Last Saturday turned out to be tragic for quite a few animals on the farm. First, the unofficial farm manager Little Friend (a cat) had to be euthanized after finding out on Friday that he had feline immunodeficiency virus and could infect other cats on the farm and in the neighborhood.
But even worse than that, I checked on my chickens in the early afternoon Saturday and found that a predator had gotten in the pen and had some fun. It was a gruesome sight, dead chickens flung around and piles of dead, injured, and live ones too. As of today, after putting down 10 of the worst injured chickens, 14 out of 50 have survived. Two of those are limping badly, but they may still pull through.
The suspects are either the neighbors dogs or foxes. Because it took place in the middle of the day (between 8:30 and 3), and the chickens were mauled but none were eaten or carried away, and I saw the neighbors two little dogs running around the farm that afternoon, I suspect that the dogs were the culprits.
Its possible that foxes were responsible, since there is a family in the area, but they generally carry away some birds to eat, and do their work mainly early in the morning at or before sunrise.
The neighbors, of course, say that it could not possibly have been their dogs. And at this point I guess it doesn’t really matter. Most of the blame lies on me because I saw that morning that a piece of pvc had broken and there was a gap between two pieces of the door frame, but decided to fix it on another day. If I had been more careful or designed the house better, this may not have happened, either by dogs or by foxes, so there is no point in being angry.
This does highlight one of the issues with creating integrated livestock and vegetable farming systems. Not only is it nearly impossible to make any profit on raising chickens for meat or eggs in a non intensive and unmechanized system, having the chickens on pasture adds more expense, risk, and work, which all together creates a price for eggs and meat difficult for consumers to swallow.