Monday, June 01, 2015

There's a chicken-killer on the loose

This morning when I went out for chores, it was quiet and peaceful, as usual.  When I was done tending to cows and calves, though, and headed out of the barn toward the house, I heard a hen cackling frantically.  At six in the morning, it's never good news when you hear a chicken sounding the alarm.  The three hens and rooster in the main chicken house had to be safe, because ever since we saw signs of something trying to dig into their pen I have shut them up inside the chicken house at night.  So I was pretty sure Mama Hen had to be the source of the noise, and looked toward her little house.  Sure enough, she was frantically walking around her little pen cackling for all she was worth, and the feeder and waterer had been tipped over.  I set the milk bucket down in the driveway and hurried over there to see what had happened.  There wasn't a baby chick in sight; I could see Mama Hen had put up a good fight with whatever had invaded her space, because she lost a lot of feathers in the process.  I opened the side door to the little house they sleep in and at first saw nothing, but then up against the wall I saw a couple of chicks flattened against the floor not moving a muscle.  That's what chicks do when they are frightened:  They flatten against the floor or ground and stay still; later I found the rest of them actually burrowed under their straw bedding.  After I took my milk inside, I went back to see what could have gotten in.  
The critter left some poop behind.  Cliff and I are guessing a raccoon, but could be a possum.  Perhaps we have been falsely accusing that fox we were trying to trap.  Oh well, we've caught three raccoons now, so if perhaps our efforts at trapping haven't been for nothing.  

There were dig marks on all sides of the pen and house.

This is where he tunneled in.  Now, what perplexed us was the fact that this tunnel wasn't really deep enough to let a raccoon in.  Then Cliff pointed out that a big raccoon could start squeezing under and the house would lift up.  That has to be what happened, because all the evidence points to a raccoon or a possum.  I now have nine chicks instead of eleven.  

I knew I had to figure out something to prevent this from happening again, because the varmint has had a taste of fresh chicken and there's no doubt in my mind he will return tonight.  Finally I came up with the idea of putting some wooden pallet-covers underneath the whole outside pen; there's a floor in the house, so it's dig-proof already.   I thought perhaps we could secure the bottom to the wood somehow so that nothing could dig in.  Cliff, though, had a better idea.

He drove a couple of steel posts between the two pallets and put a wire across the top of the pen, tightening it well.  That door you see at the front of the pen will have to be wired shut, because if you are familiar with raccoons, you know that their little "hands" could easily turn that latch and open the door.  The side door you see the toddler fiddling with will also have to be secured, as well as the nest box door on the back of the house; both of those have a simple hook latch that a raccoon could unhook.  If you think I'm giving raccoons too much credit for intelligence, you've never gone camping in a Missouri state park and left your cooler outside overnight.  

Mama Hen loves to scratch on the ground and call her chickens over to eat the bugs she finds, but she's going to have to settle for living on a board for awhile.  I will probably start turning them out in the evenings before too long, and then they can make up for lost time.

6 comments:

Helen said...

Glad that only two were gone. Poor mama scared really bad and babies were too.

Sister--Three said...

Oh, poor little chicks. Glad he flexed that pen.

Sister--Three said...

Fixed

TARYTERRE said...

How scary for the baby chicks. Cliff is a miracle worker. I hope this keeps that interloper out. Keep us posted.

I'm mostly known as 'MA' said...

Sorry you lost two little chicks. Hope this new idea keeps them safe. Life is never dull for you all. One thing after another. I have seen the damage a raccoon can do to a cooler. I know how skillful they are, but you've out foxed him, I'm sure.

krueth said...

Oh no, so sorry you lost 2 of your baby chicks, but thank goodness it wasn't more. How did the platform work? Hope it kept that nasty animal out. Cliff's little helper is so cute :-) Wendy