Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Red in tooth and claw

We had a chicken tragedy overnight. I woke up to the sound of a distressed chicken, ran outside and wrenched the side off the hen house, and came face-to-snout with a badger. Eating my chickens! Bob and Harriet the Barbu D'Uccles, and Sam the Japanese bantam live in this house.

The badger maimed Harriet, pulled her off her nest and was eating her from the leg up. She was so injured I had to put her out of her misery. Her nest is abandoned now.

Bob and Sam were both alive, but Bob is sporting a serious limp. They survived overnight but both could still succumb to stress. I've put them on a course of antibiotics and multi-vitamins to prevent secondary infections, a common response to stress.

Dakota chased the badger despite my calling her off - badgers can do a lot of harm to dogs - and she's sore this morning but I can't find any bite wounds. I hope she's just sore from the exertion. I've given her some dog aspirin too.

I'm so heart-broken about my little pair. Carol, the other Barbu D'Uccle hen, was in a maternity pen with her foster chicks and was thankfully spared. If Bob heals enough to fertilise eggs, that will be some comfort. I've already put out a call for some Barbu D'Uccle hatching eggs from other breeders. I hope to rebuild my stock one way or another. It would be sad to have a garden without those sweet little birds scratching around.

Sometimes nature is just so mean.


Maria said...

Hi Jen,
I'm so sorry to hear about your chicken attack by badger! and how sad to have to put down one of your own chickens.
I hope the other two make it through, and Dakota is indeed just tired from chasing the badger.
Nature red in tooth and claw indeed, and no way around it sometimes...
all the best,

Kate said...

Sorry to hear about your losses. It must be very tough to deal with after so much work and many hopes. Is there any way to deal with the badgers, other than more secure housing for the chickens? Can you (legally) trap or kill them?

Jennifer Montero said...

Maria - Thanks for your condolences. I know badgers have to eat too, I just need to make sure it isn't my hens next time.

Kate - Badgers are fully protected in England. You can't trap one or even disturb their setts (underground homes). I can make my hen houses extra secure and use electric wire to deter them, and hope they go elsewhere for a midnight snack!

martha in mobile said...

I embrace the whole "circle of life" thing in theory, but I am less sanguine when it comes to my chickens. I am sorry for your losses, and also sorry that you can't take effective action to reduce the world by one chicken-eating badger.

Paula said...

I have read that a badger is the only thing that will fight a bear, so I am sincerely glad that it didn't turn on you or Dakota. I am also sorry about your poultry losses and hope you can patch everything up quickly. I guess that having a badger around really means that you're out in the country.

I have a question though: if badgers are protected in England, then where are the shaving brush manufacturers getting their badger fur? I understand from researching shaving brushes (before buying Steve one) that the best are made in England and are made from badger fur, and the best of those are made from badger fur from the back of the badger's neck. So if badgers are protected, where are they getting the fur?

Kerry said...

Paula- according to the Olde English Shaving Shop, badgers are a protected species in England, so they only use badgers from China "where the badger is a pest that threatens agriculture." Ya know, unlike in England where badgers bake cakes and throw tea parties. And run Parliament.
Jen- sorry to hear that you lost one of your momma hens. It would be tragic if that badger came back and accidentally got crushed under a falling log. Those things happen though.

Karen Thomason/Gordon Setter Crossing said...

Sorry for your loss, Jennifer. Mother Nature is indeed, very cruel.

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Oh no! I can only imagine what it would be like to wake up to a badger in the chicken coop. I'm very sorry about your birds.

To hell with protection -- turn that varmint into a shaving brush, post haste.

Jennifer Montero said...

Martha - I'm in complete agreement . The whole circle of life thing is great until it takes place in your chicken coop at 2am.

Paula - I'm glad my sister was able to answer your questions because I honestly had no idea. You have a sharp brain to pick up on those kind of things, I'd never even given it a thought!

Kerry - You mean if it "accidentally" visited the log pile...? Then who would run Parliment?

Karen - Too true, but I remind myself we have a lot fewer predators here than you do in the US. No bear is going to eat my beehive, and for that I'm grateful.

Tamar - You seem to have the gamekeeper gene in you too! I hope your birds are fairing better. I've just set a hatch of Buff Orpingtons in my incubator, as I was so impressed with our foster Henzilla.

Cynthia said...

What a shock! And so irrelevant, but how do you pronounce Barbu D'Uccle?

Jennifer Montero said...

Cynthia - I don't know if it's correct but the anglicised pronunciation is "Barb DUCK-el".

Jenny said...

A friend of mine, who has had her chicken hut trashed by a badger, has now resorted to a metal hut with a concrete base. Her chickens were terrified and didn't want to go back for a very long time but seem safe now.

It's a shocking thing to happen, especially at 2am! I hope you find some eggs and can hatch them out safely.

ps Our Splash Orpington died yesterday - no warning and apparently in good nick, so we're in mourning here, too!

Tovar said...

Sorry to hear of the badger raid, Jennifer.

It reminds me of the nighttime raccoon raids my father's chickens used to suffer. He really didn't want to kill that raccoon and went to great lengths to keep the bandit out of the henhouse. Eventually, though, he resorted to flashlight and pistol.

Jennifer Montero said...

Jenny - You have a very sensible friend. I might have to borrow that design idea. So sorry to hear about your Orpington. My condolences.

Tovar - I can understand why your father resorted to the 'final option' to save his hens. Raccoons are crafty creatures!