The Great Chicken Caper

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Published on: Aug. 2, 1997

Last revision: Oct. 27, 2010

ground outside the chicken house door. His flashlight is broken and his face scratched by flying chickens, but at least he can breathe.

George raises up on his elbows and watches the chickens disappear into the moonless night. It reminds him of the opening of the Olympic games when the doves are released. The chickens will return in the morning but egg production will be off for a couple of days.

George sneezes and coughs his way back to bed.

Dawn's early light reveals two fatalities in the chicken house; one chicken partly eaten and another chicken that appears to have been shot. The raccoon is nowhere in sight - but it will return.

Similar scenarios are all too common. Our fondness for the taste of poultry is shared by wild animals. Virtually every predator large enough to kill poultry will do so with aggravating regularity. In the Midwest, major predators on poultry include raccoons, foxes, coyotes, weasels, mink, opossums, bobcats, Norway rats, hawks and owls. If it's big enough to catch and kill poultry, it will.

Even Ol' Shep, that faithful canine companion, may be guilty of high crimes and treason. Dogs are especially damaging to poultry because they enjoy the spirit of the chase. Once they catch and kill a chicken, the chase continues, one chicken after another. The problem is compounded if other neighborhood dogs join the fray, which they often do.

Domestic poultry no longer have the keen skills of their wild ancestors. They can run or fly, of course, but if the attack occurs at night inside a closed building, what's a leghorn to do? Released to the wild and left to their own survival instincts, domestic poultry would soon disappear. Protected and pampered, they cannot compete in the hard game of daily survival, fashioned by thousands of years of eat-or-be-eaten.

There is no malice here. The predator is not intent on making a meal of someone's personal property - the concept of personal property is lost on a hungry predator hustling a meal to stay alive. Domestic poultry often provides that meal, and they're "easy pickins."

Protect your prize pullets by practicing good animal husbandry. Use a solid building to protect poultry at night, and have a well fenced exercise area for day use.

Predators in search of a tasty meal may try to enter the poultry house, but denied entry, they will not

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