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Cats are not interested in eating chickens on the farm. (Dimitris Kolyris/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Cats are not interested in eating chickens on the farm. (Dimitris Kolyris/Getty Images/iStockphoto)


Why it’s okay to put a cat in the henhouse Add to ...

Welcome to CW – Chicken Wrap-up – your foremost fount of fowl news. This week, we definitely put the cat among the chickens.

The question

Farm homesteads used to have chickens freely ranging, writes Mike Curtis of Vancouver. They also had cats to catch mice and rats. Why didn’t the cats eat the chickens?

The answer

“As a small-animal veterinarian with three cats and a backyard flock of six chickens, I can tell you that I have never seen my cats, who are ruthless killers of rats and songbirds in my yard, show any interest in attacking the hens we have,” writes Malcolm Macartney of Victoria.

Although chickens may appear harmless and slow, he says, they are actually very strong and fast and can defend themselves quite well against many predators.

“I also think,” he writes, “that the sheer size of a standard chicken (2 to 4 kilograms), would make it rather large prey for a cat (4 to 6 kg) to tackle,” compared with a songbird.

Hawks, raccoons and dogs, he says, are much more likely to attack and kill chickens than cats.

“Even feral cats seem to give our chickens a wide birth.”

Linda Moisey of Edmonton says the cats on the farm where she lived were exceptionally well fed, which could be why they didn’t try to make a meal of the hens.

“The barn cats got fresh whole milk every night and morning when the cows were milked,” she writes. They also dined on mice, “but no rats, because our farm was on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border and the Alberta rat man was on constant patrol.”

On the other hand, she writes, the house cats “feasted on a steady diet of leftover roast beef, steak, hamburgers, pork chops, ribs – and chicken (the kind that had been roasted in the oven).”

This brings us to a point raised by Nancy Senior of Saskatoon. “My late granny, a fount of wisdom, said you should never give cats raw chicken to eat, because the cats would recognize the smell and start to think of their friends and neighbours as food. Apparently, cooked chicken was all right.”

The question

Continuing our avian theme, Alex Saegert of Vancouver wants to know how long a homing pigeon must live in a location before it adopts that place as its home.

The answer

Homing pigeons like to return to the place where they were born, writes Matt Miller of Waterloo, Ont., and it’s difficult, although not impossible, to dissuade them from doing so.

“Homing pigeons that have been relocated can acclimatize themselves within months,” he says, but they usually have to be hatching eggs or looking after youngsters to want to stay.

“On the other hand, I have had birds from other locations that have left after years at my loft, youngsters or no youngsters.” Recently, he had a bird return to him years after he had owned it.

In short, he says, there is no set time period for acclimatizing a homing pigeon to a new location. Indeed, successfully moving a pigeon remains an uncertain undertaking.

Help wanted

Ten-year-old Nathan DeNigris of Ottawa wants to know if the human voice really can break glass.

Bill Pollard of London , Ont., asks: Why do some appliance manufacturers indicate that single slices of bread go in a toaster in one slot rather than the other? The heater coils in both slots activate either way.

Let’s hear from you: If you have the answer to one of these questions (or have a question of your own) send an e-mail to wisdom@globeandmail.com. Please include your location and a daytime phone number.

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