I have struggled with writing this blog post for the last couple weeks. I've thrown titles up in the air for days; sputtered over the words to describe what we have been dealing with recently, sitting down to write, and then walking away.
Our darling cat, Sookie, disappeared back at the beginning of February. I was incredibly sad, not only for myself as I was pretty attached to her, but also for my little ones, who loved their kitty cat. I took this photo of Sookie just a bit before she disappeared:
She spent most of her time inside, but would play outside during the day a little bit, and then would wait for us at the door to let her in. I was really worried when she never came back to our porch.
A few days later, I was sitting on my sofa, when I heard the blood-curdling yips, howls, and laughs of a pack of coyotes right outside our window.
I cried and cried.
Unbeknownst to me, there is a den of coyotes uncomfortably close to our house. When I
talked to our closest neighbor, she said that she had been hearing them
for nearly a year and that they wake her up at night quite frequently (our bedroom sounds like the inside of an airplane thanks to my reliance on an air filter to sleep).
When the chickens joined our family, we were pretty concerned. We were careful about locking them up securely at night, and we let them roam our yard during the day.
At this point, we learned that there are many myths about coyotes: one of them being that coyotes are nocturnal and only hunt at night.
After we had had our chickens for 6 weeks or so, I left the house for half an hour to pick up David at 3 PM in the afternoon, and came home to two less chickens in my flock. I thought that maybe they would come back and were just hiding somewhere. But when David searched the fields that surround our house, he found a trail of feathers all the way across the pasture, from our house back into the woods. Leaving only feathers would seem indicative that the coyotes took two of my hens as a mid-day snack.
We were upset and shocked that coyotes took them in the middle of the day, and we began constructing a new coop that they could stay in all day that was coyote-proof. However, David was rarely home at all, and did not have time to work on it much, so it was slow going.
The following week, I walked past my back door after I had woken up in the morning, and out the windows I saw a coyote, leaping in mid-air, with Chanticleer in his mouth, not ten feet from my porch. I grabbed my shoes and a shovel (the closest thing to a weapon that I had near me), and went running and screaming bloody murder after the coyote. Exactly what I was screaming is not appropriate it repeat, but I startled the coyote enough to drop Chanticleer. In the process, I think scared all of my neighbors within half a mile of us, too.
David's sister and her boyfriend just happened to be visiting, for what will probably be the last time ever, after that brouhaha. (Just kidding, I hope!) They, and David, who hadn't really seen what was happening in the yard, came running outside too.
We saw another coyote standing in our brush, watching us, after I had chased off the first coyote. And there were two other chickens who were already missing. One came back, missing feathers, but alive. However the other never returned. We went from a flock of seven to four in the matter of a week.
After this crazy, adrenaline-filled, and night-mare giving morning, things we pretty quiet for a little while. I was constantly looking over my shoulder, and was too anxious to be at home with the kids by myself. Spending most of my time at the park, library, park, another park, or walking around stores/running errands.
My chickens stopped roosting in their coop, even though they had roosted in there every night for the past two months. I'm assuming because they were afraid/ sensed predators. They took up to roosting right by our door, and I thought that perhaps with the motion sensor-ed light and the close proximity to us and Pongo, that it might be the safest place for them.
One morning, about two weeks ago, David woke up around 6:30 AM, and when I got up around 7:30 AM, David said realized that he hadn't heard Chanticleer crow that morning. David searched and searched, but no sign of him.
I took David to class, and then, when I was driving home, I noticed in front of our house (on the outside of our picket fence), orange feathers, everywhere. When David came home, he surveyed the area, and it seemed rather clear that coyotes had chased our poor rooster off of our porch, out of our yard into the front of our fence and gotten him.While I cared about all of my chickens, I was especially attached to Chanticleer. He was my first chicken, and such a sweet rooster. I loved hearing him crow every time he saw us in the morning. And he made me laugh every day.
I was heart-broken. After several weeks of my flock being preyed-upon, I felt like such a failure. I couldn't bare the thought of losing another chicken, or even worse, that my children might be outside when coyotes come into our yard. So, we gave our three remaining chickens to some friends of ours, where we knew they would be safe and cared for. Even though our new coop would most likely keep them safe, the safety of my family was more of a concern- and I did not want to have anything that would encourage the coyotes to come near us.
The week following re-homing our chickens, we spotted coyotes four different days in our yard- at all times of the day. Pongo actually chased two of them out of our yard. While it's nice to know that he is protective of our home, and surprisingly fierce when threatened, it's a little disconcerting for there to be a coyote hiding in the bushes about ten feet from your car when you pull in the driveway, and to not even know it.
All in all, it's been a stressful time. I've learned more about coyotes than I ever wanted to know.
Things I had heard about coyotes that just aren't true:
-Coyotes are nocturnal and hunt at night. And at 6 AM, 9 AM, 12 PM, and 3 PM if they are hungry.
-Coyotes are scared of humans. Except that they will come within a few feet of humans, show no sign of fear, and are not afraid of cars, homes, and the presence of dogs.
-Coyotes are afraid of light, loud music, dogs, etc. While this might be true of more rural coyotes, urban coyotes are desensitized to all of the things.
-Coyotes are small, and look somewhat like foxes. These are actually bigger than Pongo, and look more like a wolf to me.
It's been a long past few weeks. I can't let the children play outside, and honestly, I'm afraid to be outside myself. It's been a challenge to handle the energy of level of an almost-three-year-old and a one-year-old who are quite the adventurous spirits and would live outside if I let them. And I have had a lot of anxiety and depression about the entire situation.
At this point, we are not completely sure what to do about it. We don't have the money to put in a fence (it would be around $4k to fence our yard), and trapping is also pricey and uncertain. It's illegal to shoot a gun in city limits (did I mention that all of this is taking place in a rather residential area?!). Not to mention, a challenge when dealing with a moderate to large pack of coyotes.
A large part of me just wants to move. I am so tired of the stress that this has brought on me and my family. But obviously, that's not simple either.
So for now, we are coping. And spending a lot of time at the park. And feeling depressed about homestead dreams that seem even further out of reach. And just unsure.
Edit: A couple of you mentioned calling animal control, and believe me, we have! They cannot do anything with coyotes, primarily because they do not have the equipment necessary. We, and our neighbors, have talked to them multiple times, and depending on who we talk to, they range from completely unhelpful, to suggesting that we use a certified trapper.