First off, I want to thank everyone for their comments last night. I admit I was pretty torn up about it. Annabelle had turned into the most spectacular hen, with gorgeous shining plumage. She was also very gentle, and since she was attacked in the barn on her nest one night, rarely left the henyard, where she felt safe. We noticed in the last two weeks that she was trying to fly up to the top of the little henhouse with Jackson every night... she would try, but she was so heavy she could not get going enough, and couldn't figure out how he did it... walk up the ramp precariously... go to the top of the rabbit hutch, then up to the top of the henhouse.
So she kept roosting on the doghouse, where she and Clarabelle had slept for so long.
This is her last picture alive, I took it Thursday night as I was locking up. It was very humid out, and she was breathing through her mouth... she had tried to figure out how to get up (you can just see Jackson's feet on the end of the henhouse in the background) and finally gave up and came up on the doghouse.
I was talking to her as I went out, and always gave her a scratch on her breast.
About 3 or 4 months ago, Keith and I realized that, instead of putting dead birds out in the trash, which we had done for a while, we would just put them at the bottom of the pasture for the wildings. Any bird who died or had to be put down was put away down there by the "door" where the fox came under the fence. You might remember that we recorded a fox, a skunk and a possum all around Clara's body when it lay down there through two nights, then disappeared. Clarabelle weighed much less than Annabelle.
We cannot figure out what got Anna. She was chased around the yard, and up and down the south and west fencelines, with feathers being pulled out of her by the dozens. She did NOT make it clear around the fence. We guess Lilly saw or sensed it, because that night she ran up and down the fenceline over there by the pen, but did not bark. (Keith was on the porch).
The flimsy gate to the pasture which I bungeed shut at night was as tight as I could make it. The only reason we don't use the gate in the big henyard is the fence has settled and the gate does not open fully. It will be repaired next year. We did see that the makeshift gate was pushed OUT about six inches on the north side of it.
Keith has now closed it completly and permanently. We also had used that "gate" for the birds because Beau, and then the llamas, would come into the yard if the real gate were open to eat all the chicken feed. Keith also strengthened the wire along the eastern boundary (this side).
So, what got her? We don't think anything as small as a raccoon or possum, because they could not have chased her as they did. We don't think it was the fox, because she was so big, and because of the damage done to her body.
Coyote? They have been up very, very close this week. Yes, we miss having the llamas here as guardians, and no, we can't handle another big dog... like an LGD... Lilly is far too possessive of her place, and I would not want to have any dog tragedies. But a coyote going OVER an eight foot high fence? Unlikely. Like I said, the flimsy gate was pushed OUT.
So... what got her?
We think a cat. If anyone wants to see the damage done to her... I have a very graphic picture that I can send to you if you will contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I would value your opinion as to the wounds. I took the picture after Keith carried her to the bottom of the pasture... and it shows plainly her wounds and the damage done by claws, we think, to her neck.
This morning, being the inquisitive person I am, I walked to the bottom of the pasture in order to see if anything had come in the night to disturb her. Our Moultrie camera had malfunctioned, and was sent back this week, so I got another less-expensive camera and will set it out there tonight to see what is coming in and out. But, I digress (as usual).
This is what I found, where the approximately 20 pound Annabelle was laying last night (Keith thinks she weighed much more).
That's it. Zip. Zilch.
There was one drag mark of about 18 inches just about a foot to the west of this paltry pile of feathers.
No partially eaten carcass, NOTHING.
Keith and I both looked.
It meant something PICKED THE BIRD UP AND CARRIED IT AWAY. She was too big to get under the fence, and there would have been feathers there in the fox opening... there were not.
We did some reading on www.cougarnet.org.... could this be what did it?
Do you remember my writing about two strange sounds I heard in the night a few weeks ago that I ascribed to foxes?
There is a confirmed sighting of a cougar in Atchison County, only one county north of us, from last fall, confirmed by Kansas Fish and Wildlife.
Tonight the new camera is set up and functioning in the pasture, pointing downhill towards the treeline.
It's going to be interesting to see if anything is on it tomorrow, as it has been raining and storming off and on all day.
For now, Jackson is sleeping in the big henhouse. He is not necessarily very happy about it, but goes in without any trouble when we come out to put them up. When I go outside, he talks to me constantly, and responds when I chirp back to him. If you have ever had a turkey, you know how personable they can be, and we want now to protect Jackson as best we can.
If I have to, I'll have fencing put up for him, like the new henhouse.
But, in the meantime, we shall see.