We got home from an evening in town last Sunday night, and when I went on the rounds to close all the coops up for the night, Lil’ Red Rooster was missing. We searched in vain in the dark for a half hour, but it was no use, if he was still alive he would be hunkered down in the brush and would not make a sound until daylight. This was the case when Brown Rooster went missing a couple of years ago (Where’s Brown Rooster). Thankfully, that story had a happy ending, but this time we were not so lucky. We have not seen feathers or sign of a struggle, Lil’ Red Rooster is just gone. I suspect that a hawk got him. I’ve seen hawks fly low over the chicken yard on more than one occassion, and I’ve seen Lil’ Red dive deep into the bushes near the back porch after I glimpsed a quick flash of a hawk flying low overhead. Lil’ Red Rooster was a charismatic little guy, and I always enjoyed watching him prance along the back deck with his curly feather hairdo giving him a certain jauntiness. He was well known for appearing outside the door by the dining room table just as we would sit down to eat, demanding that THIS food dish be filled up, even though his other food dish by the back door still had food in it. He was a spoiled member of the flock to be sure, and probably the only rooster in town with two food dishes on the back deck. He was an excellent protector of his ladies, first with Coco Puff and Millie, and later for Millie, Salt-n-Pepa. Now he joins his brother Henry in that chicken farm in the sky (R.I.P. Henry). I’ve been seeing an increase in the number of posts on the online poultry forums that I follow about predator attacks over the last week, and now with the loss of Lil’ Red we are increasing our security measures at the farm.
We bought a trail camera this summer to give us a better idea of how many predators frequent the farm at night, and we’ve gotten some interesting photos. Mostly raccoons and feral cats, which we knew were here all along, but I wanted to know how close they were to the lower pasture fence at night. The raccoons appear to be pretty regular visitors to the area surrounding the lower pasture. We’ve also captured images of coyotes three times since we got the trail camera, including one last Wednesday walking along the edge of the driveway very close to the lower pasture. The lower pasture has a a solar-powered four-foot tall electric netting fence around the perimeter and is not as secure as the upper pasture. On these dark, rainy days, the solar charger does not charge very well, so we’ve had to hook up a car battery to the fence to keep it charged. The coops in the lower pasture also do not have the fancy $200 electric chicken door like we have on the main chicken coop that closes at dusk and opens at dawn. I had been leaving the door to Ramon’s coop open at night, counting on the electric fence to protect them from predators, but now I am closing his coop door at night. The ladies in the upper chicken yard are also under increased security measures. Their coop attaches to a secure run that is safe from raccoons and other large predators, but the run could be accessed by small burrowing predators such as weasels through the network of tunnels created by moles and voles under the chicken yard. So now I’m closing the ladies in the coop without access to their secure run until I open it up in the morning. And now with no Lil’ Red Rooster to keep them safe, the little banty hens, Millie, Salt-n-Pepa only get to free range when we are supervising them. Hopefully with these added security measures in place, we can keep our feathered friends safe over the long dark fall and winter.