Japanese beetles, squash bugs, potato bugs, tobacco worms, flea beetles, grasshoppers, and countless other insects begin eating our vegetables before we do. Deer, groundhogs and rabbits feast in our gardens too. Last year nearly all of our blueberries and grapes were eaten by birds. Deer ate our apples. Ask folks when you should pick your sweet corn and they’ll probably answer, “Before the racoons do.”
It is a simple fact that in our quest for food, we are in competition with many other creatures.
We have lots of strategies for dealing with this competition. The simpliest, posioning them, is not an option for us, so we must be more creative, and we must expect to lose some battles.
Losing some vegetables is one thing, but losing animals entrusted to our care is another.
Our great Pyrennes guard dog Joey and his Thoroughbred pal Rowan guard our goats, and we’ve never lost one to a predator. But with our poultry, we’ve not been so fortunate.
We started with 3o guineas, and eventually lost them all to owls and hawks. We’ve lost chickens to hawks, and probably foxes. And on one particularly bad day we lost nearly all of our flock to some local stray dogs.
It’s been a while since we had much trouble from hawks. We’d managed to convince them that they are unwelcome here, and I felt that our scarecrow (scarehawk?) George was doing some good too.
But now we’re taking casualties again. First Honey, Cherie’s pet crippled chicken, disappeared. I found no evidence of her, and guessed it might have been a fox. Then, after a hen appeared one day with 9 chicks she’d hatched in the hay in the equipment shed, the chicks started to vanish. For some bird-brained reason, the hen slept under the chickenhouse with the chicks, rather than going inside with the others where they’re locked up for the night. Still, the house is surrounded by a secure, usually electrified fence. But something was happening to the chicks. By last weekend there were only four. Yesterday morning when I went out to open the house, only three chicks came out from underneath it. Their mother and the other remaining chick were gone.
Later in the afternoon I discovered why. I spotted a hawk in the chickenyard. As I approached it flew away. But I’m confident that the hawk is the explanation for our disappearing chickens.
So far, this hawk is winning in our competition.