The Stakeouts

As detailed in Lindsey’s blog, there have been some stakeouts at Good Life Ranch this week due to an animal episode of Criminal Minds.

It all began with a missing chicken report.  We always count the chickens (after they’ve hatched, of course) every evening as they file into their coop.  This evening, there was one missing.  We noticed it but weren’t too concerned.  We had one chicken who occasionally enjoys camping out underneath the barn.

My concern grew the next morning when I discovered this:

For all of you out there who aren't chicken anatomists, this chicken is missing something relatively important.

A very sad sight.  My first thought was that a possum had managed to climb into the coop.  Opossums will kill birds and only eat the heads or the guts.  I know that once predators get an easy meal they will continue to return until they are driven off, killed, or the food source is made unaccessible.  I decided to first try to make the food source more accessible.

I used spare boards and gravel from the creeks to shore up all the weak areas around the bottom of the coop.  All in all I used 15 wheelbarrow loads of gravel around the bottom of the coop.  I was trying to eliminate any area where a critter could crawl into the coop.  I also set up a couple of our live traps inside the coop.  I thought I was fairly successful and went off to do other chores.

I thought wrong.  Next morning, two more beheaded chickens.  These two were dragged from the chickens’ “bay” all the way to the opposite side of the coop and lined up neatly.  Hmmmm….  Possums aren’t neat and tidy.  Raccoon?  Whatever it was, this critter was definitely hooked on GLR chicken.  We told you it was good.

I decided to stake out the coop that night.  I took a bench, a blanket, a flashlight, and the shotgun and sat up in the second story of the barn where I was hidden from the view of anything on the ground but had a perfect view of the coop for aerial surveillance.

I waited.

Nothing happened.

But the next morning, I found another beheaded chicken.

Grrrrr….

That night I changed stakeout tactics.  I made a blind inside the chicken coop with some of our straw bales, hid under the blanket, and waited as long as I could.  After 4 or 5 hours nothing had come by.  It was midnight.  I was freezing.  This is February, remember.  It is cold at night.  So I went inside to warm up and nap.  At 5 am I went out to check things out.

I found another beheaded chicken.

Dammit!

What is this thing?

The next night, I decided to be stubborn.  No matter how cold or tired I got, I was not going inside until I saw this predator.

I had my straw bale blind, the shotgun, the wool blanket, all my heavy clothes, water bottle, and the seat of the lawn mower to make it a little more comfortable.  We’ve stopped buying caffeinated stuff, but if we’d had some it would have been out there too.  I was determined to stay awake and see what this was.

At four in the morning, I saw this:

In a baby voice: Cutest little chicken beheader EVER!

I saw it for a total of 2 seconds.  It took me one second to identify it.  The second second was spent adjusting the barrel of the shotgun an inch or two to train it on the mink.  It saw the movement.  It fled.  It did not come back.

Pessimistic view:  The predator situation was not resolved.
Optimistic view:  No chickens died that night.
Realistic question:  I’m too tired to do this a fourth night in a row.  What can we do?

Then it hit me.

Why is my brain still operating inside the box?

We have livestock guardian dogs.  Chickens are livestock.  They are being preyed upon.  This needs to stop.  I have not been able to discourage the mink.  The livestock guardian dogs successfully discourage packs of coyotes.  The mink is alone and smaller than a coyote.  If I was a mink, I would not mess with a Great Pyrenees.  If I was a Great Pyrenees, I would not take any shit off of a mink.  This could work.  Maggie the guard dog could chase something off and feel good about herself.  Sgt Pepper the guard puppy could get some solo goat-guarding experience (He doesn’t even have his big boy teeth yet, but he weighs about 50 pounds and barks at the coyotes like a big boy already.  Besides, he and the goats are behind a sturdy cattle panel fence for the night anyway.).  The farmer could get some sleep.

A 90-pound Great Pyrenees ought to be intimidating.

Sgt. Pepper is serious for his first night on solo goat guarding duty.

So I put Maggie in the chicken coop to try to deter the mink.  Apparently, the mink did not enjoy encountering Maggie there protecting the chickens because it did not kill any chickens that night.

During the following day I put Maggie back out to frolic with her goats and returned her to the chicken coop the next night.  This morning, there were again no beheaded chickens.  Yay Maggie!

Tonight will be the big test.  For three nights in a row the chickens have been spared after the mink killed 5 of them in 4 nights.  Three nights ago the mink was frightened off by my presence.  The next two nights Maggie scared it off and protected the chickens.  Tonight Maggie is with the goats and I’m not sitting in the coop.  Hopefully the mink has been deterred.

Keep your fingers crossed.

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One thought on “The Stakeouts

  1. Steve says:

    It always amazes me how clever natures predators can be. I have to keep ours under cover at all times due to the large Hawk and Owl population around here. I also have the coop encircled with electric mesh to keep out the many Opossums, Fox, Racoons, and all the stray hunting dogs running loose.

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