Here at Upper Meadows Farm, we raise pastured poultry. That means that our chickens and turkeys are either roaming free in a fenced-off area, or in portable floor-less pens that allow them plenty of space to move and forage freely.
That freedom, however, can also make them targets for predators. We are located on the edge of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area’s 75,000 acres of nature which is a mixed blessing. This past week, coyotes descended on our turkeys.
Yes, coyotes. You may think of them as belonging to the Wild West, but coyotes are very, very present in New Jersey, and their numbers are growing. A story that ran on the Web site of the New Jersey Skylands visitors’ guide put their numbers at 3,000, concentrated mostly in the western sections of Sussex county as well as Passaic, Morris and Warren counties. Next door, Pennsylvania and New York have considerably more, and no coyote ever worried about crossing state lines. Coyotes are predators and, unlike the one in that cartoon we saw when we were kids, they are deadly. When I got to my turkeys, 10 birds were dead and an eleventh injured. That’s at least an $800 loss in revenue to the farm that I cannot make up by Thanksgiving. Even if we could get more turkey poults (day old turkeys) they wouldn’t grow fast enough to catch up. So it is not just a financial hit for us but a loss to the 11 families who would have been enjoying those fabulous free range organic turkeys this thanksgiving.
Sometimes, that is life on the farm.