Raleigh, N.C. — The Great Chicken Coop Stakeout is letting urban farmers find out what nighttime threats their fowl face, with the help of researchers at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.
Lorraine Readling, of Raleigh, is one of a growing number of city dwellers who keep chickens in their backyard. She has four chickens at her Van Dyke Avenue home.
"We wanted the eggs. We thought it would be fun," Readling said.
But even in the city, chickens aren't at the top of the food chain. That's where the Great Chicken Coop Stakeout comes in.
Researchers with the natural sciences museum put up camouflaged cameras and motion sensors to capture images of what lurks around chicken coops in backyards at night.
"I'm interested in what predators live in different areas, from an urban to a suburban to a rural area," said Roland Kays, director of the Earth Observatory and Biodiversity Lab at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences.
Over a couple weeks, the camera in Readling's backyard caught 12,000 pictures. She saw a few interesting visitors, including an opossum, a couple of squirrels and a cat.
"I'm relieved. I didn't know what was out there," Readling said.
When the new wing of the natural sciences museum opens April 20, the 40 participants in the Great Chicken Coop Stakeout will bring their cameras to the museum to find out what they captured.
"We're asking volunteers to help us answer these questions ourselves, and it's all going to come together during the grand opening," Kays said.
Kays said he expects that looking at the pictures will feel like unwrapping a present.
"It's really fun, because you set a camera trap, and you don't know what you're going to get," he said.