When Predators Attack
Last night my husband decided to take our boys for a four-wheeler ride around the property. After they returned, he told me he found the remains of a dead chicken. One of my meat birds. I hopped on the four-wheeler and raced over to find what he saw.
There, lying on the trail along the perimeter of my pasture, was a portion of one wing and a lot of feathers. It looked like a hawk attack. Only one of my chickens was taken, and practically nothing was left. Hawks usually only leave feathers behind. The tiny amount of flesh that was still attached to the wing hadn’t begun to decompose yet. I guessed that the attack had occurred within the last day.
My free-ranging meat birds, which are white plymouth rock roosters, are 18 weeks old and will be harvested in a few days. This was the first known predator attack on my chickens for the duration of their lives. I don’t know if any others are missing. I cannot count them in the pasture because there are too many to count. I put 83 chicks out on pasture in the first half of May. We are now approaching mid-August. I will know if I lost any others to predators when I load them into my trailer this weekend.
There is perhaps the most risk to losing chickens to predators when the chickens free-range. Everything likes to eat chicken. And they are an easy meal to get. I have a secure mobile coop that I haul around the pasture with the four-wheeler. It has an automatic, solar-powered door on it that opens after the sun comes up in the morning. All the chickens run out the door in the morning and forage in the pasture all day long. They spend their days hunting bugs and harvesting plants. Giving them the space to express their chicken desires is what makes them happy and healthy. I free-range my flock because it brings them the most joy, and it also brings me joy just watching them be happy chickens. Every evening, before the sun sets, the chickens go inside their coop to roost. As soon as the sun sets, the door closes and locks them in. This coop keeps them safe from night-time predators.
For daytime predator protection, which consists mainly of birds of prey in my area, I have poles with reflective ribbon at various spots throughout the pasture. Supposedly, the reflective aspect of the ribbon blowing in the wind deters predatory birds from entering the area. I’ve been using it for several years, and up until now, it worked great!
The best way that I’ve found to keep predators away from free-ranging chickens is to really inhabit the land. I spend a lot of time in my pasture, working with my animals, and so does my dog. I mow the pasture plants regularly, after my beef cattle have grazed what they wanted to eat from it. So the grass is short. Chickens like short grass because they can see their surroundings. I have a lot of other animals in my pasture along with the chickens. Grazing beef cattle and pigs alongside the chickens is a great predator deterrent. The more I inhabit my land, the more I make it mine to create with. If you’re not present on your land, predators hold the power. Predators make it their land. So it’s not so much about physical barriers (like fences) to keep predators out. It’s more about the vibes you put out energetically–your presence.
Even though I have all these tools I use to prevent predator attacks on my animals, there is really only one thing that holds all the power: surrender. Here’s what I did when I was standing over the pile of feathers on the ground: I prayed. Mother Nature, I release this chicken over to you, as well as whatever took it from my flock. I ask that you alert me to whatever it is I need to do, if I even need to do anything, in order to prevent any further losses. Please guide me in my actions, so that I know what steps I need to take for the highest good of all. And then I release the problem from my mind. I move on. I don’t worry about it. I don’t get pissed off and attempt to kill the hawk (which is illegal, by the way). I simply trust that Nature will let me know what I need to do. In this case, so far, I have not received any guidance to do anything.
Now, just because I surrender the predator issue to Nature, it doesn’t mean that I will never lose an animal to a predator again. Obviously that’s not the case, because I just lost one and I’ve been surrendering issues like these for a long time! The point is that when you truly surrender your animals (and anything else) over to Mother Nature, you are detached from the outcome. You know that if you lose an animal, it was supposed to happen. It was part of the divine plan. There is always loss in nature. There is purpose in loss. Maybe you learn something out of the experience, and maybe it leads you to protect your flock better in the future. Maybe there was something wrong with that chicken, and it wasn’t safe for human consumption. Or maybe that hawk just needed to eat. After all, the chickens really aren’t my chickens. They belong to Mother Nature, and She can do whatever She wants with them. If I’m meant to have chicken in my freezer this winter, I will. She will make sure it happens.