Whether you homestead or not eventually you will deal with predators and varmints. In the cities there are issues with mice, rats, roaches etc. Here in the country ours tend to be a little bigger. Almost every night, especially during the summer, we hear coyotes howling. Our German Shepard hates the coyotes. She seems to know when they are getting a little too close to the homestead and she answers back to their howls and they seem to move off. Having dogs can be a real deterrent to predators.
We have dealt with some sort of weasel in our barn a few years ago. It killed several chickens all in one night and then was gone. This last week we had something that returned for three straight nights. Only my laying hens are kept on the homestead throughout the winter here in Maine. The poor girls were defenseless against this predator. It always came during the night when chickens really cannot see. It killed the chickens that were on the ground and just left them although sometimes took the head because there was no way it would get a body out of a small opening in the chicken pen. There had been an infestation of rats in the barn about 5 years ago and they had chewed a couple of holes at the base of the walls of the barn. By the way the vitamin D pellets by D Con is what finally worked for getting rid of the rats. After the first night I want around covering these entry points with heavy objects to block then. This predator was very strong. I discovered the place it was coming and where it had moved the rock that I had placed over the hole.
What we did discover is that we need to have small game traps as part of our homestead. Fortunately for us we have a friend who lent some to us. Since we knew where it was coming into the barn we set two traps up by the entrance and two more in places that we thought it might be entering the chicken pen. We set them up late in the evening baiting them with liver. Our trapper friend said it was probably a member of the weasel family based on what it was doing to the chickens and they like blood.
At 3:30 in the morning we once again hear the uproar in the barn. We jump into our clothes and head out. Three more chickens dead and nothing in the traps. The rock over the entrance had been moved but neither of those traps were disturbed. Very disappointing. We clean things up, turn the light on for the girls and head back to bed trying to figure out what to do next.
Regretting what I might find I head out for the regular morning routine at about 6:45. Whew, no more dead chickens. I feed them and fill the water. All the chickens have crammed themselves into the nesting boxes to be up off the ground. I decide to check the hole again. What was in the trap was a ermine or a weasel with it's white winter coat.
It is really a beautiful creature. An ermine in it's winter white coat. The traps will be left for a few more days just in case there is more than the one. It is never a joy when you have to take a creatures life but as a homesteader I am responsible for protecting my livestock and when it comes to predators it usually is them or the livestock. Once a predator finds what it perceives as easy pray it will continue to return for more until eliminated.
Today is work day in the barn. Despite temperatures hovering around zero I will be out cutting boards and screwing them securely onto all the openings that I have found this week to make the barn as predator proof as possible. It will take several days before the rest of the flock feel they are safe and return to their normal rhythm of life. This event has eliminated around a third of our flock. After fixing the holes time to look at the hatchery catalog. Perfect winter afternoon activity.