This has been an especially hard year for us. We've lost more birds this year than in the past fifteen years combined. (over 60 birds this year)
The culprit has been predators: Fox, hawk, owl, raccoon, weasel, and cars.
It makes it extremely difficult to successfully handle the business of selling eggs when the key component to that equation gets picked off and eaten on the run. Every time we lose a bird, the other birds panic and stop laying eggs for a few days.
I think there are many different reasons as to why this is happening now. First, I think it is because our dogs are older and aren't patrolling the farm like they used to do. This gives the predators more room to freely move about eating a chicken or two whenever they want. Second, our have slowly been around less and less each year. When they were younger, they were constantly outside playing, shooting, bike riding, making forts in the woods, riding sleds down muddy hillsides (well, to be honest, I didn't know about that until AFTER it happened) and just being outside more. Third, I think the predators have moved about more due to the oil and gas drilling/pipeline building that is going on around the area.
And chickens, guineas, and ducks make for some easy fast food meals. (At least that's what the fox says!)
We've tried some deterrents like the Nite Guard red flashing lights. I move them around and it seems to deter the owls. (Owls like baby guineas...they're "fun size" and easy to grab-n-go!)
The hawk liked waiting on the gate at the coop and picking out her meal from the best of the best. Shiny "hawk deterrent" tape didn't seem to work but moving the birds to a new location did.
The weasel was elusive but sealing every nook and cranny in the coop seems to have slowed his nightly meals. (knock on wood!)
The fox has been the worst. It picks off birds during the day. Sometimes we see the pile of feathers from where the chicken struggles but mostly the birds just vanish. The fox seems to like duck just as much as chicken, and had been eating both equally.
Raccoons have been feasting on guineas. Guineas like to nest in the tall weeds and hide themselves. We only know that they were on a nest when we see their remains after the raccoon has finished his feasting.
The loss of our livestock is costly; financially it hits because we lose egg production but it is also the cost of losing animals that has an emotional price tag. We really care about our animals and it can be quite emotional when a favorite one gets eaten or disappears.
I have only a few choices that I can make.
So, this is where the farm stands right now. I love my farm fresh eggs and I love supplying people with our farm fresh eggs. But, we can't keep experiencing losses like this. We'll have to solve this dilemma soon....we can't afford to lose any more birds.