Chicken-Eating Predators

Cute Little Chicken Eater
Cute Little Chicken Eater

My grandson catches raccoons, opossums and whatever else threatens to eat the family’s chickens. His is not a monetary motivation for pelts or prizes, but one borne out of compassion for the pet chickens who also happen to provide them with eggs on a regular basis. Each chicken has a name, but each predator does not.

So what does he do with these after he has trapped them?  He gets his older sister to drive him to the wild animal shelter, a place nearby the zoo where they may be let out to find a new home. I understand that larger predators such as coyotes may be rehabilitated there as well.

American Badger
American Badger

Badgers are not seen so often as the smaller animals, but they are fairly common, with the American Badger being native to most states in the US.  Quite often the American Badger may be mistaken for a young puppy or raccoon, but will soon be identified by its fierceness and skillful fighting.  Supposedly they eat only plants and insects, but they have also been known to eat smaller animals.

With their “angelic” appearance, one can see why the badger might be featured in children’s fiction or in tales of country life. The traditional stories often feature the badger in charge of other animals or outsmarting other animals.

Wikipedia.com gives a list of fictional badger characters: List of fictional badgers

Badger characters are featured in author Brian Jacques‘ Redwall series, most often falling under the title of Badger Lord or Badger Mother, and the 19th century poem “The Badger” by John Clare describes a badger hunt and badger-baiting. The character Frances in Russell Hoban‘s children’s books is depicted as a badger. A badger god is featured in The Immortals by Tamora Pierce and “The Badger” is a comic book hero created by Mike Baron. The badger is the emblem of the Hufflepuffhouse of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the J. K. Rowling‘s Harry Potter Book series, it is chosen as such because the badger is an animal that is often underestimated, because it lives quietly until attacked, but which, when provoked, can fight off animals much larger than itself, which resembles the Hufflepuff house in several ways.  Trufflehunter is a heroic badger in the Chronicles of Narnia book Prince Caspian by C. S. Lewis. In Lafcadio Hearn‘s book Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things there is a short story titled Mujina, which is a shapeshifting badger.

"The Wind in the Willows" by Paul Bransom - Image:Wind in the Willows (1913).djvu, page 326. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
The Wind in the Willows” by Paul Bransom – Image:Wind in the Willows (1913).djvu, page 326. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Many other stories featuring badgers as characters include Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Mr. Tod (Tommy Brock), the Rupert Bearadventures by Mary Tourtel, Kenneth Grahame‘s The Wind in the WillowsT. H. White‘s The Once and Future King and The Book of MerlynFantastic Mr. Fox by Roald DahlColin Dann‘s The Animals of Farthing WoodRichard Adams‘s Watership Down and Erin Hunter‘s Warriors. In Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allan W. Eckert a badger is one of the main characters.

Badgers are also featured in films and animations: a flash video of “The Badger Song” shows a group doing calisthenics; in PokémonTyphlosion and Linoone are based on badgers. Walt Disney‘s 1973 film Robin Hood, depicts the character of Friar Tuck as a badger. In the Doctor Snuggles series, Dennis the handyman, was a badger.

In Europe, badgers were traditionally used to predict the length of winter. The badger is the state animal of the U.S. state of Wisconsin and Bucky Badger is the mascot of the athletic teams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The badger is also the official mascot of Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, as well as that of St Aidan’s College at the University of Durham.

In 2007, the appearance of honey badgers around the British base at Basra, Iraq, fueled rumors among the locals that British forces deliberately released “man-eating” and “bear-like” badgers to spread panic. These allegations were denied by the British army and the director of Basra’s veterinary hospital.

On 28 August 2013 the PC video game Shelter was released by developers Might and Delight in which players control a mother badger protecting her cubs.

YouTube Video about the Honey Badger

These same “smart” little animals can also use their claws to fend off attacks and have been known to disembowel hunting dogs.

When I was a girl, our neighbor lost two good hunting dogs in one night to one of these “cute” little fellas.  That same night my mother, armed with only a hoe and two Collie dogs, killed one while I held the lantern.  She was “Travis the Terrible” when she wielded a hoe!

As I stood mesmerized by her battle, I heard the hoe hit something over and over that sounded like rock.  Later I would discover that the badger actually has a shell-like protection over its head and back of the neck. No doubt this extra protection is much like that of the turtle.  Finally the battle was over and we went in to go back to bed.

The next day Mother found out she had not killed a raccoon as she first thought. With that revelation she felt quite frightened about what she had actually done in ignorance.  Her comment was, “Well, I suppose if necessary I could kill a man with a hoe.”

6 thoughts on “Chicken-Eating Predators

    1. She did not feel brave after she saw what she had done, but seemed to feel overwhelmed by the fact that she had succeeded. I am sure the claws are meant for digging roots and such.

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  1. So good to see a post from you, Beth! I always found Badger in Wind in the Willows a bit intimidating, but the real badger is adorable — from a distance. Sounds like it was best to stay out of your mother’s field after dark 🙂

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    1. If Mother had known the badgers only ate tubers and roots, she might not have killed that one; however, anything that threatened her chickens or her dogs was fair game. The very fact that the neighbor lost two dogs that same night was convincing enough the badgers needed to be scotched. I know her statement about killing a man was not real; she was just nervous about what she had done.

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