A cat-tastrophe has struck! While camping for the weekend, feral cats decimated about two thirds of our quail population over the course of two nights (our poor traumatized quailsitter). This had my wife in tears and has ended her cat-loving ways. For a few days, cats were considered the living embodiment of pure evil, but she has since backed off a bit and now accepts domesticated cats back as part of God's creation.
While angered, a small part of me is actually impressed with the proficiency of our unwanted predators. They managed to climb about 4 feet up a quail battery and remove the quail (piece by piece) from a cage with bars barely wide enough to accommodate a paw.
Even though these birds are raised (in part) to provide meat, I still feel as if I've failed in my implied responsibility to provide predatory protection. When I slaughter a bird, it dies as instantly and painlessly as I can administer. Cats harbor no such feelings and terrorized the birds. The very cages intended to protect them become death traps that they can't escape. Even the survivors showed signs of attack with missing feathers or toes.
Clearly the situation had to be addressed, so here are the steps I took (and are taking) to protect our birds...
- I reinforced the protection offered by the battery by attaching hardware cloth around the openings. I attached it with zip ties at the top and used a couple small bungees at the bottom. Bungees were not the optimal solution, but they were what I had available while scrounging around my spare junk. The Bungees allowed me access to the feed/water troughs and eggs. This solution worked well for about 4 days. After that, the cats made a concerted attack resulting in one of the cages becoming unhooked from the frame and several dropping pans getting moved out of place. They eventually discovered that they could reach around the sides of the hardware cloth. These were very determined cats. I could have secured the hardware cloth better, but instead took a different approach.
- We brought the remaining quail to a local farm (thank you Cabin Creek Heritage Farm) to house for the next month. We are actually in the midst of moving, so this also removed a responsibility until we have a chance to settle in to our new location.
- Once we have settled into our new location, I intend to build a screened in structure to house the quail battery. I'll use something stronger for the sides than typical screen mesh (maybe chicken). Also, I'll use a solid roof to keep the quail dry and happy. Initially, I'll probably put up plastic sheets to cut down on drafts during the winter, but will look into something more permanent in the future. I'll provide more detail once this project is underway, but don't hold your breath, it may take a few months.
This might seem like a lot of hassle (and it is), but we consider the trouble worth it for our birds and the benefits that they provide. Hopefully, if you keep your birds outside, you can learn from some of my mistakes to provide a safe and secure environment for them.