Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Disappearing Chicken Mystery

Our five chickens are gone.  They disappeared two weeks ago, while I was at Asilomar and Ken was out for the evening.  At least that's when we think it happened.  Ken got home late and didn't go out to check on them until early afternoon.

The wire fence is about 4-4.5 feet tall.  We have fencing panels laid on the ground all around it to deter wild animals from digging under.  These hens don't perch in the tree at night like the old flock did.  The silly things don't even use their hutch.  They sleep on a pile of brush in the middle of the open area.  Sitting ducks for predators, so to speak.

After our last experience with 13 dead chickens lying all around the pen after a dog got in, we're pretty certain it wasn't a dog.  But we're not sure it was a wild animal either.  We're not so far into the country that it would be a wolf or a mountain lion, or even a coyote.  Far more likely to be a possum, fox, skunk or badger.  But there was no digging.  No scuffed or scraped areas to show something jumping over the fence.  No sign of forced entry - except one place where the top of the fence was bent over and there are two convenient logs to step on if you want to get over the fence.  Of course, a human could easily unfasten the gate.  It's just 10 feet along on that side of the pen.

The other evidence was feathers.  Lots and lots of feathers.  There were five little circles of larger feathers, as if something had pounced on each hen to take it away.  And lots of under-feathers along the inside of the fence, as if something had chased them around before catching them.  Either that or the wind had blown those feathers away from the other five spots.

There was one place along the outer edge of the fence that looked to me as if footsteps had bent the grass down, and there was a long narrow track of bent grass near the bent place in the fence, like a bicycle had sat there for a while.  It was frosty that night, and the bent grass in the track was more damaged than the grass around it.

You've probably guessed where I'm going with this.  We think it was a human.  Possibly one of our neighbors.  Ken has talked to the people around us, and there are stories of other problems with livestock that don't seem like accidents.  So we reported it to the sheriff deputy who took our report last year when the dog killed our previous hens.  We don't think he'll be out there solving the crime, but we hope it might add something to an accumulation of other incidents.  A bit worrying to think there's someone living nearby who appears to enjoy hurting animals.

So our egg surplus is gradually going away.  I "only" have about six dozen still in the fridge.  We'll be buying eggs at the store by New Years I'm guessing.

We're still considering if we even want to get more chickens this Spring.  We'd have to do something differently for them.  Something to keep them inside at night.  But if you make it so you have to go out twice a day to open or shut the hutch on them, it gets pretty hard to get away for an overnight trip.  It's a puzzle.

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