We’ve had an absolutely horrible week here at Oldfarm.
It all started quite early last Tuesday when I let the hens and ducks out way earlier than usual. The ducks all seemed a bit quiet and ‘wet’. When I looked closer some of them appeared to be cut and bruised. I stupidly presumed that the drakes had been fighting over the girls!
We had 6 hens – 2 rather old Khaki Campbells and then 4 others younger hens of mixed breed.
We also had two beautiful drakes who were a gift from our neighbour.
Back to last week, I was home alone as Alfie was back in hospital, so I kept a close eye on things during the day. It was that bitterly cold day – pre-snow – so I was worried they’d catch cold. No amount of coaxing would bring them back off the pond for food. When it came to lock up time, 5 remained on the pond (drake and 4 girls). The other drake and 2 girls were missing… I presumed hiding somewhere.
Next morning, the five on the pond were safe but no amount of searching revealed where the other 3 were. They’ve never returned – presumably taken by a fox.
Wednesday evening 5 came off the pond, fed and went to bed. Thursday was fine. Friday all was well.
Saturday morning I opened the shed to find 3 of the girls decapitated. The drake and surviving hen were very battered and bruised. I felt so bad about the 3 girls. I had coaxed them back into the shed and ultimately to their death.
Something had attacked them overnight. We presumed mink.
Saturday was spent trying to find entry points and secure the shed.
I should mention our regular hens were in same shed, but, of course, they were on the roosts. Also, our large Muscovy drake looked like he’d been attacked but he had won.
We nursed and hand fed the remaining two, and by the end of the day they seemed a bit more ‘perky’. Every tiny hole that we could see was now stuffed with chicken wire. We thought we had the shed secure.
However, yesterday morning I opened the shed to find them both decapitated. I could have cried. Again the birds trusted us to put them somewhere safe and this is what happened to them. By ‘securing’ the shed we had obviously trapped the predator in there!
We pulled sheds apart and let the dogs in (they’re not usually allowed in). Both dogs were very excited about something they could ‘smell’ in there. We borrowed traps from neighbours and friends and set them up.
We secured an alternative shed and set up roosts. Of course, the birds didn’t realise they were expected to move house…. so at dusk last night we had to go out and hand lift them from one house to another. Not an entirely easy process with large Muscovy drakes!! Thankfully, Zack, our rooster is much more amenable to being lifted about.
This morning all were safe in their new house.
And, a pine marten was caught in one trap… we think he was living in the cavity bricks partitioning part of a shed.
Traps are still in place ‘just in case’ there are any more predators.
To end on a ‘good news’ story…. one of our hens has gone broody and is sitting on eggs! Fingers crossed!