Predators II – Bear Attacks Meat Chickens
We butchered 7 meat chickens on Monday, June 20 and left the rest in their pen for our second butcher day on June 24. I knew that something had been prowling around them at night, so I was extra careful to make sure the bricks were in place to hold down the chicken wire. Nevertheless, something reached a paw in from the top and nabbed a chicken. I found the trampled down place where the chicken had been eaten. Every single bit was gone, with the exception of a few drops of blood and some feathers.
I fixed that hole, and the next day found that something had tried to bite its way through the wood roof. That night I covered the pen with additional hardware wire and chicken wire I had on hand, as well as an old plastic trellis. Though I didn’t attach each piece, they were tangled enough that it would take a pretty strong and focused predator to get in. I figured I just had a couple more days to go, and once we’d finished the butchering, I would focus in on improving the chicken tractor.
The chickens were just fine on Wednesday morning at 9:30. But when I went to check them again at 1:30 I was stunned. It looked like a bomb had gone off, destroying the roof of the chicken tractor. The wire I’d added to the top had been torn off, a big hole had been ripped in the wood roof, and parts of the roof were tossed 6 feet away. The remains of a dead chicken were strewn on the top of the roof where the predator had eaten it. Another dead chicken was laying in the front of the pen.
I carried the survivors up to the hen pen where they acted like true refugees, huddling in a corner away from the hens and ducks. Then I went to call Leah and the Division of Wildlife. Based on the destruction I was sure a bear had come and I wanted them to be aware of the change in wildlife behavior in the area. Then I went back to the pen to build an electric fence around it.
While I was making phone calls, the bear had returned, hauled the dead chicken out, and was eating it in the grass next to the pond. I chased it off, grabbed the chicken, threw it back in the bombed out chicken tractor, and built my fence. I was looking forward to hearing the sounds of bear screams, so I snuck back every few hours to see if the bear had returned. I heard it scream at about 11:30 pm, and then walked over with my headlamp to make sure that the fence was still intact. That was a scary walk for sure!
We left the dead chicken in the pen until we repaired it on Thursday evening. Now our chicken tractor has a metal roof, and we eliminated the slant to the roof to reduce the design weakness that might allow predators to try to reach in. The electric fence seems to have done the job, because nothing has attacked the growing meat birds since. But you never know when something very determined might try again.
Here’s something I’ve been thinking about since: My neighbor Meg says that every year she goes out to look at the choke cherries and says to herself “Just a couple more days an they’ll be perfect for harvesting.” Then, just before she can pick them, a bear comes and eats them all. She wondered out loud to me “How do they know to come get them every year, just before it’s time to harvest?” Now I wonder, how did the bears know that it was time to get their chickens before we harvested them all?