My flock endeavours to entertain both me and my readers, but there are limited new things they can come up with. Frankly, that’s a good thing because some of their attempts to provide me with fodder for writing has resulted in some serious close calls with the grim reaper. My girls tend to lean towards the dramatic rather than the light-hearted.
So when I ran across the online posts from fellow Canadian, Deanna, I was happy to find a new guest contributor who could supply a few much needed laughs and a happy ending, to boot. This is her first of four, and maybe more, posts depending on how committed her flock is about manifesting new material worthy of The Funny Farm.
For the last week or so, when I let our older ladies out of their very secure coop into their run (much less secure, but provides some overhead protection from raptors and keeps the ladies in and the dogs out), Blackie has been losing her shit. This is how she behaves when Odin, our local one-eyed Barred Owl, is hanging around a little too closely. But Odin is nowhere to be found. Blackie is 13 years old, which is ancient for a chicken, so we wondered if maybe she is getting a little senile and we start letting the older ladies out of their coop a little later in the morning so we don’t disturb the neighbours’ sleep.
Well today, in the middle of the afternoon, Angela lost her mind and started yelling as though an eagle was scoping out the chicken buffet. I go out to check on things, and lo and behold, what do I see but a raccoon disappearing around the side of the coop, inside the run. I step forward to see around the corner and Mrs Raccoon hasn’t gone very far. She’s a few feet away, standing on her hind legs and watching me attentively.
I notice that I hear a high-pitched chittering. Part of my mind is going “fucking rats” and part of my mind is going “wait, if that’s a rat, it’s in distress. Why is it in distress, the raccoon is standing in front of me and very clearly is not holding a rat”.
Near me are some nesting boxes that are not part of the coop. In previous years some of our chickens didn’t like the nesting boxes inside the coop because the lineups to use the preferred box sometimes got a bit long, so we also had this exterior nesting box for the ladies who are bit shyer and don’t like to be rushed. These days, the ladies in this pen are a bit older and aren’t laying as often, so we haven’t checked the outside boxes regularly because the lineups for the interior nesting boxes have been much shorter this year. Anyway, I follow the sound to these nesting boxes and open the back doors, and there is a wee baby kit, screaming its cute little head off. Mrs Raccoon continues to watch me very intently, wringing her hands.
A thing you need to know is that raccoons and chickens don’t mix. Raccoons are very happy to enjoy a nice chicken dinner and can be really brutal about it. But Mrs Raccoon has been peacefully co-existing with several middle-aged and elderly hens, and while the hens are suspicious, she has done them no harm. Perhaps Mrs Raccoon has been snacking on the local rats, which would honestly be nice, since Odin and his daytime hawk friend (as yet unnamed) haven’t managed to clear the population.
I look at Mrs Raccoon and Mrs Raccoon looks at me, and I pick up the squealing kit. I maintain eye contact with Mrs Raccoon and make sure she can see that I am holding her last baby. I say last baby because kits usually come in litters. It seems likely that Mrs and Baby R’s previous nest was disturbed and Mrs R decided that the nesting box was the best safe place to hide. But they can’t stay here. At some point Baby R will be old enough to hunt and I can’t trust the current detente to hold. In fact, there are some people who would say that for the safety of my girls, I really should murder this baby.
But I don’t. Instead, I carry Baby R out of the run and around to the back corner, where Mrs R and I make eye contact again. Mrs R has not moved anything but her head to track my progress. I lift Baby R, so she can hear and see it, and then I set it down in the underbrush. I point at the baby’s location, and then I walk away, back around the run, back inside, to where Mrs R and I faced off before. By the time I get there, she and the baby are gone.
I have left the doors on the exterior nesting boxes open for now so that they are no longer a tempting safe space. Raccoons are smart so hopefully Mrs R got the message. Because if they come back at night and try to break in when Junior is older and needs to learn to hunt, the outcome is likely to be different.
PS: In retrospect, Blackie has been trying to tell us about the raccoon situation for a week, with limited success. Pretty sure she’s of the opinion that human intelligence is WAAAAY overrated.
Deanna D is a former northern farm girl who aged out of girlhood and moved to North Saanich, British Columbia (Canada). She has returned to keeping chickens for the last 10+ years because she can’t convince her partner to let her have a milk cow. Her long-suffering neighbours are aware that she has more chickens than she is technically allowed but for now keep it to themselves in exchange for eggs. She speaks several dialects of chicken, will translate on request.
Many thanks to Deanna for sharing her story. Featured image credit: Stereolsomer
Thank you for this lovely story, I hope that everyone continued on safely. I like your comment on Blackie’s assessment of human intelligence, and looking at our most recent world leaders and their ideas on governance, I have to say she’s bang on! Back to Blackie in the coop, as awful as it is when something is going on like that, it can be hard to find the source of the issue, even harder when there is a large number of birds, for whom to care. Some days, many dramas, so little time!