We’re pretty early risers here at our house. John is up and about by 4:00 am each morning. I’m not the morning person he is, and on work days I (with lots of help from my longsuffering husband) manage to drag myself out of bed typically between 4:30 and 5:00 am. By 5:30 am I usually have my first pot of tea brewing, most of the dishwasher unloaded, maybe a load of laundry on its way to started, and am figuring out what to take for my lunch at work.
John is typically off to catch the bus by the time it’s starting to get light nowadays, however today he had the day off because of an appointment.
He was sitting at the desk working on balancing the checkbook – I was in the bathroom starting to get serious about getting ready for work for the day – when I heard John yell, “Hey! Get out of here!”
By the time we caught up to one another he said, “A bobcat! Just off the back porch! It got one of the babies….”
We called Pepper and headed outside where, sadly, we found one of my baby (now 20 week old) Cuckoo Maran pullets, breathing her last, right where the bobcat had dropped it.
Pepper went tearing off through the yard, following the scent, trying to find it, and John and I scouted, trying to determine if there were any other casualties.
The girls were HIGHLY agitated.
They stayed clustered in the corner of the run closest to the house. (For the better part of the day, actually.)
And when Pepper came running by they freaked out a little and went running for the coop.
Needless to say, they weren’t the only ones who were shook up.
When you raise urban chickens, you know there are predators. In our 8.5 years here we’ve seen hawks, owls, fox, coyote, raccoon, and who could forget the neighbor dogs! But bobcat? Really?
I likely might never have believed it if our friend – just down the way from us, maybe ½ a mile away – hadn’t had a similar experience with her own flock last year. All tolled, I believe she lost a dozen hens to a bobcat. Another friend, just down the street and around the corner mentioned a few months ago they’d spotted a bobcat in their yard, as well.
In the local news there have been quite a few cougar sightings, as well – not that far from where we live.
But to look up on your back porch and see a bobcat making one of your chicks its breakfast?
This evening when I was out in the garden bringing in ingredients for tonight’s salad, I could swear I could smell that distinctive smell that I smelled this morning when I cleaned up the remains of my little Cuckoo Maran. I looked around and thought, “It would never be out in broad daylight!”
Tonight, as we were getting the girls locked up for the night, John spotted a place in the portable fencing that was disrupted – one of the stakes had been pulled out. That’s when he saw it.
The bobcat had apparently – maybe first – maybe later –also grabbed one of my Rhode Island Reds and eaten her nearly down to the bone. It had found a nice cushy place under a big tree in the longer grasses along near the compost pile and made itself quite at home.
Needless to say, we’re pretty hypervigilent around here right now. John has closed down the portable fencing and we will keep the girls in just the permanently fenced area of the yard for a few days at least. Now that the spinach has bolted, at least they’ll be getting some greens! That permanent fencing is 6 feet tall, so hopefully will be a deterrent. How much of a deterrent, who is to say? It had obviously been in the run at some point in time – the Rhode Island Reds just don’t get out, they’re so docile and tame and stay in the fencing!
And we’ll refrain from letting them out of the coop until it’s fully light.
And I completely intend to have Pepper have the run of the yard in the mornings before the girls go out. She takes guarding her girls seriously. (Honestly, when I tell her, “Pepper, go get the hawk!” She’ll chase that thing and run so fast, so hard, it nearly looks like she’d thinking she can take flight, too!)
So – here’s hoping that’s the end of the bobcat’s free breakfasts at our house!