I'm sorry. No one wants to read any more bad news. I hesitate to share another sad pet loss story. We've been hit hard this year, and well... we're trying to figure this out. Seems like whenever we feel confident that all is well and secure, a new predator assault is launched, and we find ourselves, once again, mourning, and puzzling. The reason I am sharing the story, this time, is because I hope my chicken farming, urban and rural, comrades can learn something from our mistakes. So, while this is not a post I am happy to write, I do hope it can serve to inform, and perhaps save a life.
We were wrong.
The spacing of the wiring of the original panels is too large. Way too large.
We learned this the hard way, when Kamen was attacked by a bobcat through the bars. As large as that cat was, and the boys saw him doing it, the cat had no problem fishing his hungry paws into those spaces and shredding Kamen.
Incredibly, Kamen did survive and if you want to know what we learned about first aid for an injured chicken, then read this post. And if you want to learn more about great hen care and treatments, please go to Hencam, where you will find practical advice, and emotional support, including the true, sometimes, hard to take realities of keeping backyard hens.
This attack was from inside the closed, covered, reinforced shark cage. It did not tunnel under, it did not cut through anything. As near as we can tell, it was small enough to squeeze between the steel bars, a narrow, tight, two inch gap, and whatever it was, it was big enough to behead a hen. After examining everything, standing in the predawn drizzle, and trying to manage my emotions, too, I went to the Internet.
Fellow chicken keepers, I hope you never have this issue... trying to figure what might be attacking your coop, taking your hens, but I did find a useful tool at Backyard Chickens. They have a list of predators, with signs and indications, that may help you figure out your enemy. As I scrolled down the list of suspects I was surprised to see who I could rule out, and the further down the list I went, the more confused I became... I was running out of suspects. Then I came upon "Weasel." What a match: "Weasel: Bites on neck found, will attack only a few or a lot, bluish coloration of skin about head and under wings. Sometimes run in family packs. Occasionally a faint skunk odor may be evident. Weasels will enter a one-inch opening. Hard to trap." Even the "faint skunk odor," was a clue we had detected.
But I had my doubts, too. Weasels in San Diego County? I could not be sure, so naturally I Googled "Weasels in San Diego." This recent Union Tribune article is conclusive. We do have weasels in our county, and they love to eat chickens. Weasels climb, tunnel, squeeze, and dash. They are persistent and lethal.
"Weasels will enter a one-inch opening..." this is critical, frustrating news. Our shark cage is not secure, and it won't be until we have it practically shrink wrapped in quarter-inch hardware cloth. Also, I will be adding more pavers around the perimeter of our chicken coop.
Our five hens, Betty, Kamen, Shebot, Little Debbie, and Lucky Penny will sleep in a dog crate, in the barn, until the new and improved weasel-proof shark cage is updated and fully operational.