I’ve had several problems with predation since I started raising my own food. From bobcats eating my chickens and ducks, to pickleworms eating my cucumbers and pumpkins, I’ve had problems with wildlife wanting to eat MY food.
For the most part, I’ve been able to resolve these problems. Not growing cucurbits (squashes, pumpkins, and cucumbers) seems to have been the only way to resolve the pickleworm problem other than poisons, sadly. And a pitbull that has free access to the entire house and backyard seems to have been the answer to making the yard predator free.
I’ve been incubating quail eggs to increase my quail meat and egg production for the last couple months. Both my incubator and my brooder is located on my screened back porch, mostly for protection from the weather. The brooder has coroplast sides with a 1 inch by 2 inch screen top, plenty small enough to keep the birds in, yet allow plenty of air circulation.
Each batch of birds spends 21 days in the brooder as they develop feathers to allow them to handle the temperature swings. I don’t keep a written record of the number of birds that hatch, so I was unsure there was a problem for the first batch of birds. I had a hunch some had disappeared, but I just chalked the cont discrepancy on my failing old man’s memory.
The second batch, I kept better track of the birds, and discovered that some were disappearing. However, I couldn’t figure it out, and while I started with 16 birds in the second batch, only 7 made it to the grow out pen.
Two days ago, while talking with BlueTang on the phone, I realized I had stepped right over a corn snake that was in my screened porch. Startled, I swore a bit, while BT laughed at me. He then told me I shouldn’t kill it, its just a snake.
Yesterday, around 2pm, I moved 21 newly hatched chicks from my incubator to my brooder. Later that same day, I went out to check on them to find this:
Needless to say, I was NOT happy. The cornsnake was wrapped around 3 or 4 of my baby quail, and was in the process of eating another. After removing the snake, a quick count showed 10 still alive, 5 dead, and 6 missing. One look at the snake’s body, and you could tell where the missing quail were! It must have been the Golden Corral of the snake world.
At first I was mad at the snake, until I thought about motives. It was only following its nature – to hunt small prey such as baby quail. I then shifted my anger to myself for not thinking this was a possibility, and doing what I could to prevent it.
I will be changing the design of my brooder, implementing a finer mess to prevent anything bigger than a bumblebee to get in without the ability to open a door.
It seems that I also need to do a review on the Crossman 1377 American Classic Variable Pump Power Bolt Action Air Pistol and Gamo Balistic tip pellets (on sale now at Amazon, BTW!)
Some of you may be appalled at my reaction, and for that I apologize. However, I would do the same thing again. The predator was taking food out of my family’s mouth. And while relocating it was an option, eradication prevented a return visit from across the county, “The Incredible Journey” style.
Much like the snake treated the quail, I was swift and merciless. While we do not rely on the quail as a main source of food, the thin veil of our society is very fragile, and our Just In Time inventory system puts living 5 hours down a highly populated peninsula into a different perspective. I’ve seen what can happen here when the supply trucks don’t roll for a week. I hope and pray that we never get to the point that my family must rely on the quail I raise. I will do now what I feel I that must, just in case.
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