Then There Were Three
Hutton House Chicken Run - Last Thursday evening, sometime between dusk and 7:30 PM, the Kimler family lost one of their four egg-laying hens.
By "lost", we don't mean that they set the chicken down somewhere and just can't remember where it is. We mean "lost", as in - a predator sneaked into the chicken run, killed a chicken and then made off with the carcass. Murder. Plain and simple.
Reporters were stunned at the news and a teary-eyed Alex tried to grasp the situation.
"One of our chickens ... is ... gone," she sobbed to the throng of reporters gathered the next morning at the Randsco campus gates.
"What took it?" reporters asked.
"We're not 100% certain," said Scott Kimler, who was standing next to Alex, putting a consoling arm around his 5-year-old daughter. "We think it was a raccoon, based on the forensic evidence."
By "forensic evidence", he meant that only feathers were left behind. Reporters, touring the chicken run, noted a light scattering of feathers, everywhere. However, there were two spots in the run, each of which had a mass of feathers.
"We think the chicken was killed either here, or here," Scott said, pointing to the two feathered spots, "then the culprit made off with its kill."
As it turns out, different predators have different "MO-s" (Methods of Operation). Not all predators will take a chicken, once they kill it. Minks and Weasels, for example, will generally chew off the head of the chicken and then drink the blood that drains out. They'll leave behind the carcass and often kill multiple birds, leaving the carcasses neatly piled. Skunks, who hunt mainly during the night, eat the entrails and leave much of the skin and muscle untouched.
"We're pretty certain, based on the evidence, that it wasn't a skunk, wolves, dogs, mink, weasels, rats or coyotes," Scott said, "which narrows it down a tad."
"Other possibilities include an owl, mountain lion, domestic cat or raccoon."
"The way the fence was pushed over, indicates that it probably wasn't an owl," Scott went on, "and while Vancouver Island has a dense mountain lion (cougar) population, sightings in our area are generally very rare. We don't think (and hope) it wasn't a mountain lion.
"As you can see, the fence has been pushed down in this area," Scott said, pointing to a rickety portion of the chicken run fence.
"We're not ruling out a domestic cat, though we know it's not ours - "Tuxedo" - as he was in the house at the time of the incident. Nope ... our money is on raccoons, who may hunt alone or in a family pack."
"When I went to put the chickens to bed the other night," said Rachel, "something in the bushes growled at me. It was very spooky."
"We think it may have been the raccoons, scouting out the area," Scott said, "Unfortunately, once they find a spot to nab chickens, they'll return on a pretty regular basis, every 5 to 7 days."
When asked what they were going to do to protect their flock from further attacks, Scott said that he'd for sure strengthen the fence and that they'd be certain to tuck the chickens into their coop, which is secure from predators, no later than dusk.
"Maybe we'll even enclose the chicken run - top and sides - with mesh, just to make certain nothing can get to "our girls".
It was a somber press conference. Sympathies went out to the missing chicken - a family favorite - and the group of reporters quietly dispersed.