Filthy %^&*^#$(* Scrub Jays

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Sagebrush

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I sent a message to Nibbles yesterday and was told I should post it in the forums so I can hopefully get some insights from you all. The fallowing is what I had messaged and the things I have tried so far. I will however, be trying to call CDFW again this morning and trying to get a permit again this year as for the last two years I have not been eligible by their standards as the rabbits are not considered livestock.

This is the start of my 3rd year of dealing with these protected migratory birds getting into my nest boxes and killing the kits inside. BUT all they do is peck the heads and eat the brains out if them. They then leave everything else and go one to the next kit until they have decimated the entire litter before moving to the next one. This last kit was only 3 days old and had been taken out of my hanging nest box that is made out of 1/2" x 1" wire, and then pulled out through 1" x1" wire mesh. I have tried using hardware cloth, chicken wire, and have even encouraged a barn owl to take up residence in the trees across the road from the house. I can't have cats as my boyfriends dog tries to eat them on sight. I have tried to appeal to the California Fish and Game department with no luck. I have tried more enclosed nest boxes in the past and the %^*&(^$ birds have gone through gaps in the mesh to get into the cage and kill the kits anyway. I had 13 kits 2 days ago. Now I have 5 in the litter with no end in sight. The last 2 years I have not had any kits survive the spring when these birds are here. Seems the only time I can even attempt to have kits born and raised is the dead of winter when the birds go elsewhere.
 
I would personally put my entire cages inside a building that is bird proof. If they can't get TO the wire they can't reach through it to kill kits.
I tried having them enclosed with wire and a door I had to go through to take care of the rabbits and they wove their way through the layers of wire and back out. I do not have a building I can house them in that I could keep cool enough in our area. It gets to 115* here and as I am close to a lake it stays humid.
Out of curiosity, how would you stop them if allowed?
I am trying again to get a Depredation permit allowing me to kill these birds on sight. If I used bird netting around my rabbitry at all the local birds that I do not mind having around here, and in fact enjoy seeing from a distance, would be at risk of injury or death from the netting.
 
I sent a message to Nibbles yesterday and was told I should post it in the forums so I can hopefully get some insights from you all. The fallowing is what I had messaged and the things I have tried so far. I will however, be trying to call CDFW again this morning and trying to get a permit again this year as for the last two years I have not been eligible by their standards as the rabbits are not considered livestock.

This is the start of my 3rd year of dealing with these protected migratory birds getting into my nest boxes and killing the kits inside. BUT all they do is peck the heads and eat the brains out if them. They then leave everything else and go one to the next kit until they have decimated the entire litter before moving to the next one. This last kit was only 3 days old and had been taken out of my hanging nest box that is made out of 1/2" x 1" wire, and then pulled out through 1" x1" wire mesh. I have tried using hardware cloth, chicken wire, and have even encouraged a barn owl to take up residence in the trees across the road from the house. I can't have cats as my boyfriends dog tries to eat them on sight. I have tried to appeal to the California Fish and Game department with no luck. I have tried more enclosed nest boxes in the past and the %^*&(^$ birds have gone through gaps in the mesh to get into the cage and kill the kits anyway. I had 13 kits 2 days ago. Now I have 5 in the litter with no end in sight. The last 2 years I have not had any kits survive the spring when these birds are here. Seems the only time I can even attempt to have kits born and raised is the dead of winter when the birds go elsewhere.
We had both ravens and magpies hunting our rabbitry, quail cages and chicken run for years when we lived in town. I had magpies do exactly what you're describing when I'd shelved the litters (so the nest boxes were sitting outside the cages in the rabbit shed), except that they'd pull the kit out of the box and carry it somewhere else in the shed or yard. So I'd find bloody, brained bunnies all over the yard as I walked to the rabbit shed. :sick:

Maybe I'm not understanding how you've got the rabbits housed, but if you've got the rabbits in cages or hutches, you need a mesh size for your hutches that will not allow a jay's head in. Magpies - which are just as persistent and clever as scrub jays, and about the same size - have figured out how to get in (and out!) of my chicken run that has a single hole of about 3" above the gate, but they just cannot get into a rabbit cage made of 1" x 2" wire. If your hanging nest boxes are close enough to the top of the cages for the jays to reach the kits with their beaks through 1 x 2 wire mesh, you'd need to move the box.

It entails more work, but you might also consider shelving the nestboxes with litters in them: keep them in your house for the first two weeks, taking them out to the dams once a day. Stand there while the doe jumps in and feeds them, and as soon as she's done, bring the box back inside. It's a pain if you have lots of nest boxes full of kits, but at least you'll still have boxes full of kits at the end of two weeks.

Ravens, though... Most of the year, ravens were not a problem, but in the spring when a pair was nesting in a nearby spruce and feeding nestlings, there was literally nothing we could do to stop them short of putting everything inside an actual building. They worked as a team. One would lift the quail egg rollout tray door for the other to collect the eggs; then one would haze the quail in the cages till the quail took refuge in the roll-out trays, then the other raven would lift the door and grab them too. Similarly, they would haze growout bunnies and growout chicks in the yard tractors, grab the little guys as they went by the side of the tractor, and literally pull them through the wire. It was infuriating, as they were smarter than we were. :rolleyes: Our whole yard was draped in gillnetting and barricades, but nothing worked till we moved it all into a building and quit usig the tractors.
 
This is like any predator, you can't kill them all. You need to get the rabbits secure, and that will mean different things with different predators. Smaller mesh may help. solid sides (plywood etc) may help. In the case of Alaska Satin's quail, I had good luck with actually installing latches on the quail rollout tray door. So for more specific advice than "secure your cages" (which is frustrating as heck to hear when you are at your wits end) post some pictures of how your current setup looks and we may be able to come up with ideas that will help.
 
This is like any predator, you can't kill them all. You need to get the rabbits secure, and that will mean different things with different predators. Smaller mesh may help. solid sides (plywood etc) may help. In the case of Alaska Satin's quail, I had good luck with actually installing latches on the quail rollout tray door. So for more specific advice than "secure your cages" (which is frustrating as heck to hear when you are at your wits end) post some pictures of how your current setup looks and we may be able to come up with ideas that will help.
Yeah, we had those (latches). Even with something looped through them, the ravens opened them. 😖 We then put a small locking carabiner through the latch, which was a pain for us but finally stopped them from opening the tray doors... but they still pecked the eggs open from underneath, and hazed the quail till they could grab them from underneath or from the side. This was truly amazing, as the mesh was 1/2" x 1/2", but they did it nonetheless.

Fortunately we moved out of the city and don't have ravens nesting nearby anymore. That's probably due to the bald eagles that are everywhere... they have their own problems (can take out a newborn kid) but they're not nearly as smart as ravens!
 
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I tried having them enclosed with wire and a door I had to go through to take care of the rabbits and they wove their way through the layers of wire and back out. I do not have a building I can house them in that I could keep cool enough in our area. It gets to 115* here and as I am close to a lake it stays humid.

I am trying again to get a Depredation permit allowing me to kill these birds on sight. If I used bird netting around my rabbitry at all the local birds that I do not mind having around here, and in fact enjoy seeing from a distance, would be at risk of injury or death from the netting.
Like with Buckshot?
 
Yeah, we had those (latches). Even with something looped through then, the ravens opened them. 😖 We then put a small locking carabiner through the latch, which was a pain for us but finally stopped them from opening the tray doors... but they still pecked the eggs open from underneath, and hazed the quail till they could grab them from underneath or from the side. This was truly amazing, as the mesh was 1/2" x 1/2", but they did it nonetheless.

Fortunately we moved out of the city and don't have ravens nesting nearby anymore. That's probably due to the bald eagles that are everywhere... they have their own problems (can take out a newborn kid) but they're not nearly as smart as ravens!
so awful. My latches did not stop the rats from getting at them from underneath either.
 
Here is a few pictures of the rabbitry as it sits. The video I took is too long apparently. The Dutch cages are 1/2" x 1/2" besides the 1/2" x 1" bottom and the 1"x2" door. They are leaving them alone and only going after the Flemish kits. I moved Clerise's kits into the metal nesting box as that is all I had that I could fit into her cage.
 

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So, it is the kits only they are going after...How many vulnerable litters do you usually have at one time, do you think?

I covered my cages with half inch hardware cloth to stop rats...similar type of predators, they don't bother the adults but decimate a whole litter in a single night. I focused on the cages with litters in them first. All my nest boxes sit fully enclosed like the metal box you have in with Clerise, though they are bigger, and made of wood. Mom doesn't mind because the floorspace she lost becomes a roof perch she loves.

I can see that covering your whole set up would get expensive, but I think your best bet would be to cover a few cages with small mesh hardware cloth, and keep the nest boxes fully enclosed in those, and rotate does in as needed? That way you could cover just a few cages at a time as you get time/money to do it. Maybe you really only need to cover the 2 walls closest to the nest box if the birds are just sticking their heads thru and can't actually get in the cages?

I don't really see how the birds could get into the nest boxes if they are inside the cage, so I assume the boxes usually sit outside (you mentioned a "hanging nest box"). I think the real trick for you would be to put the nest box inside. As I mentioned, if you make them a little bigger your does will happily lounge around on the roof like snoopy, and they won't mind the missing floor space at all, and it is much more secure against any number of pests.
 
The birds can only get their beaks through the wire as it is 1" x 1" spacing on the sides. The cages are secured enough that the birds cannot get into them anymore. That was a problem the first year when I took them out of the colony and set them up in cages. The mesh on the roof of the cage was just big enough that the birds managed to get into them. Now they have another layer of small mesh chicken wire on top to prevent the birds getting in that way.

The nest boxes are hanging as in part of the floor. I think I can get ahold of more hardware cloth to cover the sides and 2 other cages as well for two other breeding does in the future. Thankfully I have time till they are old enough to breed late this fall. I covered the hanging nest in Clerise's cage and will probably just stick with wood nest boxes from here on out if possible. The metal one is almost too small for Clerise to feed her babies in but is solid so the birds can't pull them through the wire. I just prefer the wire as it allows for more airflow. We recently replaced the floor in our bathroom so I do have more plywood to make some new nest boxes at least.

The other thing I was considering is surrounding the entire structure with the smaller chicken wire mesh and using an old security screen door to go in and out of. I have 2 4'x300' rolls available to use.
 
I will second covering the cage in 1/2-in hardware cloth. My rabbits are in regular cages but are inside a covered welded wire dog run that has a real roof. It was originally a dog run then a greenhouse then a quail run, and now is a rabbitry. We covered every square inch of that 8x16 with hardware cloth. Over one side we put bamboo screening like roll down shades that cover the whole side to keep out the wind. Stuffed every opening with foam roll that you use to insulate pipes. We even have double flaps of hardware cloth that secure the door. We did that the first time to another dog run of the same type with the peaked roof etc that we made into a quail aviary. That's how we knew we had to cover every bit, and double up on some of it, including a hardware cloth subfloor with 3 in of decomposed granite over that and another 3 in of washed builders sand for the floor to keep out burrowing predators. Closest I came in 4 years to losing a bird was a young gopher snake that got caught a third of the way in through the wire. I had to help him get out. He was so little he just wanted eggs.
 
The flash tape would be an emergency option and not very effective as I have neighbors with it up to try and keep their chickens safe. As I have the chicken wire on hand we are going to start with that. We are also going to be purchasing an entire roll of shade cloth to cover the upper portion below the "roof" to about 2' from the ground as the shade cloth is 6' tall. The shade cloth will do two things, 1- block visual of the rabbits from the birds, 2- give the rabbits more shade without loss of airflow. The wire mesh size on the chicken wire is 1" mesh, so birds wont be able to get in and with it being about 6" away from the cages themselves not likely to reach kits anyway. I still have not heard back from CDFW regional office at all. Will give pictures with updates as I can. Here is a picture of the bird in question. They are smaller than both the Magpie and about half the size of a raven.
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The flash tape would be an emergency option and not very effective as I have neighbors with it up to try and keep their chickens safe. As I have the chicken wire on hand we are going to start with that. We are also going to be purchasing an entire roll of shade cloth to cover the upper portion below the "roof" to about 2' from the ground as the shade cloth is 6' tall. The shade cloth will do two things, 1- block visual of the rabbits from the birds, 2- give the rabbits more shade without loss of airflow. The wire mesh size on the chicken wire is 1" mesh, so birds wont be able to get in and with it being about 6" away from the cages themselves not likely to reach kits anyway. I still have not heard back from CDFW regional office at all. Will give pictures with updates as I can. Here is a picture of the bird in question. They are smaller than both the Magpie and about half the size of a raven.
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Yes, I grew up in SoCal and know scrub jays very well; a good friend in grad school at UCDavis did her doctoral work on them. They're actually not that much smaller than magpies, as well over half a magpie's length is its tail. But they are a lot smaller than ravens (Alaskan ravens are bigger than a good-sized rooster!), so where a raven will just take apart a barrier, a jay can often wriggle through. I have the same grudging respect for them as for all the corvids: magpies (yellow-billed and black-billed - I've lived with/studied them both), gray jays, crows, etc. Though, ravens are in a class by themselves...

Like @eco2pia points out, you can't kill them all, especially since scrub jays tend to nest communally, with huge family groups that watch and learn from each other... I'd give up trying to get permission to kill them (I did with ravens up here) and just protect your own animals. It sounds like you've got enough ideas here to be able to do that. I've worked for fish & game in several states including CA, as well as USF&W , and the penalties for killing "migratory birds" are really steep. And now you're on CDFW's radar... (take it from me, they're probably not on your side).
 
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Oh I know they are not on my side as they do not consider rabbits as livestock. But if I was having issues with bobcats, Lynx, or even coyotes I could do something about them and they would be on my side. But alas that won't happen as the ranchers keep those in check long before they get into town. The Scrub Jays consider my property as an all you can eat buffet at this point. No I cannot kill them all and honestly never truly wanted to. I just want them to find somewhere else to get the buffet from and leave my kits alone. When I can afford to make kindling cages out of the 1/2" x 1" wire I will, till then I will be doing what I can with the suggestions I have gotten and my own stubbornness.
 
Hm, would closed nestboxes help? I don't know how brazen that birds are, if they would get into something close enough resembling a tunnel with no escape route for them, even if they could make it into the cages.

Lore says that to keep crows away, kill one, and leave it well visible where you do not want them. Might work with other smart, social birds too. On the roof would be an option, where neighbours can't see it.
 
2 things to always keep in mind when it comes to predators and livestock (or gardens even).
EROI (energy returned on energy invested), economic calculation, but predators can do this math too.
Human activity creates concentrated foodsources that will always attract selfinviting guests before the food reaches a human kitchen or table.

If a predator is succesfull on the first try it will come back for the next shopping trip and will invest more energy to get at the food because it is considered worth the extra energy expense.
So start by building fort knox animal housing from day 0, don´t go just plugging holes with sort of solutions when you find that you actually have predators around your lifestock. If you do find a predator has gotten in, move the animals elsewhere immediately for about a week while you overhaul the housing. Or manage the overhaul before sunset that day. A little patching won't do though, so if you need to get it done in a few hours make something small for the night(s) untill next day / weekend when you can build properly sized fort knox housing and still put the animals in the extra small fort for the night inside the bigger one.
 

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