Just when I was really enjoying the automatic chicken door opener and just when I was really relaxing into fall, a neighbor told me she saw two young bobcats crossing over to our property. Another neighbor has seen a bigger bobcat, so it looks like we have a mother and at least two kittens living nearby.
Unfortunately, bobcats are still hunting about the time the chickens's door opens in the morning and Sunday morning 2 chickens did not show up for breakfast. I looked about and was wondering if the hawk savvy chickens had been tricked. It was at church a couple of hours later, that my neighbor told me about the bobcat sightings. Later that day, I noticed that Eloise was missing a bunch of tiny neck feathers on the back of her neck. I wonder if she was almost breakfast.
I have now adopted a new morning/evening schedule. I have to put the geese and chickens in the run before dusk and wait until the morning shadows lift in the morning to let everyone out. At least the automatic door let the hens out into run so they don't have to stay in the coop too long.
One positive that has come out of this, is the geese have become friendlier to the chickens now that they are sharing space longer.
I called our extension agent to see what others in the county have experienced with bobcats. He told me they are still pretty rare around here, many fewer than bears, which seem to be everywhere this year, he said. Unfortunately, he has had a bear killing his sheep.
One thing I have to keep in mind is, wild animals have favorite foods (same as us) and don't generally go after foods they have not previously tasted and enjoyed. Also, bobcats and bears are territorial and we don't have other sheep in the near vicinity, so maybe the bear and bobcats in these parts haven't tasted sheep. I read that female bobcats stay within a 5 square mile area and males 25 square miles. The females take care of their kittens for 8-12 months and teach them to hunt on their own, this time of year. That is particularly worrisome knowing that at least 3 are hunting. I saw a rabbit today and a mouse so I know that some favorite food is around. Unfortunately, I guess chicken is a favorite also. I don't know if Cirrus and Sal permanently discourage the predators or if they will try again for goose.
I don't know how long the bobcats have been around. Somethings I have read say they are so secretive and other reading suggests they will come right up to a house. I am going to try not to worry too much and do as much as I can to keep the 17 animals under my care as safe as possible.