We interrupt our regular broadcast to bring you this breaking news report...
You've heard about my reprobate chickens, right? Those beautiful biddies that were tiny balls of adorable yellow fluff only a year ago, but that grew into bimbos who frequently exposed themselves to needless danger and who wallowed my strawberry beds to bits? Yep, those chickens. Yes, they are stupid. Yes, they frustrate me. But in spite of all that, they are my chickens and I love them...sort of...in a chickeny kind of way.
This morning, when I opened the small door on the side of the hen house in order to let the chickens out into their yard, no hens came charging down the gang plank like usual. Odd, I thought. It was almost 8:00, and the sun was high and bright. Normally, the hens would've been pushing past each other to get into the yard. Instead of their familiar morning cackling, I heard only a quiet Prrrt, prrrt, prrrt from inside the hen house. I couldn't imagine why they'd still be sleeping.
I filled the feed and water buckets in the yard, then went around to the big door to fill the feeders inside the hen house. I opened the chicken house door.
Carnage! Blood! Feathers!
And six terrified hens clinging to the top roost in stunned silence.
What on earth had happened?!
I went back out and inspected the hen house. Nope, no openings through which something could've squeezed in. No sign of digging around the foundation. Maybe the murderer was still inside.
Back in the hen house, I investigated every nook and cranny. Nope, no trespassers. Leaving the few surviving hens in stunned silence, I ran to the house. "Ben, I need your help! Something's been in the hen house and has killed my chickens. We have a mystery to solve!"
By the time Ben joined me at the chicken house a few minutes later, I was pretty sure I had determined the point of entry for the mysterious murderer. There is a small, heavy door on the back side of the house, from which we can clean the poop out from underneath the roost. The latch on that door was stilled securely fastened, but there was a tiny crack along the bottom edge...and lots of scattered feathers.
Obviously, some critter had gotten in, done his dirty work, and then been unable to squeeze the fat biddies out of his tiny exit.
We knew point of entry. Couldn't find any tracks, so we went back inside to try to determine method of execution. Four fat hens lay splayed on the floor, stiff but unmauled...except that all four were missing their heads. We found two of the heads, also pretty much unmauled. The other two heads...well, I suspect they're giving our thief indigestion about right now.
So, some varmint had squeezed himself into the hen house, beheaded four fat hens, and then snuck away under the cover of darkness. Something that could climb over a fence, instead of digging under it. Except that we eventually found a place low in the chicken wire that we think he might have squeezed through.
I began the nasty job of cleaning out the hen house while my young men headed inside to do a little research. Buff Orpingtons are big birds - I think I hauled away fifty pounds of dead chicken. Emptied the pine shavings. Scrubbed the worst of the blood splatters. When I finally headed back to the shed with my tools, two hens were still sitting petrified on the roost, but the other four had timidly ventured out into the chicken yard.
Back in the house, Reuben showed me this really cool website: All About Chicken Predators. We think we have identified our murderer: a raccoon.
Raccoons are not cute, furry, sweet little critters wearing adorable black masks. Folks, raccoons are cold-blooded murderers. I don't think I'd have minded so much if our villain had killed a chicken, eaten his fill, and then fled the scene. But, no, he killed four adult chickens. Murdered them in their sleep, no less. And then he ate only two heads. Talk about senseless, wanton carnage!
I admit, in the past I have looked at baby raccoons - or even an adult raccoon - and thought, "Oh, how adorable!" Not anymore. Next time I see a raccoon, I'm going to be saying something like, "Hand me a shovel so I can knock that rascal in the head!"
A few thoughts in conclusion:
Henny Penny/Minerva Louise/Punchinella - the old red hen that was the last of Ben's original flock, she went by many names - the old red hen, I am happy to report, died peacefully in her sleep earlier this week. I am so thankful she missed the traumatic horrors that occurred in the hen house last night. She was such a sweet hen (and smart, as far as chickens go) - may she rest in peace.
Nate The Trapper, I have a job for you to do next time you're home.
If I'd known I was going to be cleaning out a nasty, blood-spattered chicken house this morning, I think I'd have waited to take my shower until later in the day. Now that I'm all nasty and sweaty, maybe I should go work in the garden instead of doing the paperwork I had planned on tackling.
Finally, Mr. Next Door Neighbor, we got rid of our dogs for you. For YOU. Now, we have deer in the garden, feral cats in the shed, snakes in the yard, and we regularly sight stray dogs and coyotes back on the farm. AND, we have raccoons in the chicken house. My flock of reprobate chickens is down to six terrified, emotionally-scarred hens. I'm thinking it's about time to get a dog again. A big dog. With big teeth. And, no, I don't think I'd be inclined to kennel him or keep him on a leash, just for you.
Or maybe I'd just better take a deep breath and try to calm down.
This life in the country really gets me worked up sometimes.
4 weeks ago