A Surprise Visitor

If you’ve been following our blog, you know that we have had a problem with predators over the past few months.  First we had a hen completely disappear.  The next night a second hen was gone and a guinea was dead with its head pulled through a hole at the base of the barn wall.  Tracks by the creek and the evidence of a carcass having been dragged in addition to the manner in which the guinea had been left led us to believe these first two attacks were weasels.  Several weeks later we lost another chicken – my beautiful Lavender Orpington rooster was found dead in the barnyard and being eaten by the neighbors’ dogs.  Whether or not the dogs actually killed it remains a mystery.  We relocated our chicken flock after that attack and had no problems for awhile.  Then another guinea was killed/taken from the barn during the night with only a pile of feathers remaining.  We put the two remaining guineas in the new location with the chickens and figured they’d be safe there.  The new location is a very secure new coop which is close to the house, under a security light, and surrounded by our electric poultry net fencing.

And yet, ANOTHER guinea was killed just over a week ago.  I found him in the morning with his head pulled through the electric fencing and most of what had been pulled through the fence was eaten 😦  Apparently the guineas had been sleeping right between the electric fencing and the tarp-covered rabbit tractor.  Only ONE of the original FOUR guineas remained.  I had been saying if we got down to ONE guinea, we would have the last one for dinner.  Guineas are very social creatures and the thought of one guinea living alone after witnessing the rest of its flock being murdered hurts my heart.  But FIRST, we decided to try yet again to capture the killer on camera.  We have a Moultrie game camera which takes photos when it detects motion.  We had set it up a bunch of times down by the barn but never got any photos other than ridiculous guinea selfies.  Somehow the camera was never pointed the right direction or on at the right time when the predators came.  Until this time.  Here’s what we caught:

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

It’s an OWL.  A huge OWL.  We never in a million years expected that an owl would attack through electric fencing like that.  I, for one, always pictured an owl attack as a swoop-and-grab-prey-gone-no-evidence sort of thing.  Don’t owls go after mice and other small prey?  Guineas are not tiny – about the size of a chicken, which is bigger than many owls and probably about 2/3 the size of this owl.  You can see in the photo how Ana (yes, her name is Ana) scooted away and was not grabbed.  Here’s another photo as the owl watches the guinea after his attack was foiled:

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

MOULTRIE DIGITAL GAME CAMERA

There’s nothing much we can do about an owl other than make sure the chickens are in the coop at night with the door shut.  At the time of this attack, the main flock of chickens was not allowing the guinea into the coop.  Since she liked sleeping next to the rabbit tractor, we moved it farther from the fencing so she wouldn’t be as easy a target.  I’m not sure what changed, but the past few nights it has become clear that the chickens have promoted her to true flock member and she is now sleeping inside the coop with them.  She has been pardoned from her dinner-sentence.  I’m actually very happy for her – Ana was always the head guinea and after seeing how she escaped an owl attack I definitely think she has the gumption to “just keep swimming” without her guinea family.

2 thoughts on “A Surprise Visitor

  1. I am very pleased that Ana has been accepted as an honorary chicken and won’t become dinner. I hope they continue to keep her in the sisterhood, especially since she has such a lovely name! You are learning so much about the inner workings of Mother Nature, thank you for sharing. I would have never thought an owl would go for such large prey either?

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    • Yes, I am glad to keep her too 🙂 I miss the other 3 – it was fun to have the flock of them follow me around the farm. I’m hoping Trav will let me get some more, but I think its unlikely.

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