Thursday, January 31, 2008

Who Goes There?

I mentioned recently that some unknown critter has a tunnel into the chicken house, yet the hens were all still accounted for.

Tonight as I did my late-evening check on everyone, a bit of motion caught the beam of my headlamp. At first it seemed like just another inky shadow under the metal nest boxes. Then I realized it was fur...long black fur...and since the cat was on my shoulder I knew it must be the skunk.

The same one that allegedly killed so many hens, now leaving these hens alone? Who knows! Maybe the skunk had just stumbled onto someone else's kill, and got caught scavenging.

Perhaps it is now eating eggs, since the hens are laying again. Some days, it seems like there ought to be more eggs.....

Perhaps it is now eating grain instead of flesh. We've changed our feeding regimen so that we're putting some fresh grain mix in the feeder when the hens are closed up at dusk, since usually they have a light on for awhile.

Perhaps seasonal metabolic needs have changed.

Perhaps it's a different skunk.

Anyhow, the dilemma is whether to do anything (like block its burrow) or not. A wise rule of thumb is "better the predator you know than the predator you don't know." If this skunk is foiled, another skunk, or another predator species, might take over the territory with worse results.

I generally take the lazy way, so the skunk will be tolerated unless some day I happen to be working in the chicken yard and have a whim to block the hole. It's a risk. But so's farming.

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