Friday, July 26, 2013

Life Lessons, Maybe

I haven't written a whole lot about it, but we have a small flock of poultry living in a coop out behind our house.  It's been about three years that we've been raising mostly egg laying chickens, and it has been fun.  The eggs are delicious, the kids like the birds, and I like to think that they benefit from seeing directly how a small portion of their food is raised.  The chickens have not been pets to us the way that Dawson is, but we are fond of them, more so I would guess than a farmer would be.

A few months back, we purchased two baby turkeys with the intention of raising them to eat over the holidays.  It turns out turkeys are pretty funny, and more attached to people than our chickens seem to be.  I kind of took a fancy to them.  But they became much, much bigger than the chickens very quickly, and being bred for meat eating, are fairly slow and maybe not so quick on the uptake.  Still, they got along with the chickens, and were doing fine. 

At the same time, our particular little area of town has had a big bear problem.  These things go in cycles, and according to the fish and game guy, some years are just bad luck.  Many problem bears, bears getting into garbage, bears eating chickens, bears at our house, etc. 

This guy surprised us at lunch one day.  So it wasn't really a shock that Bryce found two bears eating one of our turkeys yesterday morning.  They had knocked down the fence in our chicken yard, so some birds were wandering confused on the highway, another in the woods, and the rest were cowering in the coop.  Bryce gave them a good (and painful) scare, but the damage was done. 

Now, I know that predators eating livestock is nothing new, and that having chickens in your backyard is about the same as leaving garbage out as far as bears are concerned.  They're only doing what bears do.  But I was still a little bit sad, and frankly bummed, as that damn bear ate our Thanksgiving turkey.  Rest in peace little (big) dude. 

Our other problem was that now the bears had an awesome meal at our place, and we knew they would be back.  These are bears used to living in a semi-urban environment.  They aren't scared of dogs barking or people yelling, and it really scares me to have my little kids playing outside with those guys running around.  We are thinking about an electric fence, but in the meantime got a motion detector alarm at Home Depot.  We put it up last night, after the birds were asleep in the coop, and about an hour later we heard it go off.  We ran out in time to see a big bear high tailing it across the road.  I'm happy that it worked, and I'm wondering how long it will take for them just to move on.

After all this went down, I wasn't sure what to tell the kids.  They are used to hunting and fishing, and we've even eaten a few of our chickens before.  So when I told them that a bear ate our turkey, I did so very matter of fact.  And, as in most things, they took their cues from me.  They commented that it was sad, but really didn't seem to feel sad.  And they were ready to move on to the next thing pretty quickly.  But Porter got up twice after we put him to bed, scared about the bears coming in the night.  And Molly wouldn't go out to the car to get her shoes.  And I just don't know exactly what lessons they are learning about keeping livestock in the middle of a neighborhood.  It feels sort of halfway to nothing to me.  These birds that aren't quite pets and aren't quite farm animals getting eaten by wild animals that are too habituated to people instead of their natural environment. 

I guess it's better than nothing?  That's what I'm going to believe.


  1. Oh my goodness! Nothing is ever boring in Juneau! Can't wait to see you all next month. I think Cedar looks a lot like Kathy N!

  2. Oh no!! So sorry! My husband and I were thinking about how to raise chickens in Alaska. How are you able to keep them warm in the winter? Is there a heat lamp or something in your coop? I am loving your blog, thanks for sharing it!