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Hawthorn Hill

July 11, 2013

Fight to keep chicken alive has taken several attempts

I agree with the narrator of Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” that good fences make good neighbors – most of the time.

Several weeks ago we picked up two dozen Cornish Rock broiler chicks, transferred them to a pretty posh setup in the garage, watched them eat well and feather up, and then moved them to what we figured was a safe home for the remainder of their short lives down by the barn. We had bought a small dog kennel, thinking that would provide them with an ample opportunity to grow and enjoy life – space, clean air, good organic feed, shelter, lots of grass to nibble on. We strung small meshed game bird netting around the perimeter, covered the top to prevent aerial stealth attacks by the likes of hawks and owls, closed off the exposed end, and plugged up every possible entry point for ground based predators. We figured we had every base covered.

Not so. The next morning we discovered a partially eaten carcass and then over the next several days on average one a day. At this point our best guess is that we were outsmarted at every turn by a weasel. If we are right, then that is not too many ounces of natural stealth and brainpower – at least as much grey matter as is needed to breech an impressive defense system. I guess weasels, and all predators for that matter, have at their cognitive disposal all they need to get the job done.

Humans often complain about plants that are labeled invasive species. I have always admired their will to live, their tenacious unwillingness to give in to the most energetic of eradication attempts. Fact is, we humans are the most invasive species on earth. The irony is that our worst enemies are ourselves. We kill one another for incredibly indefensible reasons. Animals prey on one another to stay alive, to feed themselves and their young. While I have fewer chickens, which we were raising to hole up in the freezer at some point, the act of predation in nature is far more defensible than the many acts of aggression that humans practice against one another, all too often due to ethnic or religious differences. So, while on the one hand it ticks me off that we lost so many chickens, at least on one level it is an understandable and entirely defensible act on the part of animal predators whose very survival depends on such behavior.

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