Oh what a horrible find this morning. It took a moment for me to realise on arriving at the farm that the chickens from our laying flock were already out of their house. A second later I saw the door still propped open with a length of wood (just as I had left it yesterday!) Oh what an idiot!!!! In six years I have never left one of the chicken houses open!
Then I saw the dead bodies of chickens lying around a wide area. I screamed to David to come and help and from then on I think I was in shock and trying hard just to remember my steps from the night before and figure out how this could have happened. David meanwhile filled 3 large bags with seventeen dead birds – a third of our layers, gone! David noticed that many of the bodies were still warm which means it looks like an opportunistic strike just after first light. As he went to lift up the last of the casualties he found it was still alive. The poor thing has lost a large area of feathers around it’s neck and appears to be in shock but it is now being given huge amounts of TLC and the signs look positive that it will recover.
At first we presumed it must have been a fox but on seeing how the birds were killed (puncture wounds to the throat) and the fact they were not ‘taken away’ led us to believe it was a Pine Marten. We’ve also now found some distinct looking “scat” (Pine Marten pooh!) which seems to confirm this.
I at last managed to remember the trail of events the night before and recalled going to lock up the Hubbards and the layers but being distracted half way through by our three naughty orphan lambs who gave me such a run around and didn’t want to return to the barn – that kept me running round and round in circles for 10-15 minutes and everything else seems to have just been mentally ticked off as having been done….not so! 🙁
It seems really heartless of me to try and move on so quickly, but we have customers who expect a regular supply of eggs so more birds approaching the ‘point of lay’ have been ordered from our friends at Craigievern Poultry – we’re collecting them on Thursday.
Incidents like this have happened to friends of ours over the years and we have been pretty lucky to escape such a horror ourselves. I think with the longer days and juggling so many other things it created a lapse in my usual meticulous checking that all had been done prior to leaving at 10pm….that will not happen again!!!