Thursday, February 28, 2008

Tragedy Has Struck the Stark Hollow

Last week while Vanessa was traveling for work, we lost our chickens! First, Laura came home to find Yellow Foot dead in the woods. She could not find any prints or other markings. But because she had seen our large resident owl that morning and so she eventually came to believe that the owl must have killed the poor bird, tried to lift it away, but ended up dropping it due to its wait. That seemed reasonable...

The next day, first thing in the morning when Laura went to feed the birds and collect the eggs, she found the rest of the 3 birds w/ their throats slashed inside the pen! It did not take much to figure that this was no work of an owl, but probably a weasel. Later discussions by Laura w/ her Dad and research by Vanessa (who, because of growing up in Italy where most wild animals are dead and had thought that a weasel would be at least the size of a cat), pretty much led to a very reasonable assumption that the culprit was in fact a weasel. Weasels are described in a book we own as a mammal "shaped like a pipe cleaner [...] with teeth for efficient butchery"! Yeah, huh.

Yesterday, Vanessa saw the darn weasel next to the deck coming out of the former chipmunk's burrow. Lot's of thing began to fit even more: the resident weasel is very small (that's a 2" diameter pipe cleaner, which was about the size of the non-screened vent on the coop); it looks very light in weight explaining why no print were found on the icy snow; has a white coat so that we have not even notice it around in the winter. Also, additional research provided more confirmations: weasels take over nest/burrows of their victims (i.e. the chipmunks in the rock wall); weasels often turn to chickens when they run out of their favorite prey: rodents (i.e. lately we have noticed that all the squirrels, including the red one that has destroyed the screened-in porch, and chipmunks seem to have disappeared); weasels' instinct is to kill if more prey if available, such as in a coop, because of their high metabolic needs (apparently 40% of their body weight per day); weasels bite their victims necks and suck their blood (i.e. chickens' throats were slashed).

Well... it's sad, but then it's nature's course. In fact, I find it kind of cool how nature balances itself -- just when Laura had enough of the grey squirrels taking the birds' seeds, I was losing my patience with the defiance of the red squirrel, and chipmunks had taken over the rock walls and lawn, another critter came along and took care of it. Honestly, I'd rather have wildlife around and nature working properly, than living where wild animals are found only in museums, zoos, books, etc. Yes, even if I have to rebuild the coop!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello you two!!! How sad to hear about your chickens ... Haven't read the whole thing, but I take the point that nature must take its course. Cruelty is part of that too. Whether animal or human.