Rettland Farm

Rettland Farm

Sunday, May 31, 2009


For those of you who live in a fantasy world where small, fuzzy...vicious...destructive little creatures don't need to die under any circumstances, please click the little "X" at the top right corner of your screen, and go watch Homeward Bound or something. Check back in a week or two for some other topic, because this post isn't going to be for you.

All the rest of you, let's talk about vengeance.

First, some history. For those that don't know, one of the foods we produce here on the farm are eggs. And due to my feelings on the subject, our laying hens are 100% free range. Let me put this another way: they can go absolutely wherever they want to go, whenever they want to go there. For reasons of biology and instinctive behavior, they don't stray very far, so it isn't the absolute economic trainwreck that it may sound like. They generally stick around.

Since chickens have horrible night vision, they do seek shelter at dusk. For this purpose, I have an old, straight-out-of-the-50's chicken house that most of them spend their nights in, as well as lay their eggs in. (Most meaning about 75%. The rest roost in the barn, trees, and I-don't-know where-the-hell. Ditto for the eggs. Every day is an Easter Egg hunt around this place.)

I have learned that the best way to deal with predators is to simply exclude them, so the chicken house has been made predator proof with wire mesh over the windows. The doors are closed every night after all the birds who want to be in are in. I check them out every night around midnight just to be sure everything is quiet. And it always is. Always.

So imagine my surprise when I stroll into the chicken house on a recent morning, and walk into a scene right out of a poultry horror movie. The entire floor of this building (I'd ballpark it at about 300 square feet) is covered, literally, with feathers. And strewn among this sea of feathers like so many macabre icebergs, are the carcasses of about 25% of my laying flock.

Now, I have come to accept and even tolerate a certain number of lost birds due to depredation. When they are managed in a totally free range system like mine, predators are going to be inevitable. Until this point, I have really only used exclusion and Darwinism as a remedy to the problem. But this was an entirely different situation. This massacre went down inside the birds' "safe haven". (I found that a very small corner of the wire mesh in one window had been pushed in to give the culprit access.) That fact was infuriating by itself.

But here is the real kicker: only one bird had been eaten. The rest had simply been killed for pleasure. They weren't eaten, or even really dismembered. Just dead. This is what drove me to the point of revenge.

I did some research on the internet and found a great website from Cornell about predators and how to (a) identify their crimes, and (b) stop them. From this, I figured that I was dealing with either a fox or a raccoon. I also know that once a predator hits the jackpot once, he will return to the same location to feed on subsequent nights. That little fact proved to be invaluable. The second night after the attack, he came back, and I got even.

I'll spare you the details, but the culprit turned out to be a fox.
I kept a trophy.

I take no pleasure in killing animals. I only do it so that myself and others may eat. This time though, I savored the feeling of justice. I liked the feeling of avenging not only my economic loss, but also the loss of those birds that had been killed merely for the sake of killing. An eye for and eye, and all that.

I have since fixed the damaged window, added a few more pieces of wire mesh to others, and have begun to search for new birds to replace the ones that I lost, which is not as easy as it may sound--You can't just stroll into Walmart and pick up laying hens. But I'll find them soon, and we'll get our egg numbers back up to where they need to be, and the egg customers who are now being deprived of eggs will have them again.

The debt's been paid. It's time to move on.


  1. Beau, just a reminder to pay your PETA dues. I just got a note that mine are overdue.

  2. Hi Beau, Well an eye for an eye. This beats our President swatting a fly. Poor fox, however he should of stayed on his own turf.

  3. Gettysburg CSI solves another one....well done my friend