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  • Christina Swaan

Of poultry & loss

Unfortunately caring for poultry is not without its hardships. Saturday my heart sank when I looked out the bedroom window first thing in the morning, and saw feathers scattered everywhere around the turkey coop. I called out to the birds like I do every day and got no answer. I rushed out the door (still in my pajamas, in the single-digit temps) to see what happened: to find blood spattered in the snow inside the coop, piles of feathers, and my 3 turkeys huddled together in their shelter - alive, but extremely shaken.

Based on the tracks and evidence around the coop, it appears a small predator (possibly mink or young Fischer) managed to squeeze in through the 2.5" gap on the side of the hinge of the run door. I know the door could have been kept more secure, but I recently had to remove the wire mesh that was originally closing the gap so that I could open it with the snow and ice build-up.

Fozzy the bigger hen had some minor scrapes to her face and chest, but otherwise seemed to be ok. Gonzo, my tom incurred deep injuries to his shoulders and flank, and a good sized gash under his wing and thigh. Sadly, poor Beaker (the friendliest hen, and my favorite) was the chosen target and she suffered the most severe injuries. She lost an eye, had deep gashes to her neck, face, wings, and flanks. It looks like the predator attempted to pull her back through the gap in which it entered. She lived through it - but she was in extreme pain and her injuries were too great to have a chance of recovery without prolonging her suffering. I had to put her to rest - and although I have had to do so plenty of times before as a last act of kindness - it was especially hard this time. I had hope for Gonzo as I cleaned and dressed his wounds, but he was in a very sorry state. It looks like the combination of his injuries and the stress from the overall attack was too much for him. Sunday morning I noticed his breathing had become quite labored as he laid down, and he passed away quickly.

Although I am filled with sadness and anger (mostly at myself for thinking the enclosure was “secure enough” and that the large size of the turkeys would have kept them safe) I hold no resentment for the predator that took a go at my beloved bir


ds. Keeping animals outdoors is inherently risky, and wildlife WILL take advantage of any weakness to our security measures. Nature plays no favorites and this is a harsh reminder of what can happen when we let our guard down.

Rest In Peace my sweet birds.

Fozzy, the last remaining turkey hen has been chirping and trying to call out to her lost friends. She will remain indoors while I make sure her wounds heal, and will likely be integrated with our chickens once the weather is more accommodating for a soft introduction.


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