11 July 2011

Lynx Bait

An uninvited visitor in the night helps out.

Lately we've been on a program of culling Roosters, as we need to do from time to time. After all, statistically half the chicks that get born are boys, and when they reach puberty,... Oh Dearie Me, they do give the Hens a rough time, randy little teenagers that they are.

Then, too, I keep whingeing about the price of crushed mealies, and, since most of the guys are pretty-much fully grown, all we're doing is feeding useless-mouths through the Winter. Not very sensible. Another important factor Not To Be Ignored is the Dawn Chorus. Ha! Dawn Bloody Chorus! It's the 2 a.m. Chorus that bothers me. One Rooster crows, triggered by some change in the light - the moon sets, or a car goes by, its lights play briefly across the Chicken House and set them off, or the shadow from a nearby tree briefly hides the stars,... Then every other Rooster feels compelled to reply. To which the neighbours' Roosters must needs answer. Whereupon the first Rooster in reflex, responds. And so they go, round and round, sometimes for an hour or more. An actual, geniune Dawn Chorus would be a welcome relief. Especially since dawn presently happens around here sometime well after 7 in the morning!

So I've been culling the flock a bit.

Photo by e3000 on Flickr.
At 2 a.m., chickens squawking frantically in panic,
who has time for photos?
Last night I got a little help. A night visitor at about 2 a.m. – this time a Caracal. Locally many people refer to them as Lynx, though they're apparently not really the same species. Somehow one of these beautiful cats got into the Chicken House, and then couldn't get out. Squarish in the face, and greyer in colour than the one in this picture (though that's likely an artefact of the torchlight) these cats are extremely powerfully built. To me it has the physique of a Panther, somewhat scaled down.

Fortunately she (or he) didn't have the same sort of panic attack that Ratels are prone to. A Ratel would have killed every single Chicken in the place in a wild frenzy. This powerfully-built, medium-sized Cat only killed Flock Leader – the alpha-male Rooster.

And really, this is a significant part of his job – to protect the flock, even to laying down his life should the need arise. And it certainly arose last night. The late Flock Leader (ok, if you insist on giving him a name, I'd name him "Delicious", because that's what he's going to be!) defended his flock, right to the bitter end.

Saved me the trouble, really. He was due for offing in a few days time, anyway. The poor guy had already had one run-in with a predator earlier in his life – an encounter with a Ratel that cost him most of his comb, so he looked a bit strange without his Rooster pride and joy, but the lack didn't seem to hamper him any, nor make him less impressive to the ladies.

I opened the door to the Chicken House, and the Caracal, quite bewildered by the light and fuss, took off so fast that I barely caught a glimpse of it. I removed Flock Leader's carcass and stashed it in the shed for dealing with this morning.

The downside of such a long wait before processing the dead chicken is that the body is cold and stiff. Legs sticking out make butchering more awkward, and the feathers are a lot more difficult to remove, especially where the skin had been torn by his close encounter with the cat. Add in another young Rooster that I had kept aside for culling also had to be topped and processed, and its been a bit of a marathon Chicken Morning.

The flock is left with two Roosters. One still at the Randy Teenager stage, and another who has a very good, placid nature, and is gentle and solicitous with the Hens.

And, while it's a rare privilege to actually see a Caracal close-up, I'd be glad to avoid a 2 a.m. runaround too often.

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