Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Chicken Chronicles: Mystery Solved, End of an Era, Etc.


We no longer have chickens.

As previously mentioned, the weird-ass coop I built proved remarkably un-predator-proof. At some point after the last installment, I moved the coop back a little further from the house. We eventually got down to one chicken -- a traumatized rooster whom we gave away to some free-range folks -- after which I tore the coop apart.

But not before discovering the predator's identity, and how it was getting in the coop. One night I walked to our back door and watched, startled, as a raccoon moseyed up to the coop and began deftly removing the heavy clips I used to secure the door.

He noticed me and started sauntering away. I came out of the house with loaded .22 rifle and got a shot off at him. Then he headed up a 50-foot pine tree. I let Daniel have a shot at him. No dice (I hadn't fired a shot in anger in probably 20 years, Daniel never, and I can't remember the last time I checked the sighting on the .22 ... we'll be addressing that soon), and we had to be careful -- there's only about one direction to shoot from/in where you can be sure a miss won't come down in a place where people might be, so I ordered a cease-fire.

Over the next few days, I collected stories from the neighborhood. One neighbor had seen the ("giant" in her words) raccoon hanging about her back yard. Another neighbor had called the sheriff one night when she thought someone was trying to force her back door open. A deputy arrived and chased two raccoons off her back porch.

I'm planning some raccoon ... um, remediation ... activities for the near future. Given the nature of the terrain, I may invest in a 12-gauge shotgun. A miss with a .22 just travels too far.

As far as more chickens, yes, that's probably in the cards.

I didn't throw away the coop materials. I'm going to re-use them. The next coop will be smaller, less mobile (I plan to bury the bottom edges and build it near the house to minimize predator interest) and more secure (a real door with a heavy and/or complex opening mechanism instead of clips).

If Liam wants to hatch more chicks, I'll encourage him to do it for outside clients, as I don't want any more roosters. They don't lay eggs and they're annoying. We'll buy female chicks. I'm planning on an absolute maximum of five, so that they don't need a large enclosure (they'll get to free range for a few hours each day anyway).

So, no chickens for now. But soon.

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