17 July 2022 – 10:15 am
As Jean and I left the apartment for a mid-morning walk, we encountered a commotion among the chickens in front of the barn. One of the laying hens was down and moving feebly. Something was pulling it towards the barn door. Closer examination revealed a weasel-like animal tugging on the hen’s neck which had been severely lacerated.
I was transfixed by the scene as I tried to understand what was going on. Meanwhile, Jean had the presence of mind to whip out her cell phone and began taking a video. At this point, the chicken seemed to be a goner. I ran into the apartment to get my camera and returned to the scene to find the animal still worrying the chicken’s body. Many of the other hens had gathered around to watch. Jean continued to take video; I began snapping pictures.
Our presence and voices obviously disturbed the attacking beast and it fled into the barn, and then, out and back and forth along the foundation wall. Jay soon joined us and our combined presence was too much for the beast; it retreated back into the barn and was gone.
Two days later, when Jay did his morning feeding and welfare check of the flock of ¾-grown chicks, he found 17 of them dead with their throats mutilated in the manner suffered by the disposed hen. Evidence showed that the chicken-killing beast found entrance into the chick’s pen through a hole that Jay, then securely blocked.
What was the chicken killer? Our first impression was that it was a weasel. Jay had seen a small, least weasel at the barn some months earlier. Our chicken killer was larger than a least weasel and could have been a long-tailed weasel. But its color and size suggested that it was more likely a mink. We passed Jean’s video to Luke, our mustelid expert, and he confirmed that indeed we were dealing with a mink.
We have not had any further depredations from the mink since its last visit to the chick pen. Hopefully, it continues to stay away and feeds itself on a diet of fish and frogs rather than barnyard fowl.
How is it that we end up with a semi-aquatic animal such as a mink in our barn? Well, the barn is no more than 30 yards from the creek and the creek provides excellent mink habitat just as it does for beaver and otter. The barn is right on the mink’s path as it patrols the creek. No wonder.
So, the list of predators that prey on our barn animals continues to grow. Whereas we originally put all the blame on the coyotes, in fairness to them, we must now also consider other animals such as this ravenous mink.