Last week’s Thursday was USA-ian Thanksgiving day. We had friends here at Ft. Harrington to help us celebrate the day and help us eat the traditional poultry. During the evening’s joviality, I forgot to close the chickens’ run door, leaving them vulnerable to predators.
For the past several years, there has been no reason to worry about that. Any encroaching varmint was welcomed by alarm barks, loud and furious, from Kelsey. This year, probably because of a two-year major drought here in the Santa Cruz Mountains, even our usual raccoons vanished, leaving our plums to drop uneaten from their trees. (And on to our deck, making a mess.)
One of our neighbors, though, leaves food for his cats outside his front door, because his cats can’t come inside, because they can’t get along with his dogs. A couple of weeks ago, a juvenile raccoon discovered this free food, and started stopping by on a regular nocturnal basis. Since no other raccoons were around, because – I guess – of the drought, which has dessicated the hollow’s creek to a trickle and wiped out the crawdad population, this youngster became bold.
He found our chicken run and, I’m guessing, waited until a gate was left open. That happened on Thanksgiving night.
We heard nothing that night, nor (evidently) did the dogs. But the next morning, we found pieces of Pepper scattered around the garden and the rest of the flock cowering in various places.
That night, we made sure to secure the chicken run as usual… but the ‘coon now knew that chicken dinner was to be had here. The young ‘coon ripped a large wooden piece from the run’s door and ripped into the run at about 3:30 in the morning. It made the mistake, though, of going after Xena, who resides in the uppermost portion of the run at night. She screamed loud enough to wake me, Mrs. Fort, and all the dogs. In various states of undress (which, for the dogs, was total, of course) we raced out to the chicken run and chased the little ‘coon away.
We also scattered the chickens away, since all the doors to the run were opened in the fray.
For the next hour, she in her nightgown and me in my robe, we scoured the compound for frightened, hidden chickens, finally locating and gathering them all at about 4:30am. We carried them into the potting shed for safekeeping, and did our best to finish our night’s sleep.
The following day, I prepared the potting shed as best as I could to be a temporary home for the 10-chicken flock.
The plan now is to keep the chickens in the potting shed at night for another week, hoping to convince the young ‘coon that the chicken buffet is closed. Meanwhile, I’m “hardening” the chicken run doubly: by installing hutches within the run in which we can enclose the chickens at night and by reinforcing various vulnerable places on the run’s exterior fencing.
Meanwhile, I can’t walk by the chicken section of our grocery store’s meat section without feeling a little queasy .