the "thing" struck again. this time it wasn't satisfied to take one chicken and leave the rest unharmed. (so is it the same "thing"?) No, this time it left 5 uneaten carcases strewn about the front yard, 3 more dead inside the pen (again, not even nibbled on), 4 gone and presumably eaten, 1 with a near broken neck but at this point hanging on to life, and 4 intact birds. It dug a monstrous hole under the pen to get in. I cried at the sight of it all this morning.
So where do we go from here?
I set up the electric fencing around the meat birds and replacement layers' pens. The new layers' pen has a chicken wire bottom on it but I don't trust this thing to not go through great lengths to get at them. The meat birds' pen is being held together by prayer as it is. The weight of water during heavy rains has rendered it quite weak. It would take next to nothing for this critter to get in there and have a hay day with 24 fat and slow, almost completely grown meat birds.
But do I just protect as best as I can or do I lure and attempt to kill? Do I leave the seriously wounded one in the pen and sit up all night waiting for this thing to attack? Will it likely attack at dusk or just before dawn (given that a couple birds were not completely stiff, I think it struck closer to morning than yesterday evening)? Will it come out if it smells me outside? If I'm sitting inside and see it coming, can I get out and take aim before it runs back into the woods?
Should I bate a trap with an already dead bird? I kinda doubt its a coon so I don't think it will be too interested in old meat. So I'll end up trapping a coon that hasn't been the problem.
And if I do decide to stay up all night, should it be tonight or will it still be too full to hunt tonight? And I think I could stay awake if I knit, but if I have a light on to knit by, will that thwart all visitation as well?
I woke up this morning feeling so good. I had a great day planned. And now I'm just grieved and unmotivated. This thing took out a major food source for us. We eat about 4 dozen eggs a week. Or we did. Now we may get 4 eggs a week (with the low daylight hours and chickens in molt or past molt, they were laying much less than normal). The replacements were hatched in early November meaning we can expect them to start laying slim-maybe in March, possibly in April and definitely in May. That's a long time with few eggs.
We used to use chicken wire on the bottom of the pens, but it required so much maintenance and was so heavy with meat birds that we only used it for our "chick pen" or the pen that we keep the smallest birds in. But now I'm wondering if that maintenance is necessary. When we've gone 4 years with no attacks like this, how much do we change our method on one occurrence? And how much to we wage all out war until its dead?
And should we get a dog? We're not ones for pets. I'm in favor of a working dog, but farmer hub is not. Not unless the predation proves one necessary. And then affording one is another whole issue. Would we have to fence the whole property? Could we train one to stay on the premises? What kind would be a good working dog yet not rip a child's hand off, not try to kill a goat and still handle summer heat (I really don't want a dog in the house!)?
And are our goats in danger of this "thing"? Noel could kid in the next month... would it go after her baby? Should I move her inside the electric and pray she doesn't jump on a chicken pen? So many questions and I'm too exhausted to make good decisions. And if I'm staying up all night, the exhaustion will only continue.
But I want this thing dead and its hide warming my feet.