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Farmette 1769

by Monica Melograna-Ward

Tag Archives: predators

On May 29, 2013 –

Our drake (male) Call duck was killed by a big, black Rat Snake (at least 4 feet long). The rat snake was after the eggs that our girl Call duck was sitting on. Daddy duck was very protective of the nest and I assume that this led to his demise.


However, a rat snake is designed to eat small rodents (and eggs!), so he only made it to the shoulders of our duck. I discovered this when I opened the pen for feed/water. Rat snakes are not aggressive to people, so I pulled him out by the tail and then secured him better, just behind the head.

Normally I don’t mind encounters with snakes, but it was upsetting to lose the drake and have the snake spit out fertile egg to further darken my mood.

Although I have been practicing patience from the Teachings of the Buddha, I did not have enough for this situation. In defense of our mini ducks, I killed the snake with a shovel in the grass. This did not work really well, so I took it over to the cemented garage area and killed it more.

Snakes continue to writhe long after they are nearly split in two. That was pretty terrible. I did not like taking its life – at all.

It is a normal thing for a farmer to do. Once a predator figures out how to get an easy meal, they will continue to come back for more. You cannot just let them go back loose on your land if you expect to keep your livestock alive.

Apparently, this prepared me for… May 31, 2013 –


Only two days later. I was riding the lawn mower tractor when I spotted another big snake. This one was 5 feet or more long. I thought of the ducks. I pulled it out from underneath a trailer and took it to the garage area.

My husband was home and was able to take a photo with his phone. This snake, a Black Racer, was taken down the road by my husband and son to be released in the nature conservancy area. It slithered into the woods in hopes of growing even bigger. I was happy for that.

The duck pen is being better secured, again. We’ll have to keep a few more ducklings to ensure we have a drake or two around for next Spring’s laying season.

To lighten things up a bit, I have included a pic of of baby ducks that was taken recently. This one is literally, a bucket o’ ducklings.


Country living is not easy. I had thought it would be so much more peaceful than living in the city. But, we must enjoy those calm and happy times as we have them, no matter when, or where.


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She should probably be considered a kitten. This seems to be a young cat. I had seen this one scamper out of the chicken area, but did not realize just how small she was. Due to her petite body frame, I am guessing that this kitten is female.

Just when I had given up on the animal trap, I decided to figure out how to reset it (very easy) and used some leftover turkey from Thanksgiving as a lure for the fowl connoisseur. It was quite a surprise that it worked.

My husband often works a later shift and did not arrive home until 11pm. I had stayed up late last night to capture a bit of time with him. And I had forgotten (again) to lock up the chicken coop. As we were chatting happily inside with the ice rain beginning outside, I remembered the unfinished task.

I wandered out in my husband’s big coat, pajamas and flip flops. He came after me with a flash light. We closed the coop and counted the chickens after realizing that something was crying in the trap.

Semi-feral Kitten

All the chickens were accounted for and the light was then turned on the cage. This young feline had beheaded, maimed and killed many of our little chickens. She was at our mercy.

The trap was locked to a metal chair to prevent theft (animal control probably goes through a lot of traps – and they are pricey). Luckily, my husband is a big guy and carried everything into the garage. I put an old towel over the cage to help keep the cat from freezing.

Well, I am such a sucker. We cannot have a house cat due to my husband’s asthma. We cannot have a bird killer loose outside. But I still wanted to keep her. She is just scared and hungry.

The animal control officer mentioned a feral cat rescue enthusiast that will pick them up from the shelter. I am hoping that happens with this one.

She may be deemed docile enough to put up for adoption. She seems pretty healthy, considering her home in the woods. You never know when someone is ready for a challenge.

Maybe she started off at a home and was dumped on the side of the road. There are no signs of aggression or crazed panic.

I feel like getting on my “happy life on the farm” soap box. So many people drop off their former pets on these country roads thinking that they have a better chance at a good life instead of being put down at an animal shelter.

Farms can only handle so many animals. They do not have the funds to be a haven for unwanted pets. And certain animals cannot co-exist with others. Cats that grow up with cat chow and big mean roosters do well on farms. But, starved strays that have a taste for easy domestic prey do not.

The pet owners are doing what they think is best. But, I do suggest that kittens, cats, puppies and dogs be taken to a shelter if a new home cannot be found. The fate that awaits them loose seldom ends well.

The chance remains that this kitten will be put to sleep. Ugh, I hate to hand her over now, but I can’t put the birds in harms way.

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In the post before last, there was a grim story about chicken losses due to  predators. The Jack the Ripper mystery has now been solved. A small group of feral cats are the culprits. They finally showed themselves in all their formerly domesticated glory.

There are at least two, maybe more. Not wanting to shoot the cats (although tempted), I called for help with the situation… The friendly neighborhood (Gaston County) animal control officer was at our house to set a trap.

Cat Trap (after the chicken sprung it and ate the cat food)

Apparently, there is a feral cat rescue group in the Charlotte, NC area that takes these unwanted animals and places them in designated areas away from people (donated use of woods or farm land) and provides them with shelters and daily feeding. They are neutered/spayed before re-release and an ear clipped as a visual marker.

Trapping a cat does not necessarily mean the gas chamber. But, it is a possibility. What do you do with all those wild felines? There are so many.

They are obviously hungry, but my birds cannot be served as their dinner on a platter. And if they are fed, they will stay around.

Presently, there are enough to produce lots of chicks in the Spring. But, our flock cannot handle many more losses.

So far, the trap that animal control set has not caught a stray cat. However, it finally did catch something – one small chicken. We’ll keep trying.

At some point we’ll have to invest in a trap of our own, as I am sure that this situation will happen periodically on the Farmette. All that you have to do is forget to close up the coop one night (of course we lost one little hen the very last time that happened) and the predators suddenly materialize.

What we need to do is move the main coop within view of the back deck. If we see a chicken eater, we could scare them off with the pellet gun or an ominous bang on a frying pan. Maybe we’ll get a mini donkey. They’ll guard goats – but I’m not sure about bird protection.

So, now we are left with a much smaller group of bantam chickens. We also still have 2 turkeys, 3 quail, 2 ducks, 2 guinea fowl and two standard chickens. It is plenty , but I do miss a few of the fancy bantams, especially since they started here as eggs. It is tempting to get a few fill-ins, but we must really work on above ground cages for safety before we do that.

Chicken circle (and my bright green garden clogs)

The pic shows some of the exotic bantam group that survived the onslaught of bad luck. And, yes, that is a pigeon that has made herself part of that flock.

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It is hard to write about the hard times on the Farmette. But it is important that everyone know that it is not all fun and games. Sometimes you lose livestock – and not to old age.

Parasites, illness and predators are a constant threat. The last chicken purchases may have brought in an illness. It could have been mice sneaking in to salvage any uneaten grain. It could have been carried on the wind from other birds. We lost several birds to sickness recently.

It is difficult when you are attempting to keep your Farmette natural and organic. I try to hold back as much as possible before treating birds with chemical based solutions. There are two little hens in a crate in the garage right now. Since they have both had the eye/sinus infections twice, I finally let go and am treating them with store bought antibiotics in their water.

This illness seemed to be compounded by some type of internal parasites, even though everyone was recently de-wormed. A couple of them just did not put on adequate weight as they were maturing. They were the ones became sick and did not recover.

One of the young guineas caught his head in the fence when poking it in the turkey coop. Fowl are very territorial. The turkeys pecked him to death in his vulnerable position. Our lovely little bantam hen, Pumpkin, ventured into the back fenced area with the dogs. The pack instinct set in and she did not make it back out.

Then there was the pen massacre. Something (weasel, cat, racoon…?) discovered an easy way to get a meal. The really nasty part about that was that it must think that bird heads are a delicacy, since it left the remainder of some of my little birds for the gruesome discovery.

There are no pictures for this blog. I’d really like to get all of those images out of my head.

So, now only the bantam chicken group is allowed to free range and only during the day. They get locked up at night now. Actually, the pigeon and 2 remaining guineas join them for sleepovers. They roost high off the ground, so they are the super free rangers, but they must feel safer still in the main coop.

The main coop needs work. If the funds can ever be raised, we would love to have a big barn to shelter the whole crew. But, for now, the coop seems to be keeping Jack the Ripper out.

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RE: Tuesday’s Post (May 25, 2010)

I was about to gather eggs from the duck pen when along crawled a Black Racer snake. He was around last year. It was the same snake that liked to curl up on top of the duck nest last year. I thought he liked the warm spot, or the eggs, but it seems now that he must have been patiently waiting for ducklings.

A snake has to eat. But, one duckling is enough of a sacrifice to nature this year, so off to the conservatory he went. Luckily, there is open protected land right down the road. He got out of his bag in the truck, which was great fun. Luckily, they are mild mannered. I ended up just holding him with one hand and driving with the other.

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Snakes can be good on the Farmette. They eat mice. We get more than your average household due to the never-ending supply of spilled grain. Having snakes prey on rodents is very helpful.

Of course, I might think differently if I encountered a poisonous snake. This would not be a good thing. There are several types of these dangerous predatory animals in this region.

Also, yesterday morning I made a grizzly discovery. One of the ducklings was dead. It took a while to figure out what made it look like it got pulled half way through a pipe. My best guess is that a snake that was not big enough to eat this size duckling decided to give it a try. About half way through, it realized that the end of the body was not the same size as the head and neck and spit it back out.

A few weeks ago, we had found an Eastern Kingsnake when we were getting the garden started. She was about the right size to create this kind of damage. I must remember not to put ducklings out in the chain link pen until they get a little bigger. I was thinking about the recent coyote incidents in the area, but had forgotten all about snakes.

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