Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘predator/prey

So Close

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For once, I saw it with my own eyes. I was up at the house when I heard a commotion down in the trees toward the chicken coop. Chickens squawking, wings flapping, and a large bald eagle swooping through and flying away. I wasn’t able to tell if it had anything in its grasp.

By the time Delilah and I made it down to check on the chickens, they were all happily pecking away at the grass beside the paddock, …except for one.

A Black Australorp was missing. I thought it was possible she was in a nesting box, but upon opening the access door and finding it empty, my heart sank.

The rest of the hens came over in search of a treat. They were such a tight bunch, it seemed highly unlikely the missing bird was off by herself if she wasn’t in the coop laying an egg.

I made the walk to the barn in woe over the loss. Dang eagle. Funny how we have always been thrilled to see the majestic bald eagle in our midst, but since one has now threatened the lives of our creatures, it takes on a different meaning.

When I opened the door from inside the barn to go out under the overhang and clean up after the horses, my woe turned to elation. That highly unlikely scenario of a lone hen mulling about so far from the rest of the brood had occurred. She was cutely cooing away all by herself in the sand under the barn roof.

It made me wonder if she even knew about the close call that had occurred out in the trees just a short time earlier. I had expected those trees would provide cover to protect the chickens from predators, but obviously, most of that protection disappears along with the leaves.

When we decided to get chickens, it didn’t occur to me that doing so would attract eagles.

I wonder if it will be back to try again. Having spotted the eagle perched across the field earlier in the week, something tells me, yes, it probably will make additional attempts.

After seeing yesterday’s close call, I’m thinking I’d rather not be around when it happens again.

For now, we’ve still got nine hens. I guess we better keep our eagle eyes on them if we want that number to remain.

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Written by johnwhays

November 9, 2018 at 7:00 am

Absolutely Disgusting

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Now, I did not choose today’s title just because it is election day in the U.S. I witnessed something yesterday that was nauseating, but it had nothing to do with politics.

To spare you the horrific image, I did not take any pictures of what Delilah and I came upon during our afternoon walk. In fact, here is a difficult to discern shot of our cute cat playing queen of the pillows for you to view as a mental image cleanser after –should you choose to continue reading this post– you read my description of this unsettling experience.

Content Warning!

If you have a weak stomach for graphic details, avert your eyes now.

Delilah’s nose sensed it first, but luckily, the disgusting find was off the trail and I spotted it in time to shorten her lead to keep her from reaching it.

It looked like a basketball-sized animal had been turned inside out. I think it was a rib cage that was most prominent.

We kept walking.

When I got her a fair distance past the carcass, I secured Delilah’s leash to a gate in the pasture fence and retraced my steps for a closer viewing. I wanted to know what it was. I was also curious whether I could see a clue as to what animal was responsible for the kill.

I knew right away the dead animal wasn’t a chicken because my initial glance had caught sight of a hairy hide. Plus, there were no feathers around. It was also bigger than our chickens.

I spotted a foot and a tail that told me it was a raccoon. It was laying in plain sight in the middle of the main drainage ditch –currently saturated and flowing due to a continuing wet period of days lately– that forms our southern property line.

Having the gross spectacle so prominently exposed next to our pasture, within sight of the chicken coop and horses, made me a little uncomfortable, but I wasn’t much interested in dealing with it while walking the dog on our way to feed and clean up after the horses.

I settled for tossing it from the middle of the open ditch to some brushy growth on the far side, toward the neighbor’s property. When I picked it up by the tail, the surprisingly intact entrails dangled out from the gut. In the world of nature’s predator/prey relationships, I would say this was only a half-completed job.

It was also one of the most disgusting things I recall ever picking up.

Later in the evening, long after darkness had settled in (which now happens around 5:00 p.m.), I felt conflicted over having left the gruesome carcass where it would continue to attract attention.

Maybe I should have bagged it and thrown it away. At the same time, I would rather have local predators feeding off raccoons than my chickens. But, it was uncomfortably close to where our chickens roam.

Interesting side note: On Sunday, I spotted a beautiful bald eagle perched in a tree along that same drainage ditch. I fretted over the possibility it was eyeing our chickens. Maybe it was looking for raccoon carcasses, instead.

Now I want to go look at some cute cat pictures for a while.

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Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2018 at 6:00 am

Coming Together

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I was keeping Delilah tied close to me while cleaning up around the paddock, partly to keep her out of trouble with the horses, but also because I don’t want her venturing to the full reach of the leash, scouting chickens. She seems to understand the drill.

After retrieving her from the kennel located behind the house, we walked along the back pasture fence line toward the chicken coop. I had already checked on the chicks earlier, so knew where to expect them. Keeping myself between the chicks and Delilah, we strode parallel to the coop where I stopped to put the memory card in the trail cam for the night.

She was appropriately curious, but not frantic over the presence of the birds. I doubt she will ever reach a point where she would let one of the birds walk into her space without attempting to grab it, but it feels nice to have her practicing a respectable level of calmness with them in view.

In the paddock, I had my attention on the task at hand, letting Delilah explore the immediate vicinity around me. When she stopped and stared, I looked up to find the chicks making their way over from the coop to join the horses for some short grass grazing.

Although separated by safe distances with Delilah restrained on the leash, it felt good to have us all coming together in the paddock. It was a hint of the ideal we wish could somehow come to be.

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Written by johnwhays

May 26, 2017 at 6:00 am