It is easy to praise the value of full ecosystems until the predator is right there eating your livelihood. This Great Horned Owl is one of a pair that live on our property for the past couple years. She got herself tangled in the fence after killing one of our chickens last night.
Living on 20 acres of wetlands and across the road from another 3,000, we have a thriving ecosystem with pretty well any predator native to this area (including mink!), but I think it is that robustness that has kept remarkably few predator attacks on our chickens (plus a good coop & some electric netting). There are so many other prey animals, we just need to make our chickens enough of a challenge that they will just prefer the native wildlife. I’ve seen remnants from rats, rabbits, and skunks. And without these predators, we’d quickly be overrun!
That being said, this owl has become a little bit of a problem, taking probably 4 chickens this summer, we have to be extremely diligent about locking up the coop tight, or she’ll find a way in. And now she needed my help if she was going to survive. Rather than hold a grudge (it is illegal to kill any raptor), I decided to focus on how this is part of our call to serve and preserve our lands (Gen 2:15). We view our role as servants to our community plus the animals and ecosystems in our care. I grabbed a towel and my elbow length leather gloves. With the towel over her head, she let me pull hers wings and feet out without any struggle. I think most animals know when someone is trying to help rather then harm. Unfortunately she’d wedged her body though a square of the netting, and after a few futile attempts, I realized I was going to have to cut our poultry fence. Two strands snipped and I had her out.
Aiden (4) joined me while I got her out of the fence. When he saw the chicken she had caught, he was initially sad and cried “Now we don’t have enough hens for eggs!” but he was never mad at the owl and in a couple minutes said, “Well we should leave the chicken for her food.” He gets it too. The give and take that comes with a servant heart on an ecological farm. And tonight the chickens get locked up early!