Thursday, February 08, 2007

A Natural World

A couple days ago, I was awakened from a deep sleep to a crazy cacophony made by my two guinea hens and twenty chickens. The poultry live in a ramshackle coop about 100 feet from our house – on the bedroom and kitchen side of the house. I flew out of bed to look out the window and saw a very large, blondish colored coyote pacing around the pen. I ran downstairs and sent Phoebe, the older border collie, outside. I threw on a coat over my granny nightgown, tugged on some barn boots, and got Nessie out of the dog crate she sleeps in. I grabbed a broom and the two of us joined Phoebe outside.

My normal method of scaring a coyote is to yell “go away.” It is usually dark out and the coyotes are usualy aways away from the house. We only hear them – we can’t see them. They usually quiet down and take off after I scream like a crazy woman "GO AWAY COYOTES" and feel like I have protected my outdoor animals. But this day was different – it was 5:30 in the morning and this fellow didn’t want to go. The chickens were too interesting.

As the dogs got closer to the pen, the coyote decided to leave. Nessie is definitely the protector dog around here, even though she is younger. Both dogs ran down into the field after the coyote, Phoebe lagging behind. Nessie barked like she should and kept following him across the road. I stood there watching the two of them. He stood along the edge of the woods for a while and then vanished into the trees.

When you raise farm animals, you have to live with nature. Coyotes, hawks, raccoons, and possums are a fact of life. We try to protect our sheep and chickens as much as possible but the simple fact of the matter is all these animals have to eat too. And sometimes they eat our livestock. I think my chickens are relatively safe right now – they are in a pen with fence dug into the ground. There is a woven wire fence on top to keep out the hawks who think chicken is a tasty treat. Free range is one thing - free food for coyotes is a totally different thing.

We have lost many a lamb to coyotes over the years. Some years, there will be an aggressive pack living near the sheep. There have been years we have lost 15 lambs in a week. It turns my stomach to come upon such carnage. The coyotes usually don’t take the lambs away and they eat only parts of them. A couple years ago, we were losing lambs left and right. Out of frustration we bought Jeremy, our guard llama. Knock on wood, if Jeremy is around, our losses have been zero. He is a nice calm animal and pleasant to be with. He likes people and is low maintence eating the same food as sheep do. This lambing season is his second and he seems to be enjoying hanging out with all the little lambs.

This morning at 5:22, there was a large, loud pack of coyotes making a ruckus outside. I couldn’t see them from the house and they went away soon enough. I’m pretty sure that blonde guy brought his friends back. We’ll see what happens.


Francie said...

Wow - what a morning you had! I never knew llamas would be so protective - how funny and interesting. Do you shear your sheep in the spring and use the wool? I went to my first sheep and wool festival in the fall and saw a sheep shearing firsthand. My children were worried it was hurting the sheep, but I reassured them that the sheep were fine. I was surprised to see them being sheared in the fall instead of spring, but I guess every farm does it a little differently. Thanks for all your farm stories.

Anne said...

We used to hear the local coyote pack running the ridgeline behind our house when we lived in VT, but I guess our dog (also a border collie) kept them away.

Since we moved to Utah, we live close enough to suburbia to not have many predators, but we had a wild mink attack my angora bunnies about 7 weeks ago. I do not want to experience that again.

Patricia said...

i have to say, I love the patterning on the bird. I guess it is a guinea fowl. It looks like polks dots, very rich brown, and I like the pictures of the other chickens the dark one looks like bark from a tree.


Marné said...

I've been lucky not to have any problems with predators bothering my chickens so far. I know the coyotes are out there, every now and then I'll hear them howling and yoddling during the night. I always think they make all that noise when they have a fresh kill.

Our neighbors all have big rottweilers, and we have a Golden Retriever, so I think the scent of the dogs must keep them away (our Golden usually sleeps inside at night, especially during the winter). I've been letting my hens roam around during the day, but shut them up in their cozy coop at night. W

e've also had an owl flying around the last few nights, hopefully he's taking care of the rodents, and not hankering after one of my chickens :o)

~~ Melissa said...

Hail Jeremy!

Southern Gal said...

goodness such viciousness on the farm!

but seriously - i do hopw the llama saves those lovely lambs. good luck!

Bob Y said...

Your chickens look big, healthy and tasty! I'm thinking about one next to a pile of mashed potatoes and some string beans.

Heather said...

I heard this recently, that llamas are coyote deterrents, and I think that is so interesting! It is not intuitive at all. Keep up the good work, Jeremy!