The Year the Vampire Bit Our Chickens
By Richie T
There was a local feed
store in North Kingston that put on a special promotion one
year; "Buy 50 pounds
of feed and receive 50 Rhode Island Red pullets free."
I think it was in 1960; my
memory is starting to slip just a little, however I believe that
is about the time all of this happened. My father decided to
take advantage of the offer and my brother and I were set to
work building a coop and fencing it in.
(We had almost two acres of land with
about an acre in woods back of the house.)
I thought we did a
wonderful job; the shed was square without any major holes and
we put up a chicken wire fence all the way around. In due time
my father delivered the chickens and the feed and we were in
It was exciting watching
our chickens grow, we weren't even thinking about the "Time
of the Axe," which was the stated purpose of our little
venture. My brother, sisters and I would take turns putting out
the feed and water and keeping the pen clean.
One morning when I went
out to feed the hens as usual, there was a hole dug under the
fence and about 8 of the hens were laying dead on the ground.
They hadn't been eaten and none of them were missing; they were
just laying there. I had absolutely no idea what had gotten at
When dad got home that
evening we showed him the chickens and he was just as clueless
as the rest of us. None of us were qualified for the
"Farmer of the Year"
Award. We did notice that there were bite
marks on the necks of the dead chickens and they appeared to
have been drained of their blood.
(I told you it was a vampire!)
We put a trap at the hole
and several others around the area in hopes of catching the
intruder and I spent most of the next night close by with a 12
gage shotgun. No luck, the intruder never showed.
About two nights later
after we had relaxed our guard a bit, our vampire/predator hit
us again; this time six more chickens were dead and drained of
blood with bite marks on the neck once again.
I worked part time for
Irving Hazard, an old farmer that lived just up the road. When I
asked Irving what he thought could be attacking our chickens, he
never hesitated. He stated, "It has to be a weasel; nothing else
drains chickens like that and leaves them laying."
We never did get that
weasel, but we dug a ditch 8 inches deep all the way around,
inserted our fence down into the ground and eventually we did
manage to raise about a dozen of our 50 pullets to eating
A related story to the
vampire episode is that during this time my friends and I were
searching for burrows and dens around the area where the weasel
might be living. We found one hole that appeared to be in use. I
put a trap at the entrance and it was either the next day or the
day after, that I found the trap pulled into the hole. I got my
shotgun and told my friend Henry Tarbox to yank the trap out of
the hole and then stand back so I could shoot what I felt sure
was our weasel. Was I ever Wrong! It turned out to be a skunk
and my friend, Henry paid the price. I avoided both Henry and
his parents for some time after that.
I did take another try at
raising chickens about a year afterwards;
"Old Man Stahlbush"
our local junk collector had 6 Chinese Bantys that he sold me
for $10. I didn't have to worry about any predators getting
these birds, they were very good flyers and usually roosted in
the tops of our trees. They were jet black birds with purplish
legs and feathers running all the way down their legs. Their
spurs were huge and I believe they were originally bred as
fighting birds. Five of the birds would all pick at one of the
hens; they did this until they eventually killed her.
(This was how I learned the real
meaning of "Hen Party" and "Hen Pecked.")
I don't think I will ever
be able to eat chicken without remembering our blood sucking
weasel. (And the sight of a
headless chicken still staggering around after Dad took the axe