I just went out to check on the ducks to see if they were hanging out in their new lean-to and lock up the chicken house (we were late as we were trying to give time for the ducks to make it back to their pen). I went into the chicken yard, dubbed the Pterodactyl Pen, and the guard dogs were going nuts. The tone of our Shepherd’s bark told me something was wrong. She was trying desperately to get into the chicken yard with me, clawing at the 6′ fence. I shined my headlamp around the area and sure enough…..two beady black eyes looking up at me from under the chicken coop stairs. As soon as the light illuminated the unwanted visitor, the shepherd barked again and let out a low deep growl to let me know that was indeed the intruder.
To many, taking the life of an animal for any reason is wrong, and to those people I would say I hope that works out for you if you plan on managing a homestead and being both protector and caregiver to animals. I hate killing anything I don’t intend to eat. That said, this opossum got into our broody hens nest a few weeks back and ate all but one of her eggs and scrapped with the hen enough to leave both feathers and fur at the scene. It came back tonight and was about 3 feet from our sleeping hens. For those that don’t know, opossums will not only eat chicken eggs and young chicks, but also will kill chickens. Arguably not as bad a killer as the cute little raccoon, but a close second. There is no sense in getting angry at them, as they are just looking for food, and in this case, the mama opossum was trying to feed herself and her babies. She was teaching them where to locate food for the future and, unfortunately for both of us, it was in my hen house. I could not afford the loss and they are not willing to learn as she snuck in past two highly alert guard animals not once, but at least twice. I called inside for the scatter gun and did what had to be done. I buried her, along with her litter. Sad, Maybe. Necessary, Absolutely.
I posted this because predation is just one of the unavoidable, and not so glamorous aspects of having a homestead with animals. We are running a hot wire around the pen this weekend, but even then things can go wrong. I am just glad I got there before we lost any of our flock.