Friday, August 3, 2012

heavy metal

Seems everyone and everything likes chicken. We have, for a decade now, lost chickens to many different predators.

It was quite noisy on the farm for a number of nights for a week or so. We lost pens full of chickens, there were middle of the night sightings of creatures not welcome on the farm. Chicken eaters.

Our local hardware store sells traps. Not bear traps. So far, no bears have found their way here. But small traps. We set up have-a-hearts, nothing in them. Another night, more chickens missing.

We farm to earn a living. Or an attempt to earn a living. Every chicken we lose takes away from our ability to do so: either the chicken stops producing eggs or disappears. Either way we cannot recoup the cost of bird or feed when the bird is consumed by a predator. If predator consumption continues we have no reason to be in business...because we cannot, in fact, produce what we have agreed to for our customers.

When we leased land we lost birds by the hundreds. We also worked other jobs and could absorb the losses. That is no longer the case. For the first few years the geese were good at sounding alarms when the nighttime predators appeared, but they lost their drive, started sleeping next to the house and are no longer with us.

Traps went out. Requests for large, guardian breed dogs have gone out, unanswered. So we use traps.

And have had nights of sleep again. Nights without losses, without noises of chickens under attack. Full nights of welcome rest...this time of year is busy and intense in farming, as there is much to do.

We know they will be back. We know that every night every inch of fence, every connection point, every length of electric fence is tested. And a breech in the fence means more chicken losses.

If we had every laying hen that we have purchased as a day old peeper we would have 1,200 (at minimum). We have 200 full grown and another 150 that are growing out. And yet we have never processed a laying hen, the entire time we have farmed. Many a hawk, fox, skunk, dog, raccoon...and others have enjoyed delicious meals instead.

And we will continue to battle them all. And realize why poultry grown industrially is in cement/cinder block buildings, covered. Locked. Tough for predators to get in there!

It sounds easier some nights. But then the memory of the stench of ammonia, the realization that all that chicken poop would have to be dealt with, probably with a front end loader (and all the noise, stink and expense of that) along with the use of medications we do not want to utilize returns.

Sleeping through the night when we can is a luxury. Glad to have it. Know it will not last.

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