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The Owl in the Hen House

June 18, 2015

great_horned_owl3.jpgTuesday’s encounter with a great horned owl, caught in my electric netting as he tried to grab one of my hens, brings me back to the question of predators, a place all farmers visit occasionally. As a permaculturist I try to mimic nature in my gardens and pastures. I mob graze the sheep through small diverse pastures in an attempt to copy the movement of the wild herds. My gardens are not monoculture, but include diverse plantings with fruit trees nearby, and borders of grapes and berries. We introduce a predator, chickens, to roam around the gardens catching the grasshoppers and beetles.
We welcome predator insects and insect eating wild birds.
The question is not how we can rid our farm of predators, but how we can protect our animals from the owls, hawks, coons and coyotes.
Kenan “nosed” that the owl in question, who rode in a dog crate to the Wildlife Center of Texas for rehab, had recently been eating a skunk, another chicken predator. Did that owl save a chicken from a skunk before he tried to kill one? The owl will eat baby possums, who, when grown, will eat my chickens as well, but possums also eat copperheads and roaches. It is a complicated system.
We have manipulated the system for many years without observing and understanding it.
We consider our a farming practice regenerative permaculture. To regenerate the ecosystem, we have to cooperate with nature, not control it.
The smallest predators, the microbes, live underground. The anthropods eat the nematodes, who eat the protozoa, who eat the bacteria. The chain goes on with earthworms, insects and birds, until you get to the king of the forest.
I do not want to fix mother nature.
That does not mean I want wild hogs and coyotes on my property. I need to protect my animals. I work to discourage the predators and fence them out.
But let’s face it. If we want to get rid of the most effective and destructive predator of all, we would have to kill ourselves.
The owl was doing fine at last WTC report.

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