Opinion

Mink mayhem on Empty Nest Farm

Submitted photo

Curt and hen pose for selfie.
Submitted photo Curt and hen pose for selfie.

Mayhem struck the Empty Nest Farm. I was a little late doing the morning chores. It wasn’t until 11:00 or so before I got out to feed Blossom and take care of the hens. Before I pulled open the door to the hen house, I thought I heard some strange clucking. Sure enough, I was confronted with the awful sight of a mass of feathers, a pile of dead hens in the corner, and a beady-eyed, fat mink staring at me. It tried to hide behind the laying box. I grabbed the only weapon I could find, which was a leg hook. The handle would do for a club. I moved the laying box and the mink scampered out, ran over top of the feeder, and was out through the open door, lickety-split.

Out of a dozen hens, eight were dead, all lined up real neat, execution style. A sick feeling hit me in the gut — the knowledge that I hadn’t provided my girls with the protection they needed. Those hens were all pets, they let me pick them up and didn’t even peck my hand when I reached under them for eggs. Dang that mink! They are vicious killers, sucking the blood out of victims’ necks. I texte Ginnie and she cried.

There was only one thing to do. I grabbed the live-animal trap from the barn, baited it with a dead hen, and left it in the hen house. The other four hens were clucking nervously, high up on their roost. Poor things. What a reign of terror! I had trapped two minks previous to this latest incident. I was hoping I’d gotten rid of them all; evidently I didn’t. There hadn’t been any problem for quite a while. I should have known better. There must be a family of minks close by — probably by the creek across the road. When I was growing up and we had chickens, there was never a problem like this. Minks weren’t even around.

In the afternoon, I checked the hen house — still no mink, and still four live hens. They seemed reluctant to go in the hen house, but it was so cold and windy, I had to shut them in. I would see what the morning brought. Hopefully the trap would do its job.

At 4 in the morning, in the middle of my reading/writing routine, it came to me that the reason the batt insulation along the walls of the hen house was shredded was not because of the wind or from the hens pecking at it, it was because of the mink trying to climb the walls to get to the roosting hens! I threw on some clothes and headed out to the hen house. Too late. The other four hens were dead.

I told Ginnie and she burst out crying. She loved seeing the hens wander around the house in the summer, scratching for bugs and seeds, not to mention those beautiful brown eggs they laid. We gave eggs away as gifts of love.

I removed the dead hens but left the baited trap in the hen house. Maybe I could catch that devil yet.

The next morning — nothing. But I left the baited trap where it was.

The following morning, the trap was turned over, but no mink. The dead hen I had left in the trap for bait was stuck under the trip-latch. I fixed that, and reset the trap.

It snowed that day and night. The next morning, there were fresh mink tracks all around the hen house. I opened the door and saw it, that devil mink staring back at me from the confines of the trap, like the night-thief it was.

Mr. or Ms. Mink got a 15-mile ride to a rural county wildlife area, where I turned it loose, hoping to never see it again. Now that I caught the main offender, Ginnie and I may consider some new baby chicks this spring. I’ll walk that creek bed first, looking for a mink den, and shore up the floor of the hen house. Who knew the life of a chicken could be so perilous? But we are thankful for the two years that they were in our lives. Ginnie says that she wants to have a little memorial service when we eat the last of our farm fresh brown eggs.

Have a good story. Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com