I have been away for a few days because there was tragedy in our chicken coops. It was necessary to put my “Cookbook Challenge” on hold until I could figure out how to stop an evil predator, or more specifically, the Small Asian Mongoose (Herpestes javanicus), from killing my chickens. The issue of a mongoose as a predator may not be a common thing for most people, but for those of us in the tropics, it’s a harsh reality. I’m still pretty upset as I write this because I hate to see my animals stressed and try my best to keep them safe.
We recently acquired a Polish crested rooster named Hip-Hop, and he was a fun, quirky, little guy. He was smaller than any other rooster I’ve had in the past and he didn’t crow like one either. The tuft of soft feathers on top of his head was hilarious looking and made him look like some sort of chicken punk-rock star. He was so tame you could pick him up and carry him around, and he seemed to really enjoy the attention. I’ve heard in the past that getting a rooster will help you keep out predators, but I’m here to tell you that in my case, it did NOT work. As a matter of fact, our dear little Hip-Hop became a free lunch for a pregnant mongoose. Unfortunately, because he was with us only a short time, I did not take a photo of him before he passed.
The other chicken to be savagely attacked and killed was our dear Lucy. At six years old, she was our oldest chicken. She was originally wild-caught as a small chick. We rounded up six feral chicks from the forest around our house and kept them, but she was the one who had survived the longest. Lucy was tough as nails, and I can tell from the amount of feathers and dig marks in the dirt, that she put up a fierce fight against the mongoose. My poor girl had a terrifying end to her life and I blame myself from not getting out to the coop fast enough to stop the carnage. In addition to losing two hens, our newest egg-layer, Misty, was attacked, but thankfully got away with only an injured leg. The leg will be carefully monitored and hopefully we can keep any infection away.
The truth of the matter is, that it’s almost impossible to make any coop 100% predator proof, but you can try hard and do the best you can. I believe that everybody’s situation may be different and will also depend upon the type of predators on your area. Previously, we’ve had to cover the tops of both pens with chicken wire because there was a Hawaiian hawk attacking our ducks. Today, because of the mongoose, we had to reinforce our coops with additional, smaller-wire fencing around the bottom two feet, as well as stacking rocks and building a berm around the base to keep anything from burrowing under the fencing. The chickens and ducks now have something that more resembles a WWII bunker than a chicken coop, but that’s okay, because this IS war. In my quest for ideas, I found some useful ideas and information about ‘predator proofing’ your coops from an awesome website called “Our One Acre Farm”. They have plenty of other great information about suburban farming, wildlife, sustainability, and cooking. I highly recommend checking them out.
In addition to the mongoose, in Hawaii we have an invasive plant called the Himalayan ginger, and it just so happens that there is a large, tall patch of it behind my two coops. This ginger is not the good kind of ginger for cooking, it is a prolific nuisance that crowds out, and eventually kills, native plants. The ginger patch is where the mongoose was lying in wait for my hens to lower their guard and then stealthily snuck into the coop. Once I figured out her hiding spot, I decided that the Himalayan ginger really needed to go; so today, I grabbed my machete like a crazed samurai and decimated that whole patch of wild ginger in the pouring rain, and it felt great. Nothing helps with anger management quite like pursuing a vendetta against a chicken-killer, all while wielding a large, sharp knife. Unfortunately, I did not find the hated mongoose while whacking the ginger down. My handiwork does make it hard for to her to lurk nearby, undetected, and hopefully she will go elsewhere in search of food.
If you can stomach learning more about this invasive, nasty, predator who is additionally killing our native Hawaiian birds, you can go the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources at: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/hisc/info/invasive-species-profiles/mongoose/.