel completely outsmarted and helpless against these forces of nature.

Yesterday, when the last four birds were taken from us, a leftover pile of feathers in the middle of our back yard, just steps away from where I was obliviously lounging on a recliner beside the fireplace, provided a particularly harsh stab of our inability to protect them.

Should we have changed something about our routine after the first attack? After the second?

It’s a moot point now. Except, there remains the probability we won’t give up trying. After the second attack, Cyndie decided to order an incubator to hatch some of our own eggs. If predators are going to keep taking our birds, we might end up just raising even more.

Evidence pointed to the latest attack playing out in uncomfortably close proximity to the horses whom we are striving to make feel safe and welcome. For now, our focus of attention shifts much more in their direction.

They provide both solace and distraction from our grief over the decimation of the chickens. We are learning how to frame our recent experience losing chickens and trying to soothe the angst of relocated rescue Thoroughbreds.

It may be today’s lesson, but I sense it is going to take a lot more time than a single day to fully absorb.

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Written by johnwhays

April 25, 2021 at 9:39 am

Hunting Hounds

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On a thickly gray Saturday morning, we stepped out of the house behind Delilah and quickly noticed a sharp sound in the distance. Swallowed by the crunch of our boots on the snowy path, the muffle of hats over ears, and the sound of our own voices as we chatted about some minutia, we had to stop in our tracks to identify what we were hearing.

There was a helicopter far in the distance, but that sound just faded. After a moment of no sounds, there was the bark of a dog. Then, several more. The hunting hounds were out early.

We resumed our trek down the trail, but not for long. The echoing bellows were only getting louder, so we reversed direction and headed back toward the house, through the back yard, and on to the barn. Delilah was delighted with the added excitement and romped her way along with us, reversing direction only several times to see if we couldn’t just check on the vocal hounds in the woods.

I wondered if we might suddenly see coyotes sprinting past us in a run for their lives.

With Delilah secured in the barn, Cyndie and I tended to the tasks of setting out food for the chickens and opening the coop. I could see the trucks of hunters slowing moving by on the road while we mingled with the chickens and I cleaned off the poop board. Rocky made a failed attempt to mount one of the Domestiques. We took solace in his acceptance of her objections.

Cyndie continues to offer feed from her bare hand in effort to condition the flock to always accept humans as safe and valuable companions. With respect to the New Hampshire pullet, Cyndie got nipped as the overzealous girl went after a mole on her thumb.

Can’t fault that as malicious, but geez. That hurt.

Returning to the barn, Delilah bursts forth with excitement at this moment because she knows the next phase of this daily routine is to take her up to the house where she will receive her morning meal. We exit the barn door and while I am closing the door behind us I notice Cyndie struggling with everything she’s got to hold the leash.

Delilah is trying to drag Cyndie up to the driveway to where a cute looking hunting beagle is standing all alone.

We decide to let Cyndie take Delilah back into the barn for a bit while I see if I can coax the beagle to get back on the job and find the rest of his pack or the scent of a coyote.

Knowing the hunters were driving nearby, I walked with the happy radio-collared beagle toward the road. A truck pulled up just as we arrived. The hunter said she was one of two that had gone astray.

Meanwhile, Cyndie took the opportunity to pop out of the barn and head up to the house with Delilah on a short leash. They quickly were surprised by the other stray. This time, Delilah was in reach to make contact, and luckily, with wagging tails the dogs met gently, nose to nose.

Cyndie said she offered Delilah the deal of continuing up to the house for her breakfast, and the two dogs trotted together for a bit and then parted without incident as they reached the door.

The hunter I spoke with at the road said our neighbor had alerted them to a sighting of coyotes early this morning, so they were hopefully tracking a fresh scent. By the time we were having our breakfast, nothing but quiet had settled in around us. I’m guessing the trail was lost.

Subsequent calm and quiet was a welcome outcome after the adventurous start to our Saturday.

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Written by johnwhays

January 9, 2021 at 11:12 am

Main Topics

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There are two primary topics dominating life around Wintervale lately: chickens and baking. Each having nothing to do with the other.

Last night it was all baking.

Super-sized apple cider oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and strawberry hand-pies custom ordered by the berry farm.

I contributed to the best of my ability. They both tasted delicious.

This morning, the chickens will get our main attention.

I suppose the dog and cat are feeling a little left out of things. Pequenita has been relentless at seeking attention whenever I venture near the bedroom –our bed being her preferred domain. Delilah will get some extra adventure later today when I take her exploring off-trails in our woods looking for evidence related to the raucous coyote howling we endured Wednesday night/Thursday morning.

I’m hoping that pack of predators are all well-fed now and won’t have any reason to hang around our property on the very day we plan to let our chickens get their first taste of free-ranging.

It all serves as a reminder we are living the country life.

I guess the two main topics could better be labeled, baking and pets.

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Written by johnwhays

October 9, 2020 at 6:00 am

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Wild Turkeys

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Something tells me the local flock of turkeys has expanded in size since I last saw them. It’s been a while. I’m guessing there is an added generation running with them at this point. Yesterday, while mowing the lawn, I spotted over 15 of them strolling through the labyrinth. I couldn’t count them all.

I was a bit surprised they didn’t startle over the loud roar of the mower when I approached. They simply walked, pretty much in single file, into the shadows of the trees.

We frequently find dropped feathers and plenty of footprints, but more often than not, they keep themselves out of sight.

It’s exciting to be able to see them looking so comfortable on our property. Thinking about it, maybe the good fortune we’ve had with our 8 chickens surviving all summer is reflected in the large number of wild turkeys also surviving. The predators must be finding other sources of sustenance.

I don’t know what the coyotes in the area have been eating, but they’ve been rather vocal in the wee hours of darkness recently. Apparently, it’s not turkeys sleeping up in the trees at night.

Maybe the coyotes will help me out and eliminate that nuisance woodchuck that has been burrowing around here lately.

It’s wild out there!

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Written by johnwhays

September 24, 2019 at 6:00 am

Reclaiming Peace

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The days following a disruptive weather event can be a confusing mix, emotionally. The threat has lifted and calm ensues, but the anxiety adrenaline hangover lingers. We are lucky to have dodged any significant damage or loss of power, but the multiple inches of dirty snow/slush, speckled with innumerable broken branches, delay the feeling of relief we seek.

Thank goodness for our hills and valleys that break up the wind around here.

The open terrain to the west didn’t protect the overexposed, iced up power poles lining roadways.

We don’t have anything near that level of clean up facing us. That must have been a real shocker to come upon.

Some of the local hunters stopped by for permission to cross our property with their dogs in search of coyotes. A short time later, gunshots rang out.

I had watched as the group of hounds calmly traveled out of the neighboring corn field and into the woods, with a single hunter walking behind them. After they disappeared into the ravine beyond our property, we never saw another glimpse of them.

One of these days, I’m going to ask if I can tag along. It occurred to me yesterday, that in all our years here, I have never actually seen a coyote. I’m curious about the logistics of how they finally get proximity to shoot, and then how they find their way out of the woods while carrying their kill.

In less than three weeks, our annual participation in the World Labyrinth Day peace walk will be upon us. We are finding it difficult to envision how we might be ready.

It’s not just the peace pole that can’t stand up in the soft earth. The stones balanced at each turn spend more time toppled that upright with all the freezing and thawing going on.

Our exercise may just be to claim our peace with accepting things just as they are.

Windy, calm; wet, or dry.

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Written by johnwhays

April 14, 2019 at 9:37 am

New Data

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Upon further review, judges have amended the egg count total for Tuesday. Yesterday, I reported that Cyndie found six eggs. Last night she updated the count.

Turns out, Jackie had collected 2 eggs herself that day. The total has increased to 8!

So, there.

With all the news frantically shouting about the hurricane bearing down on the US east coast, those of us in the middle of the continent are enjoying very summer-like conditions. My drive home yesterday brought me through fields that are changing from the deep green of summer to hues of yellow and gold.

Navigating my way around the house in the mornings before work has returned to the dark ages, and the hour of closing the chicken coop at night has moved up to around 7:30 p.m., about an hour and a half earlier than just a short while ago.

Last night, a pack of coyotes whooped it up somewhere within hearing distance of our windows. It sounded very similar to the group yelping we heard the first year we moved here, after which we discovered the carcass of the 8-point buck in our woods.

The change of seasons makes life feel more adventurous. It’s adventure that I greatly prefer, compared to an ominous threat of once-in-a-lifetime, climate-change-amplified hurricanes looming large.

Counting my blessings while I have the luxury, and sending love to those facing the challenges of preparations for evacuations, wind damage, and flooding.

Hold on to your hats.

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Written by johnwhays

September 13, 2018 at 6:00 am

Getting Started

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Preparations are underway for our trip with Cyndie’s family to the Dominican Republic. I’ve been enjoying creating the early posts in the series I have planned to explore events that led up to this latest adventure, starting way back with the first time I met Cyndie.

To give myself more time for planning and packing, I have decided to begin the series tomorrow. I hope you enjoy my trips down memory lane.

I will take advantage of the early break from daily posting to finish making lists and actually start packing.

Sounds like we will be getting away at a good time, as temperatures are expected to drop precipitously in the days ahead. I’m hoping that it won’t snow enough to require plowing until after we return, but it’s okay with me if the cold snap happens while I’m gone.

There was a little extra excitement around the ranch yesterday as the neighbor on our southwest corner reported he was going to be hunting coyotes and might cross our property.

Early in the morning, Cyndie came upon some lone tracks in the snow that just might have been those of a coyote scout venturing out on its own overnight.

If our neighbor is worried about his cows, I wonder if we should be concerned for our surviving three chickens.

We are really hoping the young woman who has agreed to take care of our animals while we are away won’t have any difficult problems to manage.

It’s just seven days. One week. Is that too much to wish for? An entire week at Christmastime of calm and quiet?

I guess we’ll find out soon enough.

I need to go find my battery charger for the camera. When we get back, I’m going to want to post lots of pictures of the tropical beach, palm trees, sun, and surf.

I hope you’ll be entertained by the stories I have scheduled to post while we are gone.

I intend to return to live, daily posting by the end of the month.

Bon voyage!

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Written by johnwhays

December 20, 2017 at 7:00 am

Threatening

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coyotes called last night again
whooping siren-like howls
echoes from the dark
adding excitement
to the trip down the driveway
rolling the trash
and recycling
to the shoulder of the road
with Delilah in tow
in hopes to dissuade
any roving marauders
whose curiosity might bring near
with our vision confined
to the cone of light
that juts from our foreheads
like miners in a cave
our cave with no ceiling
just dark to the stars
and fog of the evening
the ground wet but not snowy
air temp above freezing
rattling trees with no leaves
now just skeletons of their former selves
creating a haunting feeling
befitting the season
of goblins and spooks
that show up in our heads
where the most threatening reside
not possibly real
ones we make up, instead

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Written by johnwhays

October 30, 2015 at 6:00 am

Gruesome Find

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Eventually, all the clues began to make sense. Not a day goes by that Delilah doesn’t find something outside our windows that drives her into a barking frenzy. Nine times out of ten, it is beyond me to identify what has triggered her reaction. If it’s squirrels, they are long gone by the time I arrive. If it is gunshots or thunder, she hears it long before I am able.

Yesterday, Delilah began to go nuts with the barking. Attempts to distract and calm her seemed futile. Minutes later, Elysa and Anne stepped in the door announcing their arrival for a visit. Was Delilah barking at them? I was willing to believe it.

As the afternoon wore on, we headed outside to spend some time with the horses. We found them uncharacteristically jumpy. I tried several times to brush the remaining snow off their backs, but not one of them stood still long enough for me to finish. The wind was gusting a bit, so we thought maybe that was making them uneasy. It gave us an excuse to move on toward the pasture to toss discs for Delilah to chase.

Out in the open, the wind was cold enough to drive us onward so we headed for the trail in the woods. I had already traveled this trail earlier in the day with Delilah when we did our usual morning patrol after feeding the horses. We had enough snow overnight to just cover the ground, so it was easy to spot recent tracks along the trail. There were very few at that earlier hour.

As the four of us walked along with Delilah, it was easy to spot something laying on the trail up ahead. My first thought was that the wind had knocked down a tree branch, but what my eye was seeing looked larger than a typical fallen branch.

Yep. Not a branch.

It was the largest limb from a carcass that I had ever come upon. My guess: it was the leg of a cow and coyotes were likely to blame. Why one or more of them had dropped this leg in the middle of our trail is a mystery to me. Of course, it was a prize beyond Delilah’s wildest dream. It was too much for her to carry, so I picked up the frozen leg and carried it for her.

She didn’t know what to do. Walk in front of me? Walk behind me? Jump up and bite it while I walked? We made our way back to the house where I left it on the ground for her to gnaw on. She instantly morphed into one of the pack.

DSCN2793eBased on the size of this limb, I’m expecting to see the local coyote hunters busy at work around here in the near future. Farmers aren’t very patient when their livestock are being culled by predators. For those with sensitivities about such images, I am including this shot as a thumbnail to give readers an option of viewing it or not. Click per your personal tolerance for the gruesome, but natural, cycle of life involving wild carnivorous animals.

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Written by johnwhays

February 2, 2015 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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