Sunday, June 16, 2013

Another case of the disappearing hens

UntitledSome of our hens are disappearing. It's a hard one to measure. We don't know exactly how many hens we have. We think it is somewhere between 15 and 20. They are free range so we're never quite sure where they all are at any given time.

But there is still a sense that they occasionally disappear. Someone or something is helping themselves without asking. Our flock is a bit like a lolly jar to some predator. But which predator?

We know it's not our own canine mobsters. I covered them in a previous post. The evil mastermind has passed on already.

It's probably not a harrier hawk or Kahu. I often see them gliding around our property. In my experience they tend to go for young chicks and eggs rather than adult birds. A month ago I did see a harrier swoop on one of our hens and try and carry it off. The hen won that encounter.

There are no other native predators in New Zealand. No snakes, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, weasels, skunks, wildcats, badgers or wolves. But there are plenty of introduced predators. We talked to the biosecurity folks at the Greater Wellington Regional Council. We compiled a short list of possible culprits from their list of pest animals.
Stoat trap
It could be a ferret, stoat or weasel. We set a kill trap for those a few weeks ago. No luck yet. The device has an entrance for the nasty little mustelid to enter the box. Once inside it trips a spring loaded plate and that's the end of it.

Bait stationMaybe it's a family of rats. It doesn't really matter whether they are norway rats or ship rats. They are all rats to us. We've set some poison bait in a bait station for those. The bait station is basically a housing that only a rat is small enough to enter. Apparently we need to avoid non-target animals.

Cage trapOr it could be a feral cat or possum. This is a little tricky. We have three domestic cats of our own. Surely it's not one of our own cats who are sneaking chickens?! I guess we'll find out soon enough. We've set a live cage trap that will catch and contain a feral cat, a possum, or one of our domestic moggies.

We'll find out soon enough who the lolly jar culprit is.

Lolly jar photo courtesy of author Sydney Wired under Creative Commons licence.

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