Tag Archives: predators

How I Know My Neighbours Rock!

When your turkey gets nailed by a passing eagle, you discover who your friends are...

When your turkey gets nailed by a passing eagle, you discover who your friends are…

With the good weather, the grass is starting to grow again, so I’ve been letting the turkeys out of their smaller pen to roam and graze in the strip of grass between me and my neighbor’s place immediately to the north. Things have been going well over the past few weeks as the turkeys have settled into their new routine quite happily. The boys are in full display mode and the girls flirty and happy to accept the Toms’ advances.

I was up at the house just finishing up some computer work when someone banged on my office window and nearly gave me a heart attack! Carol, spattered with blood and holding a turkey hen in her arms stood outside looking like someone who has just had a run-in with a bald eagle. Turns out, she had just had a run-in with a bald eagle!!

She had a front row seat from her place as an eagle swooped down and pinned one of my good-sized hens to the ground. Carol raced outside to come to the hen’s rescue and despite yelling and waving her arms the eagle was very reluctant to relinquish its tasty lunch! When he finally did move, he didn’t go far and it sounds like it was seriously considering taking Carol on as she scooped up the injured bird and sprinted over to my place.

Fortunately, I was at home and with the assistance of my wonderful German volunteer farm helpers, was able to assess the damage. The skin had been torn off on the hen’s back, but that wound seemed fairly superficial. On her right side, though – a couple of puncture wounds from the eagle’s talons and a big piece of flesh ripped off and hanging on…

All things considered, there was very little blood – and the hen was alert and a bit indignant as I checked her over. She was panting and a bit shocky, but remarkably feisty considering her close brush with death. 

I called my other neighbor to the east, the Surgeon’s Wife who caught The Surgeon on his way home from work. He called me right back and stopped in at the local vet’s office to pick up a curved needle and a bit of suture thread on his way home. A few minutes later we had all convened in the Surgeon’s barnyard and made a makeshift operating table on the lid of our feed bin, pulled out into the late afternoon sun so as to take advantage of the light.

Flushing the puncture wounds left by the eagle's talons...

Flushing the puncture wounds left by the eagle’s talons…

The Surgeon donned gloves and flushed out the puncture wounds with hydrogen peroxide. SP (our most recent arrival from Germany) covered the bird’s head with a facecloth, and I held her firmly so we could see what we were doing. Before you could say, “Jeez, I have the best neighbours in the world!” the hen was all stitched up and slathered with antiseptic ointment. SP had already prepared a large dog crate with fresh bedding and a clean towel, the recovery ward for our lucky bird.

The Surgeon deftly tying fancy knots using a pair of pliers! We have a pact to stock up on suture supplies... we've been talking about it for ages and today was a great example why basic stitching materials are essential to have on hand.

The Surgeon deftly tying fancy knots using a pair of pliers! We have a pact to stock up on suture supplies… we’ve been talking about it for ages and today was a great example why basic stitching materials are essential to have on hand.

Stitching up the patient...

Stitching up the patient…

At least, I hope she will continue to recover. I checked on her an hour ago and she was actually up and walking around, looking steady on her feet, bright and perky in her demeanor. We shall see how she does overnight. If we get lucky and a terrible infection doesn’t set in, she might just survive the ordeal.

Whew! We were both glad when the field surgery was over and done with!

Whew! We were both glad when the field surgery was over and done with!

I can’t express how grateful I am to everyone who jumped in to help save the turkey hen. Keep your fingers crossed she will make a full recovery!

 

Well, That Was Exciting! [And why was my phone in the truck???????]

Bald eagle making dastardly plans...

Bald eagle making dastardly plans…

I was at the back of the truck using the tailgate as a handy table on which to hack up soft pumpkins and squash to feed to the hogs, turkeys, ducks, and chickens when the roosters started up their ‘We’re all gonna’ die!!!!’ chorus. The turkeys took up the alarm cry and I turned around to see a bald eagle skimming along knee high in hot pursuit of one of my drakes! They were headed straight up the driveway toward me, the drake intent on escape, the eagle intent on lunch when the drake shot under the truck and the eagle, a bit surprised to see me, swooped up and over me and did a couple of slow, lazy loops just overhead. All of this happened in a few seconds and whether I could have whipped my phone out fast enough to capture the drama is unlikely, but I found myself slapping my empty butt pockets as I realized I had left the phone in the truck cab! The eagle circled overhead a couple more times as I scrambled into the cab, retrieved the phone and watched as the bird landed on a nearby tree branch.

We had a conversation, then – me explaining to the eagle that he was welcome to hunt rabbits and rats but if he wouldn’t mind leaving my birds alone I’d be most grateful. The eagle shrugged himself off the branch, circled once more, and then sailed off with nary a backward glance. It’s odd, actually, that he was going after a drake. The adult muscovy males are nearly the same size as an eagle and would put up a formidable fight. They have huge talons and are generally not bothered too much by predators (the smaller female ducks are another story…).

Time will tell whether the eagle was paying any attention to my pleas for mercy on behalf of the flock.

Bad News Arrives by Text Message – Warning – Unpleasant Photo

Yesterday I was extolling the virtues of always having a smartphone handy at all times… But today, I’m kind of wishing it wasn’t quite so easy to share info [heads up – if you are squeamish, maybe you should skip this post].

My neighbour just sent me this image, snapped on her phone:

Formerly Known as a DuckMost likely, this is was one of my adventurous ducks…  Hard to say what got her – eagle? Hawk? Owl? Raccoon? When this happens it makes me question just how good an idea it is to allow my birds as much freedom to roam as they get. This is the harsh downside of free range poultry. Some stick close to home, but some venture out into the open areas (like over at C’s place, in the field) where they are pretty vulnerable to overhead attacks.

I also have a few that have taken to roosting on the barn roof at night and have now, in the wake of this loss, moved ‘re-clip duck wings’ up to the top of the To-Do list. This will help keep the ducks closer to the ground, which makes them easier to herd into their shelters at night. Clipping wings does, though, make it harder for them to get away from ground-based trouble-makers like dogs and raccoons.

It is tempting, when confronted with a pile of feathers and birds that just don’t listen to my suggestion that they stay close to tree cover, to say – That’s it! Confinement in pens for all of you! 

What do you think? Is the occasional loss of a roaming bird worth the trade-off? Confinement certainly keeps them safer, but keeping birds in a small space can lead to other issues – stress, disease spreading, and a more restricted diet. For now, I will clip wings to try to keep everyone closer to home where they can take advantage of all the trees at our place, but if the local hawks decide our place is a handy drive-in snack bar, I may need to re-think my strategy…