Friday, May 29, 2015

Requiem for a rooster

We lost our beloved rooster Snap yesterday.

We hatched Snap from an egg back in August 2010.

He was the ideal rooster: protective of his flock, easy on the hens, good natured toward us, virile, manly, showy. Over the years other roosters have come and gone, but Snap has been our mainstay.

A coyote ended his life yesterday morning. I released the chickens from the coop in the early morning, as usual, and about an hour later I took a lead rope and went to get Polly from the pasture for milking. On the way back I walked past the telltale signs of predator/prey.

This is not the sort of thing I would miss seeing, so evidently it happened while I was out getting Polly. Clearly the coyote was waiting for the opportunity while my back was turned to steal his meal. I knew in a moment it was Snap who was taken.

It would also explain why I found the hens huddled by the barn rather than scratching for worms in the compost pile.

We are all surprisingly saddened by Snap's loss. Our yard seems empty and quiet without his lusty crow. I'm jumpy and protective of the hens who are now without their mate.

This coyote has been plaguing our neighborhood in the past couple weeks. Our neighbor across from us is down to two birds left in his flock, thanks to the coyote's insatiable appetite. We've lost a couple of hens as well. Once a coyote knows where to get an easy meal, there's no stopping him.

I saw the coyote early one morning last week. I went around to the back of the barn to check on Dusty and her calf, and saw the canine slink out of the woods...

...glance around, and slink back. I can't blame him, really -- it's how he makes his living -- but we're not about to lose our flock without a fight.

Don will be carrying the shotgun around and I'll start releasing the hens later in the morning when we have a more active presence outside.

Meanwhile we're planning another chicken coop and a fenced yard for our incoming Jersey Giants, which should be arriving next week. As newborn chicks, they'll spend their first month or so in the house, then another month or two in the inside coop in the yard, by which point (hopefully) we'll have the new coop and yard built.

Such is life on the edge of the wild. But we'll miss poor Snap.


  1. Patrice and family,
    Funny how a rooster can mean so much to a family (and flock) I understand your loss. I felt miserable for a long time after the loss of our wonderful 'Buck'. He too held all the great qualities you described as well as being simply gorgeous to look upon. I am very sorry for your loss. We have huge coyotes up here north of you. They are very sneaky, but hopefully we can eliminate or at least lessen the problem one shell at a time.

  2. my wife and i live in the Sacramento mountains of southern NM, and we battle coyotes all the time, we have free range chickens , and we have two dogs that watch them during the day and they are trained( by the wife) to go to roost in a secure coop and yard at night where we lock them up. and then we have a dog pen, just a few feet from the chicken pen and one of the dogs stays there and barks when they come around at night and of course the coyotes have learned how far my rifle reaches so they are VERY sneaky!
    love your site! and Your life style, we live similar to yours.

  3. A sad loss -- I only wish my rooster were as nice as Snap. As for the coyote, an electronic call, a small-sized caliber rifle (.22-250, .223), and an hour around sunrise would probably solve the problem.

  4. I am sorry for your loss.
    A cougar killed two of my goats, and a fox or a bobcat killed all of my chickens.
    It hurts to lose your loved ones.
    I haven't gotten over the last goat being killed.
    I have a baby monitor at the barn now.

  5. Grrrrr.

    I'm sorry to hear this, Patrice.

    I know y'all are excellent animal stewards, and this loss is a testament to how challenging it is to deal with coyotes. We had one attack our ram in broad daylight IN THE YARD a couple of years ago, and more than once I've found on lurking at the fence line next to the house. One has to deal with this problem with consistent focus and extreme prejudice. And in our case with a very good guardian dog who sleeps with the flock.
    I think Don's right wrt to the shotgun. You're too close to your neighbors and the topography is too flat and open for a .22 to be safe for dealing with this problem.
    Dang old coyotes.
    We have equally serious issues with mountain lions. We can never take our eyes off the ball.
    Good hunting, Don.

    A. McSp

  6. Coyotes are wiley critters, hard to get close enough to them with a shotgun. I use my .25 06 to reach out and touch them...

  7. I agree with Mr. Keith 100%. It's tough to get a coyote into shotgun range. They're too smart.


  8. Sadly we too lost our rooster this week, but to a fox. He lives locally and stops by now and then and I seem to always know when he will hit... and I was right again. Grr. No doubt little bellies to feed this time of year here. Makes it difficult to raise chickens without some serious electric fence. Sorry for the loss Patrice.

    Learning in NY

  9. Nope, Never trust a coyote! Within the past two years we were visiting relatives in a city of 150000 and staying at a hotel on a main street but near a river that had wooded areas. We were crossing the parking lot carrying our luggage and our then 6.5 y/o was struggling to pull her rolling bag and was several feet behind us. We turned around and spotted a coyote slinking up behind us watching our daughter struggle. It came closer and closer until we shouted at it and it ran off. Scary stuff!

    1. Holy Mackerel! That is terrifying.

      Just Me

  10. I feel your pain. A neighbor's dog killed all our chickens early last summer. The hens were unnamed, but the rooster was George the Second. Like Snap, he was the perfect rooster. Fortunately a friend who had bought some eggs from me to hatch out had a rooster & gave him to us. George's lineage lives on with George the Third.

  11. Sorry for your loss. I believe Snap was featured in one of your title photos a couple of years ago. He was magnificent.

  12. I hate that telltale pile of feathers when you least expect it. It hits surprisingly hard when you lose a bird.

  13. Oh, Patrice so sorry to hear about Snap. A good rooster is worth their weight in gold and sometimes very hard to find one with a nice temperament.

  14. Man. That's hard to take. Everyone loved Snap - even all of us. It must have been terribly shocking to find his remains like that with no warning. There's nothing you could have done.

    Dang it.

    Boy, a lot of readers struggle against some pretty nasty predators: coyotes ... bobcats? mountain lions?! How on earth do you protect your animals from a mountain lion? Gasp.

    Here, there are coyotes out back on the open prairie. Their howls at night are bone-chilling. It scares all my critters. It wakes my kitties and they all jump on the bed at full alert, eyes as big as saucers.

    And more than a few times, I've headed out to the horse barn at
    2 a.m. to make sure everything was okay after being awakened by what sounded like a coyote scuffle.

    Coyotes may be predators, but taking Snap was a crime against the Peaceful Kingdom.

    Just Me

  15. I woke up one day and the sound of silence was deafening. I followed a trail of feathers and guts for over a mile looking for my beautiful geese. From then on the coyotes knew there would be no warning shots or mercy. Same here where we live now.....only its raccoons and skunks. Coyotes at night barking and wailing.....they know not to come close as we have good aim. Sorry this happened to you.....we really get to love our special critters, don't we? We are armed all the time outside now. Hellofanote.

  16. Sorry that the coyote decided your hens and Snap were better than the mice and voles he/she should be taking care of. I hope you, Don or the neighbor can break the cycle permanently...until the next one appears.
    We have the shredded fur of a doe at the SE corner of the property, spread over a very large area, as evidence of the pack of coyotes we often hear at night. Just two nights ago, our yellow lab needed to go out, but hesitated at the door whining, a signal I know too well. I'm happy she is hesitant when she uses the special nose God gave her and smells the more dominant predators just outside in the dark.
    Does anyone know if coyotes climb fence? We are fencing and are fortunate to have found at 50 % off 5' no-climb fencing. I can't do the whole property in it but we are using what we have.
    I've been letting my chickens out later, instead of at dawn, so the night critters have opportunity to vacate. Like you, we are trying the Jersey Giants, and at 8 weeks they began free ranging outside of the chicken yard, and almost will not eat any more chick starter. But every night, I not only shut them in the coop, I shut them inside the "baby pen" my son and I built...just in case. I need to get them transitioned to a roost (must expand the one we have, first, lol) so the cornish crosses arriving mid June can have the pen. I hope to get them to free range also but hope to not feed any to the wildlife or the dogs that some times visit and must be chased off.
    Condolences to you and yours on behalf of Snap.

  17. I am sorry you lost Snap to a coyote that should have been out catching voles and mice. Hope Don helps him/her out with that poor choice.
    I am sure you will like your Jersey Giants. Ours are 8 weeks old now and have decided to leave the chicken yard to free range in the tall grass. I'm still locking them in the "crib" my son and I built for them and placed in the henhouse, but that will soon stop as the cornish crosses will be here in less than three weeks. I have three I think are roosters and one of them is my buddy. All of them are my babies, though and I'd feel mighty vengeful if a coyote were to turn them into a meal. We've lost two hens since moving to Idaho, one while living in Wyoming, all after surviving a two dog spree in which we managed to save even the most mangled birds.
    Condolences to the Lewis clan on your loss of Snap.

  18. So sorry and sad that Snap is gone. It hurts to have him go that way.We have a terrible coyote problem here, too. When the chickens are out in the yard I have to always be on guard
    I only have one rooster, Charlie and he is very protective of his girls; always let them eat first and finds squiggly treats for them to eat. But the most important thing is that they listen to him when he sounds a warning call. I just bought some pullets and he is slowly (very) allowing them to join the flock. I hope you find another good rooster to replace Snap. Maybe you can name him Crackle...

    1. And the coyote can be named "Rug"..... Snap really was a beautiful bird..... Natokadn

  19. Hello from North Carolina. I've had similar predator problems with possums. I use an electronic doorbell to alert me to their presence at the chicken coop. I then run out with my flashlight and rifle and end their existence. I gave up on the Hav-A-Hart traps when one of them ate my favorite hen, Thelma!

  20. We have the same problem here - I just got my first chickens AND a double dog kennel that will have dig proof edging around the ground at the base and up the sides and a top. (I work in town.) I wonder how many of the "How dear you shoot those majestic creature" crowd are reading this....? They can be very vocal in this area (the national crowd - not locals). How it changes your perspective when the ranchers have to chase them away from calving cows in their yard because the coyotes have the calf by a front leg before he or she is out of the cow...... One local rancher who had trouble with the local coyote hunters got a rude awakening when he learned he would spend the rest of the year checking calves on his own when two growled at and challenged his wife as she was trying to get through the gate to check their first calf heifers at three am..... I had quite a discussion with a lady 20+ years ago about it until I found out she had 3 cats that she lets out of her house and I asked her how she would feel seeing a coyote on her back deck eating one of them! A friend of mine used to raise German Shepherds and had 3 adults cornered on her porch (including her male) by a large pack. I like to see them - periodically - and I know they get some of our "barn cats", but when it comes to my livestock.......we just call them "Target"...


  21. I've heard donkeys deter predators