As a livestock owner, I follow several groups on facebook so I can connect with others who face the same problems I do or possibly have answers to things I am currently facing. For instance, a few of the groups I follow are Oregon Homesteader’s Chat and Chickens Chickens Chickens. One of the hottest topics on these and most other small farm, homesteading groups is how to handle predators. I don’t put myself above other species. I don’t think that I deserve to live more than another animal does. With that being said, however, I will not sit idly by while my flock or livestock is wiped out by a predator without taking action.
Shortly after we released our ducks to the coop with the other birds, we had an incident. I use the word incident because the phrase “I kicked a bobcat” just sounds bad. I was late to close my girls in one night and walked out after dark to see what I thought was my Cayuga duck humping another one of my ducks. If you don’t know, a Cayuga duck is black. At night, in the dark, what appeared to be my Cayuga was, in fact, a bobcat attacking one of my other ducks. I walked up and kicked out at the “duck” (lightly, I wasn’t trying to hurt it, my friends) to get him off of the other, as they were in the doorway of the coop. Once I made contact, I realized I had really gotten myself into a spot. Our setup, at the time, was a shed type coop with a 25sqft run around it. The door to the coop opened up to create a gate for the run. Once I had kicked to bobcat it took off into the coop where it was trapped, scared, and angry and I was blocking the only escape. I managed to put a children’s plastic swimming pool that we used as a duck pond over it until I could get all of my chickens and ducks put away. I left it there and by the time I got up in the morning, it had dug itself out. After seeing that it had gone, I called Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) to ask them about relocating it if I could live trap it and was told that relocating the bobcat only created problems for another person and their livestock. That was something that I hadn’t previously thought about, but realized that it made sense. That was the only predator that we ever had at our previous house, luckily.
When we moved to our current house that did not hold true. Within a week of moving in we lost three ducks and seven chickens. It was heartbreaking for me, as I had raised all of them from babies. It wasn’t just a predator coming to get them and carrying them off, either. My Cayuga from the earlier story was pulled through the chicken wire so hard that, when the wire didn’t tear, his head was torn from his body. We shored up the coop and still the predator found ways to get to my flock. At the time, we also had a small flock of meat chickens we were raising to process. The predator cleaned out all but one of those, as well. I finally got so frustrated I called a friend (we’ll call him BOB) who is a trapper. Bob came to take a look and determined that we had several coons and at least one opossum. It took one day to catch the coon that had been wreaking all the havoc. He was a monster, for sure! He weighed in at over twenty-five pounds and with his tail, was over three feet long. Bob hung the dead coon over the fence next to the coop and from June until November there was not another sighting of any predator. That is how long it took for the carcass to decompose.
Shortly after that we moved the coop to a new location on the property. Once it was moved, the coons started coming around again. We caught three in the live trap over a ten day period. In addition to the three coons, we also caught two opossums. We hung the next carcass and the winter was pretty quiet. We were fine until a couple of months ago, when my ducks started going missing one by one. We are still not sure what got them. They were just gone. Poof! No trace. We are leaning more toward a bird of prey than a four legged predator as there are many owls, hawks, and eagles where we live. The weird thing is, none of my chickens came up missing at the same time; only the ducks. I know, weird, right? Last week brought another opossum to the coop. It dug under the wire and was sitting in the nest box eating the eggs. Luckily, those were an easier target than the chickens roosting in the coop. There was no trap involved with this predator, just a 9mm, and a new carcass for the fence.
I remember after the first chicken was killed we talked about it being raccoons. I was so sad about the idea of killing them. Growing up in the Midwest, we would go camping at a state park and feed the local raccoons Doritos from the picnic table. They were very friendly and kind of adorable. After seeing what the coon did to my duck, I was over it. They didn’t even finish eating the whole thing. They would kill them and leave the carcasses half eaten outside of the coop. It was sad and frustrating for me and traumatizing for my flock.
In my opinion, and that is all this blog is really, the predator is free to live a long and healthy life away from my flock of birds. Once you come into my coop or threaten my birds you forfeit your life. I don’t take it any less seriously than a stranger walking onto my property and threatening me or my family. This is my way of life. These birds help me support my family. They provide us eggs to eat and when that egg production falls off they provide meat for my table. I have pigs that are cute to look at and play with, but will eventually provide my family with meat for the table. I have a goat that I am attached to and she will eventually provide offspring that I can barter with and milk that I can use or sell. Everything on my farm has a purpose. If someone tried to damage my property or my family I would not hesitate to protect those, why should my livestock be any different. I respect the opinions and decisions made by other livestock owners regarding their flocks or their property. I won’t argue what you do to ensure that your livestock and flocks are protected. Please don’t lecture me or shame me for how I choose to ensure that my livestock and flocks are protected.