Thursday, January 9, 2014

All of the chickens killed by a weasel, and forgetting.

One of the things emphasized in martial arts, the military, and driving is that it only takes a moment of inattention, laziness, or carelessness to get someone killed. In this case it was a quartet of chickens, and it only takes a moment applies just as much to homesteading as anything else I think. The short version of the story is on Sunday the Lady of the House shoveled out the chicken run so they'd have a place to have out time, and on Tuesday let them out during the day. By the time dusk fell she hadn't closed the hatch yet, and given how icy it is she decided to wait for me to come home to have me close it. Reasonable given how treacherous it is right now after an all day rain storm which turned into a 0F night within minutes of it getting dark a couple days ago. When I got home from work at about 11:30 PM I was upset because she hadn't re watered the rabbits, and in us taking care of that, we both forgot to close the coop. Wednesday morning she found the dead bodies killed by a weasel most likely.

Below the cut are photos of dead chickens. If this is disturbing to you or your work would not like it, don't click!

Left is the first thing the Lady of the House saw that indicated there was a problem. Blowing feathers around the yard is not something we should be seeing ever. Last time was when a fox got one of the chickens. The Lady of the House first went to the coop where she found Eagle dead, and picked her up thinking she was cold or otherwise disabled and that she might be revive-able. When she rounded the corner to the run she saw that wasn't the case, and realized blood as coming out of Eagle's neck and put Eagle down in the foreground with the rest. in the photo Below

You'll notice that you can only see three chickens in the photo Right, the fourth is behind the tarp right next to Haystack's body. We're not sure if the chickens are scattered because the weasel killed them in one place and dragged them around, or because they were running and trying to avoid getting killed. We know at least Haystack was dragged, and the weasel tried to get her through the fence to bring home as you'll be able to see in the post Below Right. How can we tell it was a weasel? For one, all of the throats have been eaten out, and there's a fair amount of blood around. For another the attempt to drag one chicken through the fence indicates going through the fence most likely. Other creatures that can pull through fences are things like raccoon, but they tend to succeed due to greater strength. The deciding factor was that there were no tracks in the snow. The only thing that would do this and leave this pattern of killing that wouldn't leave tracks is a small weasel since we've been seeing fox tracks even on this slightly harder snow surface after the weather we've had. Other things it's easy to see is that there's been no digging due to the snow showing that easily and clearly. We're upset about losing the chickens, but interestingly enough mostly we're upset that we were careless and caused their deaths. We liked the chickens a good bit, but it is mostly that we were careless that is upsetting. Not honestly the reaction we were expecting to have to losing the chickens. I think it has something to do with knowing they weren't going to die of old age. We didn't even expect them to survive to stop laying given our predator load. But losing them to our inattention was really a problem. We're going to be trying to replace them with already laying hens so we don't lose too much ground. We're either going to get another inexpensive fixer up coop for a second set of birds to go in a different area of the property this Spring, or we're going to convert the shed to a second coop so we can have rotating ages of chickens so we consistently have growing, and laying hens around.

Sorry for the first post back after the New Year to be a downer, I'd intended to post sooner, but it's been a crazy couple weeks, and very cold. I'll try to go into that in the next post. Thank you all for your patience and sticking with us.

 Stay warm.


  1. Oh man, that sucks. I'm really sorry. Now I understand why "weasel" is an insult: it killed all of them but didn't actually eat them? Now *that's* a jerk move.
    I hope you all are staying warm in your polar weather.

    1. Yeah, it's very true. A friend of ours who works at Fish and Wildlife said that minks will come by the fish pond for the stock fish and kill a bunch of them and just eat parts of the head, and leave a nice neat line of fish bodies with none of the meat eaten on the side of the pond.

      We're doing fairly well with the weather, so far our biggest challenge has been 50 degree days with rain and 0 degree nights turning everything to sheet ice. Other than that we're doing well, and enjoying having a wood fire!