Saturday, May 29, 2010

Coyote predation

I've been losing chickens to coyotes for the last week or so.  I got up at 3:30 this morning and put myself on top of one of the small barns and waited.  Right about 4:30 I thought I saw movement, but I couldn't be sure.  at 4:45 I saw this coyote jump 7' and grab a white leghorn off her perch in my hay barn.  The grass is pretty tall around there, so I didn't see him again for a while.  I sat patiently, scanning the pasture.  It helps that the bird that he was eating was white.  Pretty soon I saw him trot up to a little knoll in the middle of the pasture,  about 30' from the brushline.   The bird was dead by this point, and he hunkered down to enjoy a leisurely breakfast, lookup up now and then.  When he was done with the chicken, he stood up and gave me the shot I wanted; about 250 yards, broadside.  Single shot, dropped where he stood. 
I waited about an hour or so to see if another one would show up, but nothing did, so I walked out to finish him if he was still alive, and found him dead.  Adult male coyote, young, in pretty good shape.  Good teeth, good pelt, about 35lbs.  But then I found that this chicken wasn't the first one to be killed today.  Usually coyotes eat every bit of meat; there were a few scraps left over because I interrupted him. 

about 15' from where I dropped him there were feathers from another bird that was also eaten this morning.  Either he's going back for seconds or I've got another coyote .

This coyote jumped over my 4' electric fence to get to where the chickens are; i backtracked him through the dew to see exactly where he came onto the property and see if I could find other coyote tracks.  Nothing conclusive.  Guess I'm going to have to go with a higher electric fence as my next non-lethal coyote control. 

He was in the barn when he took the chicken that I saw.  Not shy at all. 


Mike said...

Good for you! I picked off a coyote jerk last month. Middle of the day

Joanne Rigutto said...

I agree with Mike. Personally I don't have a problem with coyotes or othe predators in and of themselves, untill they start helping themselves to my livestock. Then they gotta go.....

Across The Creek Farm said...

good kill. I popped whatever was hitting my pullets up by the house with buckshot the other night. Never got a good look at it though.

damae said...

Since he jumped 7 feet, how high will you make your fence??

Rebecca T. of HonestMeat said...

Killing predators should be your method of last resort. The presence of predation is an indicator of poor management. To take the life of a top predator for a chicken is pathetic. Do you have electric perimeter fences? Do you have an actual livestock guard dog or two? Do you move your chickens frequently so they are not in the same spot.

Anonymous said...

Rebecca - Please tell me you are joking. If you had a coyote killing your animals you wouldn't kill it you would just chastise yourself for doing a bad job managing?

Nancy - Olympia, WA said...

I don't think Rebecca is kidding. I'm new to chickens in the last year and make it my responsibility to protect my chickens from preditors whether it's the coyote that visits the pasture to eat field mice, or the red tail hawks, bald eagles (5 flew over Monday), or any of the other preditors unseen that would LOVE chicken dinner.

I choose to keep my chickens in a preditor proof coop and run rather than have them picked off one by one.

I think when you kill off one preditor, there will be another to take it's place.

I have considered getting a livestock guardian to protect my two goats with hopes I could also free range the chickens but that would take the right dog, perhaps lots of training, and time.

Nancy - Olympia, WA

Nancy - Olympia, WA said...

Across the Creek Farm -

You should be careful shooting at anything you don't have a clear look at.

Who knows what or who you could be shooting at. A couple years ago here in Washington State a grandpa dropped off his two grandsons to do some bear hunting and one of the boys (age 15) took a shot at what he THOUGHT was a bear turned out to be a woman walking on a trail that had bent down to zip up her back pack.

Shot to the head changed many lives forever.

Steven said...

A good novel with excellent research covers this very topic, PRODIGAL SUMMER, by Barbara Kingsolver. If coyotes are decimated, they will increase their litter size, and non-breeding females will begin to cycle to over-compensate for the missing pack members.

I know using a novel as a source of factual information is looked down upon by many - but sometimes the facts are the facts, and the material presented is well researched and documented and makes learning more interesting.

Maybe Kingsolver was right...the continual killing of coyotes at Ebey Farm may in all actuality bring in even more coyotes.

Rich said...

I believe that it is the indiscriminate killing of each and every coyote encountered that leads to an increased coyote population due to a temporary increase in the food supply which leads to increased fertility in the females.

Killing the coyotes that are actually killing livestock is an entirely different matter.

Bruce King said...

Replies in order of posting:
Mike, Joanne: Thanks. Once a coyote starts taking livestock it doesn't stop until there's no more livestock, and they'll come at any time of the day.

Across: I had a hard time getting a shot at the coyotes until I bought a thermal imaging hand-held gadget off of ebay ( ). This unit is no longer current production, and the price is about 1/3rd of what it was a couple of years ago, and falling. It allows me to see the heat signature through light foliage and grass, but there's been many times when I've declined the shot because I couldn't be sure of a good probability of a clean kill.

Dinkle: As much as I'd like a coyote-proof fence, it's economically infeasible. I've already got a 5' range wire fence with a hot wire around the base to deter digging, and they're getting over it by jumping on bushes or debries, or maybe just jumping over it. This particular coyote found a low spot in the ground that he could wiggle in through.

Rebecca: From the entries on your blog it seems that you farm, there's mention of you getting 3,000 hens with their beaks dubbed, but I can't tell if you pasture anything. Are they barn raised, or...? I take pains to keep predators out, but some get in. You mention in your blog that you "seeing pigs on pasture brings tears to your eyes" - well, you'd be drowning in tears at my farm. I pasture everything -- and I deal with the consequences. From the number of birds (at least 3,000, maybe 6,000 -- you mention two orders of hens) I'm guessing that you do some sort of barn system, but correct me if I'm wrong. If they're in a barn you'll have less predation -- or so I thought. This chicken was in a barn when taken. Go figure.

Nancy: I choose not to run a confinement coop for my chickens, preferring to let them free range on pasture. The birds are free to forage and range around and I think that both they and their eggs taste better as a result. Does your coop have anything green remaining in it? If so, you really are new to chickens.

Steven: While I'm all for reading, fiction is a risky place to draw conclusions from. I did a search to find the study that you're stating here, and didn't find it. Here's the stuff I did find:

"In areas where they are hunted or trapped,
coyotes are extremely wary of human beings.
However, in urban areas where they are less likely to
be harmed and more likely to associate people with
an easy and dependable source for food, they can
become very bold."

There are many links, but the bottom line is that when food is abundant (such as when the coyotes are preying on livestock like chickens, or pets like cats or dogs,) the litter size increases. removing other coyotes can have the effect of making prey more abundant, but often there's a link between predator and prey; it's not as simple as "fewer predators = more prey survival". Disease is the most common mass-kill of prey animals after predation, parasites a close third. I'm open to seeing the study you're referring to, but I'm not finding it. Link, please?

Rich: Yes, agree completely. If the coyote is habituated to eating livestock or pets, and finds that an easier lifestyle than wild game, they will not stop eating them until there's no more to be eaten.

This wasn't a coyote that was scavaging a dead chicken; this was a healthy chicken on a roost inside a building. I've got to draw the line somewhere.

Rebecca T. of HonestMeat said...

Bruce- you obviously need to do some work on your research skills. You can see all over my blog pictures of our mobile chicken coops, gorgeous pasture, guard dogs, etc. So no, we don't use barns for our hens- they are outside all day and go in their mobile coops at night. It must be so exciting as a former white-collar businessman to get to use your rifle every once and awhile and boast about it, but that does not make you a real farmer. We would never boast about what wild animals we killed in the name of raising a few stupid domesticated ones. So, as I said before, use your noggin first and your gun last. Oh yeah, and get a real livestock guard dog.

Bruce King said...

Rebecca, near as I can tell from this entry, your dog was killed on the road and you haven't gotten another one (third paragraph under "laying hens (eggs)" )
Perhaps a fence that is safe for your dog would be a good investment. That's why I ran a 5' field fence around my farm.

With no dog and a "two strand electric fence", mentioned in this post (first paragraph under heading "pigs" )

I don't think you have predator pressure -- or you'd have a lot of dead birds and piglets. Perhaps your neighbors are taking care of it for you.

Does it really matter what breed the dog was if it's dead? And I'm not at all sure that being torn apart by dogs is a better death than a bullet, but coyotes have been killed both ways on my farm. I haven't written about rats, raccoons, oppossums and weasels because the dogs take care of them without my having to take any action. Guardian dogs can and do kill predators. Mine certainly do. If you had one you'd find that out I suspect.

Your background appears to be academic; and for most of the academics I know, the theory is all that they need. It seems to be similar for you. Most academics believe that their education somehow makes them knowledgable in areas outside of their chosen area of study. I see that in what you write. Software guys are the same, in my experience.

I'd like to see you write a blog entry or so a day, as I do, talking about your experiences on your farm. One entry every month or so gives us a pretty narrow view of your farming practices. So narrow, in fact, that it's not clear how you handle your animals, to me, anyway. Dubbing hens (Cutting their top beaks off with a heated iron) is an extra-cost option for most hatcheries, and I'm surprised that you'd order thousands of birds and not notice that they were doing this. Beak dubbing makes it harder for the birds to forage, too, removing some of the benefit of their pasture. Write about your daily life for a while, your interactions with your child, or whatever it is that crosses your plate daily -- as I do. My ethos is to put it out there, and damn the torpedoes. While we disagree on this topic, I agree with you on things like antibiotic use. That's whats great about small farms. Consumers have a choice.

Anonymous said...

HaHa Ha! Bruce :)


Mike said...

Wow! Holy banter. Bruce. I agree with you.

Farmers have been killing predators for generations before us. It is a fact of life. If a predator steals your food you may not have any for yourself. This particular coyote that we took out actually visited our house a few times before the incident, but we always ran him off. There are only so many visits one can allow a predator to make before that predator feels pretty darn safe around your financial assets. The assets that keep you and your family fed.

A farmer should and must do what it takes to protect the animals from predation wether the animals are for slaughter or just for fun.

Thanks for the read, always a pleasure.


jason said...

wow, I was never a big fan of hers, but I'm especially not after reading this.