Sunday, September 27, 2009

The unromantic reality of life in the country

Many people see a superficial view of life on a small farm and think its idyllic. They buy vegetables or fruit or pick up their chickens or turkey and wax lyrical about how wonderful it is to live here. And in many ways it is. But there is another side of life that people don't know about and don't want to know about in many cases. Its a side of life that makes you deal with death and predators and disease.

This morning was a prime example. I woke around 6ish to crows cawing loudly and incessantly from a tree in the yard. There are always crows around and I love crows. I think they are intelligent birds and have never had problems with them taking things they shouldn't (well a little duck feed from the pen now and then) or getting into garbage. They go about their crow business and I go about mine without friction.

The one huge benefit of having crows when you have livestock of any kind is that they become the air raid siren when predators are around. Hawks, eagles, foxes, coyotes are heralded by lots of loud cawing and they don't stop til the intruder is gone.

So when I heard the crows this morning I knew something wasn't right. I instantly thought of the remaining three ducks still in the pen in the field. These three ducks were the last three (besides BD) that I have. They were badly injured in the last mink attack and couldn't be sold with the last batch that went. So they went to the 'rehab' pen in the field and were slowly getting better but would never be quite 'normal' as the injuries affected muscle and tendons.

It first it was thought that it was a fox in the pen, with the brown colour and the early light, but when it raised its head there was no mistaking. It was a Great Horned Owl sitting in the entrance to one of the duck shelters in the pen. He (or she) had obviously gone into the shelter to attack the ducks who go in at night.

The remaining duck was quickly shut into the other pen but it took quite awhile before this owl was going to leave. The owl sat on the ramp to the box dozing off and on, not scared by people at all. Crows joined forces and continued to scream at the owl and dive over his head to scare him off but it took several hours before he slowly made his way from the pen to the field then to the trees at the end of the meadow. Crows continued to harass him and blue jays joined in. The noise was pretty loud as you can hear from the quick video clip that I did. I didn't get too close to the owl as I'm not sure if it would attack or not and those talons are very big!

The remaining duck was rescued from the box in the pen and put in the barn, so hopefully the owl won't be back again with nothing there to attack. Of course, the two ducks that he killed were females, both egg layers and lots of people always want duck eggs. No more.

So while this isn't pleasant for me and may not be pleasant to read, it is reality. The animals on the farm aren't as pet-like as most people's idea is, but they are well cared for and it isn't good when this happens for several reasons. I don't think there are many more predators left to come and visit. We've had hawks, a bald eagle, foxes, coyotes, mink, weasels and now an owl. The only thing left is likely a black bear and I really don't want to see one of them!

The positive thing out of this? I have some good photos of a Great Horned owl.


Jonathan Manning said...

Then you have your neighbor's pets who wander over and wreak havoc! And YOU get to clean up what's left. But when my kids went outside, I didn't have to worry about strangers or traffic like I do now. AND, I never had to get fully dressed just to go grab something from the truck. :)

Jennifer Rose said...

yeah the positive is the photos you have gotten. that top photo is gorgeous and would make a lovely drawing.

sorry about your ducks but you are right. its a hard part of living in on a farm. when we were raising rabbits for food we always had to make sure predators couldn't get into the enclosures.

I love crows, such smart animals :) the rooks here are so big tho that sometimes you give them a wide berth. Glad you didn't get too close to the owl, can do a lot of damage.

pretty loud racket the jays and crows were making. they do the same here for all the cats

I am really sorry about your ducks :( hopefully a bear doesn't show up!!

Robyn said...

That must have been distressing, Jeanette. I had no idea an owl would kill ducks. He's a magnificent looking creature. I'm certainly not made of the right stuff to live on a farm even though I did as a child.

"JeanneG" said...

My dogs and parakeet loved hearing the birds. As I've said before, I could never be a farm person. I'm just glad some people can.

Sydney said...

Sorry to hear about your ducks. Those are wonderful owl photos even though the reason you got them is not so good. I'm not that surprised that an owl attacked the ducks but I wouldn't have expected him to go into the duck house.

dinahmow said...

Well, firstly, thankyou for not blasting the owl with a 410!
When we lived "in the bush" we did a lot of wildlife rescues and were specifically raptor rehabilitators.
Did I mention I also had free range chickens!
Yes, some aspects of rural life can be harsh, but the enjoyment outweighs the horrors.
(Note to Robyn - that owl would be on a par with our Powerful Owl, which can take very young wallabies.)

black bear cabin said...

We dont live on a farm, but we do live in the mountains and have to deal with similar situations, and its always a bummer...part of life i guess, but still frustrating sometimes. by the way....we get bears all the time, shall i send em your way ;)
sorry about your ducks :(

Jo Castillo said...

Sorry about the ducks. Part of my growing up was on a ranch, dealing with similar stuff. Not easy work either. Nice photos. :(

Jeanette said...

Oh yes, that's true Jonathan. Good and bad aspects to everything!

Yes I was sorry to lose the two ducks Jennifer. Its a part of life in the country that never sits well for me.

The owl is amazing isn't he/she Robyn? I guess it was doing what comes naturally - just wish it hadn't been my ducks chosen for breakfast.

Seriously Jeanne, you do get used to it after awhile. I never thought I could do it, but you don't personalize animals so much then.

I guess he was determined Sydney. And yes, I suppose they do take ducks in the wild. I had never considered an owl as a threat before.

I used to have free range chickens too Dinahmow. But the competition from predators at all levels became too much. I don't think such a beautiful bird could be shot and he'd done the deed by the time he was discovered anyway, so what would be the point?

Its frustrating on a personal and an economic level black bear cabin. I know it happens and will continue to happen as long as I have any kind of livestock around. And no thank, you can keep the bears... :) There aren't many on this part of the island so hopefully I won't see any!

Thanks Jo. Yes something is always trying to eat something else isn't it? I agree, some of the photos are good.

Terry Banderas said...

Great post Jeanette. Very interesting to hear this story which reminds us how cruel and real nature is some times.

Sorcha said...

Awh poor duckies, just when they thought they were the lucky ones an owl comes and gets them. I had no idea owls would go after something that large!

Sandy Maudlin said...

So sorry about the loss. The photos are incredibly wonderful, however. You write your narratives so well, too.

Jan said...

I know only too well, Jeanette. We gave up raising chickens because of all the predators here. I'm sorry about your ducks, thank God it wasn't BD though as I know he's a favorite of yours.

While I'm thrilled about seeing wildlife in person on one hand, on the other, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. There's been so much development around that the wild animals are squeezed into a much smaller area. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it)we're in their remaining area. Mixed feelings doesn't begin to cover it.

K. Henderson Art said...

A skunk went to skunk heaven last night AFTER it got into the chicken house and killed my Mother Hen and her one chick. And I don't feel bad about Hubby killing the skunk at all!