There's a lot to tell you about, but I'll start with the most exciting news first.
We almost lost our flock to a predator at the beginning of the month. Those of you following me on Facebook have already heard a bit about this, but now I can share photos.
We don't have a lot of things that prey on chickens here aside from hawks, eagles, and the occasional dog (we don't even have raccoons or skunks), but just over a month ago, a bear showed up in the area. Normally this wouldn't be much of a problem, but this particular bear has developed a taste for poultry and has raided more than half a dozen coops, despite the fact that it's prime Salmonberry season and there's no shortage of other things for him to eat at the moment.
I woke up one morning a couple of weeks ago and happened to glance out at the chicken coop and noticed that the window trim was torn off and laying on the ground.
After taking a closer look it became obvious that somebody with muddy paws was the culprit.
Notice how he tried the knob and the latch, but didn't touch the door anywhere else? This guy's a pro.
After a few minutes of panic and trying to decide whether it was safe to go out and check on them, I finally saw a couple of the hens hop up onto the window perch. Okay, so at least it wasn't a total loss.
I could hear that the neighbor's dog was out and not going ballistic, so I figured the bear was long gone, and I eventually mustered up enough courage to venture out for a better look. Closer inspection revealed that he also tried to gain access through one of the other windows, as well as the pop door which will eventually provide access to the chicken tractor. Thankfully the hardware cloth that we stapled over the windows and under the sheeting kept him from gaining entry and everyone inside was fine (if a little rattled). Not that he didn't try - the mesh was stretched and covered in muddy paw prints. I'm so glad that we went overboard and built the coop with the expectation that we might one day have to deal with predators trying to get in, I can't imagine what I might have had to deal with that morning if we hadn't.
Local authorities have been trying to capture this fellow for weeks now, but he (she?) has proven to be a very smart bear (hey, he knows how a door works, for goodness sake), and has so far avoided the traps that they've set. I wonder if they've considered making it look more like a chicken coop. In the meantime, we've reinforced the coop (the trim is now screwed on tight, and the windows have secure latches), and we're being extra careful about walking on the park trails.
Hopefully he'll make his way to another location soon, either on his own or with the help of conservation officers.