Okay. In the wee hours of this morning, I posted a brief blog about being awakened for the second night in a row to the sounds of a chicken being killed by a raccoon. While making refrigerator pickles and performing other household tasks today, I’ve been processing last night and trying to find a solution to our situation. I’ve also been replaying last night’s events in my head and have come to the conclusion that parts of the story were just downright funny.
First, the problem and the solution…
My younger two kids and I have put our heads together and come up with what seems like the only plausible explanation for the raccoon getting into the chickens’ coop. Farmer Dave made the coop secure. While the coons can get under it in a few places, there does not seem to be any place where they can get into it from underneath. The walls are tight and the doors were closed last night. The only possibility we can see is that the wily raccoon lifted the flap over the laying boxes and squirrelled into the coop.
If this is the case, then this should be a relatively easy fix. We can secure the flaps through the night with bungee cords or something to hopefully keep the varmints out. If there is another point of entry, I have no idea what it is at this point. Maybe Farmer Dave can give it a good look when he gets home from work today.
Either way, the flaps will be secured and the live trap will be re-set tonight. Like it or not, Rosie, our ultra-lazy watchdog, will sleep in the barn. (Our chicken coop is actually built into our barn.) And, I can almost guarantee that the coop doors will be shut. This is our current plan of battle, and I’ll let you know the results–hopefully not at 3:30 tomorrow morning!
Second, the funny parts that were not so funny in the middle of the night…
I easily get heebie-jeebied. I don’t know that there’s a good reason for this, but I startle exceptionally easily, and my over-active imagination often gets the better of me. (I tell you this with complete and total trust in the hope that you will never, ever, ever use this confession against me.) My husband says I am dangerous (and loud) in these situations and has learned to approach me with caution lest he catches me unawares.
So. I was outside in the pitch black at 3:30 this morning with only a flashlight and my overactive imagination. I was also very angry and in my pajamas. (Now you can truly picture the scene for what it was.)
I noticed the coon in the live trap, and I was glad that we’d caught one, but I knew that it wasn’t the one I’d heard torturing a chicken a few moments earlier. I kept shining my light around, trying to find the culprit on the loose, but to no avail. I then heard the hens in the coop flying around in a panic. I loudly yelled, “Nooooooooo!” and banged on the side of the coop in order to scare the raccoon out of there. Chickens sleep in an almost comatose state, and it takes a good deal of excitement to wake them up at this point, so I knew that the raccoon was in the coop…or had been recently. I had no idea how it had gotten in there and was more than a little concerned that it would come barreling out from underneath the coop and run right at me. Heebie jeebies galore.
I opened the barn door and turned on the light, then banged on the side of the coop again. I heard more squawking and flapping, but didn’t hear any scratching or other sounds I considered to be from a raccoon. I worked up considerable courage to partially lift the flap over the nesting box to shine my flashlight in for a clearer assessment. This was remarkable bravery for me. I truly anticipated a snarling raccoon with shining green eyes to be staring at me once I lifted the flap, but no. There were just roosting hens. I shone my light around the feather-littered floor of the coop and saw what appeared to be two dead Black Australorps. “Noooooooo!” I again yelled. The Black Australorps moved. Not dead after all. Not even injured. Just freaked out from all of the banging and yelling, I’m sure.
I then screwed up my courage and lifted the flap over the other nesting box. Still no coon.
Only one more test was necessary to confirm that the coop was clear, and that was to open the door and walk in so that I could see the entire space all at one time. Folks, I won’t sugar-coat it: My bravado was just about maxed out. After a quick prayer and a fleeting consideration to rabies, I cracked open the door and peeked. Nothing. Wider, still nothing. Nothing but chickens. The coast was clear.
Now, I knew that a coon had been in there, and I knew that it still might be around, so I backtracked my way back out of the barn carefully, my senses still on high alert. After getting back out into the night air, I decided to walk around to the other side of the barn to see if perhaps the raccoon had abandoned the chicken in fear of my top-of-the-food-chain presence. Nope. Nothing.
As I walked back around the barn to head toward the house, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the light from my flashlight reflect on some metal. It was a man standing in the dark with a gun. No, I am not even kidding! I screamed bloody murder, and all but dropped to all four in the grass in a heap. And, I ain’t gonna lie; I almost wet my pajama pants.
The reality is that my 14-year-old son, who is looking more like a man than a boy these days, heard all of the banging and yelling and came out to see if he could help…with his .22. It took my mind a split second to register all of these facts, but my physical body was well behind in its recovery. It was very…um…dramatic.
Needless to say, my scream woke my husband (and, quite possibly, the neighbors), who started yelling out the window to see what was the matter. At this point, I was almost in tears, and I meekly mumbled that I was fine as I walked in front of the house and headed back to bed.
It was a long night.
Remarkably, my daughters slept through it all.