Well, I’m one tired lady this morning.
Yesterday evening, we noticed we were short a chicken. Something had gotten into the hoop coop and eaten it. Fox? Raccoon? We weren’t sure. But I asked my husband to help me think through some solutions because we were so confident in our hoop coop build as being predator proof.
So, we looked for weak spots and holes, and did a quick patch job before the sun set for the night.
Later that night, I heard through the open window chicken sounds, and they got progressively more distressed sounding, so I told my husband who’d just gotten into bed,- later than usual for an earlier than usual day at work- “Something is after the chickens! ” He groggily answered, “huh?” And I said again, “Something is out there messing with the chickens!!” So he scrambled out of bed and went quickly outside to the coop while I got some shoes and grabbed a flashlight. When I got to the coop, my husband said, “I think it’s a possum, but I can’t really see anything.” I flicked on the flashlight and saw my husband had grabbed a giant stick and managed to “tree” a big, fat raccoon at the back wall of the hoop coop. We’d stopped the attack, but we had the issue of having a raccoon hanging on the back wall of the coop and we needed to get it out. My husband went back for his gun, leaving me with the flashlight and the big stick. And as if it knew I wasn’t bold enough to beat it with a big stick, the raccoon scrambled down the wall, and in the flutter of distressed chickens, skittered out some mysterious opening at the side of the coop.
When my husband got back outside, he was disappointed that it had gotten away without me seeing where it had gone, but 1) I have terrible night vision- TERRIBLE- even with headlamps or flashlights. 2) with the chickens scattering around and running to escape, I’d lost sight of the raccoon, trying to keep the birds from running off into the woods to their deaths.
We stayed outside for about 20-30 minutes, gathering the chickens back into the coop, looking for more weak spots, and we placed cinder blocks over where we found the raccoon had dug in at the bottom. We weren’t really satisfied with the security of some of the wire at the top, but we did what we could in the dark, looking and waiting to see if the raccoon would show itself again while we quietly watched.
We weighted down the lid of the rabbit tractor, to prevent any losses there- we were dealing with a raccoon after all, and they’re smart critters. Then, we went back inside, and went to bed.
Not long after, we heard more ruckus from the chickens and my husband ran out with his gun this time. He caught the raccoon up in a hickory tree, and managed to dispatch it before any more birds were killed. Our flock went from 13 to 10 in a matter of a few hours, and we were left ruminating on the fact that 1) we no longer have egg production to meet our consumption, 2) what we thought was secure was not indeed raccoon proof, and 3) we now need to come up with something relatively quickly to eliminate any more losses. I do NOT want a repeat of last year, where we lost all 13 birds in our flock in a few short weeks.
Once we got things calmed down, we went back to bed and then heard a baby goat bleat loudly. We checked on it and decided that he probably just got kicked or squished in his sleep, and was startled, but he was doing okay. Eventually, we finally got to sleep for the night, a full 3 hours later than usual. Which meant that my husband got up at 5 for his 6am shift at work running on less than 5 hours of sleep, after putting in an hour of overtime due to scheduling issues yesterday evening. But that’s part and parcel of life on the homestead- so many times, our ease and comfort are sacrificed literally for life or death situations in preserving our livestock. And it hurts each time we give our best and nature foils our grand plans. What we think is sufficient, or strong gets revealed to be a minor obstacle to be conquered by predators.
So what do we do now? Well, we just purchased materials for about 6 more rabbit tractors, which, theoretically would work for chickens if the height is adjusted slightly. What I would really love is to have an LGD outside to scare off predators so that we don’t have as many close calls like last night, but LGDs are expensive, and require training, and I’m about to have a newborn, so I don’t feel like I have the time to commit to that right now. I’m praying about it though, that God would supply our needs and give us wisdom on how to better secure our animals.
So this weekend will be spent planning and building, and praying and seeking. Thank the Lord we are done with school days for the summer and I can get that paperwork turned in!! Because the trials and tribulations of homestead life are in full swing, and it’s going to require my time and attention and diligence.