the circle of life, and other annoyances

I wish I already knew how to shoot the .22.

Stupid coyotes.

We showed my son the coyotes out the kitchen window a while back, explained the difference between nice dogs like Grandpa’s and these bold boys. He now tromps around the farm gesturing and hollering NO COYOTE, NO! and can often be observed teaching our cat to do the same.

It must be working; he’s the only barn cat who’s avoided becoming lunch.

A decade of having this over-grown haven mostly to themselves has made them brazen. They stroll up to the barn in the middle of the day like they own the place, help themselves to a chicken, and off they go.

I feel better knowing it’s not just my chickens keeping them fed; there are piles of feathers and bones all over our side field, only one of which could have come from my sad brown hens.

Saturday afternoon found the hubby out in the back woods, tracking the coyote superhighways running through our property. We found molehills littered with paw prints, big and small, tiny drops of blood on fallen leaves, feathers feathers feathers, grey fur caught in brambles.

Trails. So many trails.

We are 90% sure they have a den on our property, somewhere in the thick brambles along a fence line. A stone’s throw from the barn. From what we can see of the tracks, they seem to have young. Gah.

We need a dog. A few dogs. And better fencing. Mostly we need to catch the buggers.

The coyotes are not the only bold ones on this farm. My 20 month old son would happily traverse the fields on his own if I let him, sometimes when I don’t let him, too. I am terrified he will disappear behind the barn and look like lunch.

We make lots of noise while we work outside. I’m sure my neighbours think I’m crazy.

It’s funny . . . I think about all the articles I read in magazines like Mother Earth News about managing predators, and how they always solicit lots of angry, philosophical letters in response.

It’s easy to be philosophical about killing if you, your animals and your family are in no danger of being lunch.

Something about seeing a huge, healthy predator stroll by your kitchen door at 1 in the afternoon and finding what’s left of your livestock in the fields has a way of making one see the world from a more pragmatic point of view.

Anyway. I’m on my way to becoming a real life farm girl. I held my first dead chicken, am learning how to track and have suddenly found myself completely over my aversion to the idea of shooting one of these buggers.

13 thoughts on “the circle of life, and other annoyances

  1. oceannah

    pretty steep learning curve Stacey… I’m so sorry about your losses…and I think you’re very wise to keep a keen eye on the babe. I know you said these ‘yotes have had the run of the place for a long time, but they sound particularly brazen. Is it possible that they are coy-dogs? coyote X feral dogs? Those tend to be MUCH more brazen around humans, at least in my experience. Best of luck….with your target practice πŸ˜‰

    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      Ah, its our own fault for being impatient and getting chickens before we were completely set up. I just couldn’t bear to buy eggs at the store anymore.

      You’re probably on to something there – when I first saw him close up I thought he was a wolf or a big husky or something. Now, I haven’t seen many coyotes so close, but he was way bigger than I expected …

      Anyway, we’ll get a dog and get it sorted out eventually, I hope!

  2. Deb Weyrich-Cody

    Hi Stacey, too bulky to post here, so emailed you a bunch of articles on this.
    From everything I read this am – it sounds like someone/idiot’s been feeding them, for Pete’s sake!! One good thing though: they aren’t stupid by a long shot, so they (should hopefully) back off as soon as you start pushing back and I echo Anna. Good luck, D.

    1. Christine @ these light footsteps

      I agree that they should start backing off as you claim your territory. Just want to mention that most research suggests shooting them isn’t the best option. As coyotes grow older, they claim a larger territory and by taking one out, you open up a space where a larger number of younger ones can move in. Keep letting them know you’re boss and they should start to back off. And if they start to back off, they’re actually pretty good at keeping rabbits and rodents in lower numbers…
      Anyway, just my ten cents…

      1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

        I think you’re right. With all my crazy yelling and flailing and encouraging my parent’s dog to mark the property they seem to be coming around less and less. We’ll be getting livestock guardian dogs this spring so hopefully that will help as well.

  3. the food fighters

    You’re amazing. You’ll soon be a regular Annie Oakley. Good luck with the coyotes. The ranchers in my family have had similar problems/dilemmas with predators. They’re supposed to get reimbursed by the government, but it never quite works out.

  4. lazymomgardener

    If only more folks would understand that change in perspective. Especially mommas seem to have that urge to protect their young (whether they be human or chicken or lambs or whatnot). I am putting off getting my chickens and sheep until I have a little better barrier (sp? It looks funny) system in place to protect them from the coyotes, bobcats, and birds of prey. A guardian dog will be in our future as well. Good luck.

    1. The Slow Foods Mama Post author

      Things are getting better with them now. We had four come by mid-day last week, while our new guardian dog pup slept soundly on the porch . . . sigh. The hubby has built a chicken tractor for the layers which is working quite well. Much less work than fixing our miles of falling down fence right now. πŸ™‚

      1. lazymomgardener

        We heard our coyotes in the pasture last night. That’s good yours are backing off a bit. My current varmit battle is with the mice. A couple of cats will be in order soon. πŸ™‚

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