Our neighbors had free ranging chickens who stayed on their side of the fence, but not in their chicken yard. They started with 24 birds then lost three chicks to red-tailed hawks, ate seven roosters, and lost three hens to mysterious predation that left no bodily evidence behind.Then they lost a fourth hen and their daughter found the body. They don’t know what got it. That’s a loss of 14 birds, leaving a flock of 10. After the daughter found the dead hen, the neighbors clipped the bird’s wings and started keeping a closer eye on the flock.
We’ve been pretty diligent since the beginning, keeping the little flock of 12 under lock and key. We even have an electric fence around the movable trampoline-tractor. Nothing had happened to the flock, and the birds were, almost, full size, and the extension cord does not reach the fence but that was ok because, well, it was ok last week, and the week before, and the week before that.
However, once the neighbors buttoned up their chicken-keeping, the predator moved in on our friendly, curious, and predator-oblivious flock. A lot of good an unplugged electric fence does. We lost two of the three unnamed, golden lace Wyandottes, and our beloved Lanchester to predation.
Good news is, we moved the trampoline-tractor closer to the cord and started using the fence again. The morning after our loss, with electric fence buzzing away, we found a very fat and dead raccoon in the middle of the yard. It appears he died of a heart attack because there was no evidence of trauma. Case closed. I was surprised our country dogs did not enjoy the spoils of the hot wire, maybe they sympathize, each having been zapped at least once.
In other food related news – We set beer traps for the slugs in the strawberries and caught them all! Woot! We also had a very sleepy dog and three mysteriously empty beer dishes…
The rabbits seem to really enjoy the pea sprouts and spinach we keep trying to grow. We’ve planted more than six spinach seed packets and have yet to taste a leaf. Rabbits are sneaky little thieves. I’m thinking about shuffling sprouts, in cookie sheets, indoors, away from the rabbits. Any pointers?
We have six cherry tomato plants and the surviving five are producing brilliantly! One was helped out of the garden by and over eager crow. We get 6-9 little tomatoes every other day. Next year we’re thinking about setting 12 plants. The pepper plants are working on some delicious looking fruits and the watermelons have grown two and three feet of thick vines. We are practicing companion planting to prevent the predation of our melons. Radish works great, and although the roots have been quite woody, the greens have been a delicious addition to salads.
Our consumption of more veggies and less meat has created a great compost pile. We took an old dryer drum and planted it in the watermelon garden in late winter. It’s about half full/half empty. We throw in veggie scraps, the occasional bite of bread, egg shells, coffee grounds, and tea leaves. Once we have a couple of inches of leftovers, we sprinkle a very thin layer of topsoil to keep the flies away, then more scraps. So far so good!
That about wraps up the chicken and garden situation here. As new developments arise, we’ll let you know!