Ghost Bobcats

Discussion in 'Pictures & Stories of My Chickens' started by momgoose, Apr 14, 2012.

  1. momgoose

    momgoose Out Of The Brooder

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    NE Tucson
    I fell in love with chickens in the last year after meeting and watching my daughter-in-laws two Serama hens and one Rooster grow up.
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    Lisa's Serama Roo-nicknamed "Booger"-12 to14 weeks old

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    the Roo and his two girls. You have to look closely to see both pullets (One is under the other!). The three seemed to like this arrangement.

    In January, I bought my first four, 3-day-old Leghorn mutts from a feedstore. I had 'chicken bumps' I was so excited!
    Over the next week my grandkids named and coddled them and we chicken-wired in a 16' x 12' covered chain-link, dirt floored dog run. I had previously buried 2" x 4" welded wire 18 inches straight down under-ground from the chain-link sides so that I could foster Desert Tortoises for the AZ Sonora Desert Museum. I had also buried cement block wrapped in wire 18" deep along the gate opening so nothing could dig under the gate.
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    Chick-in-a-Box

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    Ahhhhhhhhh Sunshine at last!!!


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    Finally! They get to go in the 'big bird' pen during the day and in a couple weeks, they get to 'sleep-over'!

    Around the end of February, I started putting the chicks out in the pen overnight when the weather had warmed up enough sometime around the end of February. They were big enough that they couldn't squeeze between the gaps in the chain-link and I had wired PVC pipe in the gaps between the gate and frame to block those openings.
    One morning, just as the sun was rising, I went out to feed and water the them as usual. I was horrified to find three separate "kill sites" outside the chicken pen. I found blood and bobcat fur in the dead branches of a mesquite limb that had fallen out of the tree and was leaning against the outside of the back of the pen and a pile of feathers at it's base. There were two other piles of feathers and blood within 10 feet of the pen. There were no feathers or blood inside the pen and the gate was latched tight. Daisy, the calmest of the four was still inside the pen, scratching and pecking around as if nothing had happened!
    I was totally confounded. I could not figure out how a pair of Bobcats could get the chickens out of the pen without leaving any evidence of how they themselves had gotten in, or how the chickens had gotten out. The surviving chicken Daisy, who had always been the calmest and most personable of the four, definately couldn't stay in the pen at night alone until I figured out how the other three had been removed and killed. She seemed happy to stay in the garage at night in a large wire dog kennel.

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    I spent the next several days tightening wire, checking for breaks in the welded wire under the chain-link, tightening nuts and reinforcing wire over gaps between the chain link and posts.

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    I built a secure, cozy summer coop-(the iron grate is covered with chicken wire and is placed in front of their "coop" opening every evening to keep them from getting out until I move it in the morning. I checked the chain link on top of the pen to make sure it hadn't been compromised and made sure the PVC pipe was big enough to block the gaps between the gate and gate-frame.
    That's where I finally figured out how the Bobcats could have done it. Right at the bottom of the gate, on the hinge side, I had wired a 6 inch piece of 1 1/2 inch PVC pipe to the frame post below the hinge. As I was adding another piece of wire to it, I noticed that blood had splashed on the bottom of that black piece of pipe and a couple of small white feathers had dried to it. I pushed on that piece of PVC and it slid easily around the post-re-opening the three inch gap! After I had moved it over, there was evidence of claw marks in the dried dirt underneath that piece of pipe and blood there too. Apparently, the Bobcats had nosed around that piece of pipe and pushed it around the gatepost then attempted to dig into the pen. I believe they either panicked the chickens enough that they squeezed through that opening (barely big enough for them to fit) and then were fair game for the cats, or the Bobcats stalked that hole quietly, the chickens became curious, and the bobcats snagged them through the hole when they were close enough. It was hard to believe either scenario had occurred though! How could three chickens have exited that hole, whether in a panic or by 'claw' without leaving a lot more feathers and blood behind? In either case, why didn't my two large dogs hear them and start barking? We sleep with our window open most of the winter because the weather is so mild here and the chicken pen is no more than 100 feet from our bedroom window. We may never know. Bobcats and all animals that have to survive the harsh environment of the desert adapt to what that environment hands them. When that environment brings small domestic animals in cages, the carnivores adapt! Cats are quiet, stealthy, patient and agile by nature and I believe these particular cats, because they've lived very close to people and even raised their young within feet of human homes, have learned a few extra tricks to survive.we have five more chicks .[​IMG]
    in addition to Daisy

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    There are two Bard Rocks, Carissa and Angela:
    Two EE's:

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    Layla (as in "Lay la egg chicken!),

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    Esther (the Esther Egger) and........

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    one Buff Orphington, Annie (her full name is "Orphing Annie").
    Since the revisions I have seen Javalina, Coyotes and one large domestic cat sniffing and scratching around the coop without any incident and I am sure the Bobcats have been back. The chickens are still curious, but hopefully they will stay out of "claws reach" from now on.
     
  2. Hens1098

    Hens1098 New Egg

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    Apr 14, 2012
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  3. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer

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    May 11, 2010
    Chicken bumps! Hah!

    You put a lot of thought in your facility. I like your use of hay but I wonder about mold? Anyway, sorry for your losses. Around here I have to worry about supposed feral dogs-ie neighbors who can't keep their dogs in their own yard.
     
  4. scratch'n'peck

    scratch'n'peck Overrun With Chickens

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    Oct 31, 2008
    West Michigan
    My Coop
    So sorry about your loss. It is a challenge to get any enclosure 100% secure when the predators are determined. It certainly looks like you are making a serious effort to make a good enclosure even better.
     
  5. momgoose

    momgoose Out Of The Brooder

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    Jan 2, 2012
    NE Tucson
    Almost no mold here in the most southern Arizona. Plus the top and sides of straw bales are protected with plastic tarps. This is their 'summer coop' I am building them a coop w/insulation, and all the amenities for winter. Besides, I despise the mess that straw makes and worry about impacted craw from eating straw while they look for 'leftover oats' it may contain. They have plenty of grit so I''m hoping to avoid that problem before I get their "forever coop" built! [​IMG].
     

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