Life in the Slow Lane: It was a rough weekend

Something broke into the turkey coop two nights ago and I don't have a clue how it was done. There's no doubt that it happened. It was around 7:30 pm and all of a sudden the turkeys were making a huge ruckus and Bear was raging.

For the record Bear doesn't usually rage. Most of the time he moves at an ambling pace, even if I'm offering treats. He has a deep, "I'm a really big dog" bark that's seriously off-putting for almost everything, but he's a gentle giant and pretty much a committed underachiever in his livestock guardian duties. I've actually seen him laying on the porch with his head on his paws as he barks in warning to whatever's out there. Over the two years that Moosie and Bear have been partners on the farm, I've learned that it's only serious if Moosie barks.

But Moosie wasn't outside that night, because...well, because he'd had another 'incident'. Moosie is an amazing dog. Training him not to leave the property took four attempts. First, he went East. I brought him home and he spent an hour leashed to the porch. The next time he had the chance to escape, he went North, and spent an hour in time out.

The third attempt was to the South. Ditto on time out. He went West with his last attempt. As I leashed him to the porch again, he looked up at me and I could see it in his eyes. "I get it. I'm not supposed to go outside the fence." And he no longer does. As I've often said in these posts, he's also a hunter and utterly fearless. I never understood the attraction of dog fights until I saw Moosie in action.

It's breathtaking and awe-inspiring to see him do his job. The problem with Moosie is...well, all of the above.

So three nights ago the birds weren't quite in their coop at sundown because of Georgie, my little steer. That &@$# calf! Every time I think I have that critter locked out of things, he figures out a new way to break in. This time, he opened the gate to the hay storage area by putting his head through the bars and lifting as he stepped back, the chain slipping through the slot as he went. I know this because I saw him try it again after I found him and Elsie dining on bird food, then fixed the issue. Because of the spilled food, the turkeys weren't hungry enough to go into their coop at their usual time and I didn't realize Moosie had a new rule about hunting birds. He's got that he's not supposed to take them during the day (I hope), but if they're out at night, then they're prey just like everything else. Five hundred dollars worth of birds. Sigh.

That brings me back to Bear raging two nights ago. Needless to say, I'd made certain the birds were all locked in tight in their coop, which, I admit, is built of chain link panels for walls and chicken wire for a roof, held together by chewing gum and baling string. (I built it.

'Nuf said.) As Moosie and I joined Bear at the turkey coop I could see the pile of feathers in the corner of the coop closest to the door by the light of my headlamp. There's no mistaking what that means: dead bird. Sure enough, I walked around the corner of the barn and found the turkey's head, but nothing else. I check the the coop doors. Both of them are absolutely closed and locked. There was no hole in the panels, however the chicken wire roof did have a new gap where it had once been attached to the walls.

If not Moosie and no break in the fencing, then what got in? For the past week, I've watched the dogs work the ditch bank, watching the water. I suspect Otters. Two years ago, there was a den across the creek and the mama raised five little ones. She took them for a tour of my place, swimming them up the ditch and showing them the plethora of crayfish available here. Hey, wait a minute! Don't otters also eat eggs and chickens? Why, yes they do, if they can get to them. What about cooped turkeys?

Well, whatever it was, it got in without using a door and managed to get back out again with a good-sized turkey and leave no obvious trace.

I've sewn the roof back to the panels using at least four times as much baling string and added bird netting (nothing likes touching that stuff, not even Javelina) around the edges while I go back to the drawing board to build a better enclosure. The hard part is going to be convincing the turkeys that going into their coop at night means safety not death.

Farming. It's always something.

(Many thanks to Chet Provorse "the imagyst" for this photo of my boys.)

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