Agriculture is a diverse occupation. Not only do we raise crops, but we have a variety of animals. Dairy was our main product for many years. We now raise beef cattle. In addition, for our own use we raise chickens. There are many ways where farming is productive and of value.
The chickens, though small creatures, do require attention. Generally, our flock is free to range. The bounds of the chicken coop shelter them at night, but, after the egg laying for the day is finished, they are set free to hunt through the pasture and farm yard for delicacies.
This summer has been uneventful for the hens until our rooster died. In his absence, his protective eyes no longer guard his ladies. The hens are more vulnerable without his watchfulness.
In the past, we have suffered loss of fowl from weasels, raccoons and foxes. This year has been different. The tell-tale scattered bunches of feathers in the pasture spoke of a villainous creature who has stolen some of our hens. We assumed that the culprit was a fox. Perhaps a mother in search of food for her litter of young ones is to blame, we thought. Still it remains true that our flock of hens is not obligated to make provision for them. So we set out to be on the alert.
Nonetheless, every once in a while, we noticed that another hen turned up missing. Our poultry population dropped by eight. The situation had become serious.
One day as my husband and I sat down to eat lunch, the hens made a bit of a ruckus. The hens like to hunt for snacks in our raspberry patch which is just a stone’s throw from our back porch. I stepped outside to determine the cause of the disturbance.
Just beyond the berry bushes stood a sleek red creature. It looked me in the eye. I called to my husband thinking, “The fox is here!” But on second thought, the red-colored animal appeared large enough to be a dog.
My husband caught sight of it, too. “That’s a coyote!”
“Ah, mystery solved…sort of,” I thought. “That is the critter we have been wondering about. But how do we get rid of him?”
To avoid tangling with Mr. or Mrs. Coyote, we have been confining the hens to the coop.
He or she has come back several times.
One day as we baled hay, coyote showed up in our hay field. Upon seeing us, the tractor, the baler and the hay wagon parading his way, he slipped into our neighbor’s bean field.
A little later, he sneaked by us and went into our calf yard looking for his chance to get a free lunch. The chickens were outdoors, so the odds that he might be able to fill his belly looked pretty good. My daughter saw him and began yelling at the coyote. I joined in the chorus. He did not like our song, so he headed back into the bean field.
Later on in that same day, our teenage grandson, who was helping us store the hay, reclined on the grass to take a short rest. When he looked up, the coyote came within a few yards of him. Our grandson moved, startling the coyote who quickly ran off.
Still later, we saw coyote surveying his meal situation from our cornfield.
This incident was a first for me. During haying time we generally see mice, red-tailed hawks, swallows, occasionally deer or rarely a snake, but I have never seen coyotes be so bold until now.
We will keep on watching for him or her. Fences don’t protect our flock of chickens from coyotes. So we will have to use other means to handle threats that come their way.