The loss of my Americana chickens.
The loss of a chicken flock is never easy to take. You always feel as if you didn't do enough to protect your flock. Living in the deserts of Nevada you are always thinking about predators. Every fence, every cage and every chicken hutch is built with predators in mind. And it really doesn't matter what type of livestock or garden crop you're raising, the wildlife here in the desert considers anything and everything that you are growing as part of the menu. It is only a matter of time before a predator takes notice and then the battle of wits begins.
Coyotes are far more intelligent than dogs but both species consider a fence a minor obstacle. But unlike dogs, coyotes will actually sit, watch and then analyze in order to find a solution to a problem or in this case my fence and a chicken coop. Once they find a solution they not only act upon it themselves but convey the solution to other members of the pack and work as a team in a coordinated effort to get at their prey.
I actually watched a coyote pack run a jackrabbit to ground. The coyote pack sat on a hill as each member took turns chasing the jackrabbit. Normally the jackrabbit can out run a single coyote, but the coyote knows that a jackrabbit is territorial and won't run outside of its own territory . This means the jackrabbit will continually run in a circle until it can't run anymore.
Now in my case the fence was not a real problem as I had not completed it yet. The problem was I locked up my chickens at night and only allowed them to free range during the day. Solution; attack the chicken flock during the day when the owner was away. Which means the coyotes had been watching for several days before they made an actual move on the flock.
|Remains of Americana chickens after coyote attack.|
The photo above is what remains of my Americana chickens. You have to give coyotes credit, they seldom leave any waste behind. The only thing that I was able to find was a head and a couple of wings. This may be a gruesome sight to some, but growing up in the deserts of Nevada and being around wildlife and livestock all the time gives you a different perspective on life. This sort of event takes place daily as animals in the desert struggle to survive. For that matter everything in this universe feeds on everything else, and every living thing must consume some other living thing in order to survive.
Now the mistakes I made were several. The first mistake I made was in letting my guard down because I had not had a coyote attack in several years. I assumed that the chickens would be safe as long as I locked them up at night.
The second mistake I made was not completing the fence before letting the chickens to free range . Usually I run one or two strands of Barb wire at the bottom of the fence and below ground. This is usually enough to deter most predators but as I have found with coyotes they are problem solvers and the minute you solve one problem they will find another chink in your armor when you're not looking.
The third mistake that I made was not paying attention to the other wildlife in the area . I had noted several ravens hanging around before the attack took place . Ravens are a scavenger bird and probably even more clever than the coyotes. But the one thing I've learned about ravens is they like to follow predators so they can pick up on the left overs . I had not seen any hawks and mistakenly assumed the ravens were just simply passing through.
The fourth mistake was not remembering my own history . The last time they attacked they wiped out a flock of 20 barred rock chickens in a single night and I never did find even a single body part.
As to the hole under the fence and I am not sure if it was a way out or a away in, but unfortunately I've had to set steel traps in hopes of catching the predators responsible. This also poses the dilemma of trying to keep my own dog out of the traps and having to lock up my other flocks of chickens even in the heat of the day.
I now have an unexpected project of trying to improve my defenses and anticipate another attack. The coyotes have learned that there is an easy meal here and most likely will not leave until all my chickens are gone.
And so life goes on as I continue my own struggle to survive under trying times and difficult conditions. The desert is relentless and if it is not coyotes it is something else. The challenge is to learn from my mistakes and at the same time realize that nothing is forever. That when I am no longer here, the desert will undo everything I have done and reclaim what I have taken from it.