It’s springtime and the living world is very busy. We’ve had our usual (visual) contacts with lots of animals and plants on and around the farm in the past week. Springtime flowering is always fantastic, but now the animals are getting more of our attention. The butterflies have been out and about, and there is no wonder that they are so popular! Our herd of mother deer and their does are grazing the fields intensely. The turkey vultures are sailing through the scenery, scanning everything closely, even the farmers. The possums and raccoons remain ever present and ready for their opportunities. The skunks and armadillos are out and about, scavenging through the leaf litter and new growth. Song birds, barn swallows, martins and crows are hunting, gathering, fighting and nesting for all they are worth. Bird watchers can stay very busy here in Spring and Fall. And the insects, of course. There are lots of flies, ticks, gnats, beetles, b
Butterflies, some bumblebees, and so many more. But mostly flies and ticks.
The reptiles and amphibians are also especially active. Several encounters with the beautiful western black snakes in the yard and inside the chicken houses have occurred already. They are very docile, lovely looking, and are ardent rodent eaters (they also love eggs and some can even eat a goose egg whole!). This year I saw 2 black snakes actually mating in our barn. Lots of toads and frogs as well, especially the gray and green tree frogs, which we find all around the farm. The nighttime frog choruses are amazingly and amazingly loud. The box turtles are also moving about. Not as common are the 2 snapping turtles found in the poultry yard last week! It’s been wet, but still. One snapper is small and the other is not. They are looking for places to lay eggs and find some food, but our little duck pond is not a good choice for us (did the big one kill and eat most of a duck this spring??). By chance I saw a scurrying little lizard get caught by one of the chicken hens. She was about to start the eating process when she happened by me and I managed to dislodge the lizard from her beak and I got a hold of it. It was a young broad headed skink that I released into our greenhouse where it has lots of insects to eat and no hens to be eaten by. To show its gratitude, it bit me on the finger. I knew what it meant.
We really pay attention when we see the foxes and (mostly hear) the coyotes. The foxes have dens full of half grown and always hungry kits at this time of the season. This is when the vixen is most dangerous to the poultry farmer. We’ve spotted them a lot lately, and have heard the coyotes singing at night. In addition to foxes and coyotes, we’ve had a run-in with their more dangerous and damaging cousins- the running loose abandoned dog. Two of these scraggly, skinny, hungry and abandoned pups in this case. They were running up and down our county highway for a couple days. Sadly they decided to go into the neighbor’s barn and killed a few bantam chicks and a couple hens. Unlikely to find their owner, we are fostering them in our barn for the moment. They are actually quite sweet dogs and are very like-able. As active chicken killers though, they can’t stay on our chicken farm obviously (and we have 4 dogs already). We’ve tested them several times and the results are not good- they should not be around poultry or livestock, as they are currently constructed. Certainly with good training they can learn the rules, but we can’t do that right now. They are smart dogs, but may have learned a bad habit already. Please consider these good young dogs as new members of your family.