Monthly Archives: December 2013

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GARDEN JOURNAL ** Predators Trying to Eat My Girls!

It started at 1:00 am this morning. My husband heard something outside; he jumped out of bed and grabbed his rifle. Its times like these that I realize that I had no idea what I was getting into when we moved to the back country. I am so not used to someone grabbing a rifle to solve a problem.

Its freezing, snow had been predicted, but we both dashed outside in just slippers and PJs. The first thing we saw was that I had left the coop open. Immediately the guilt set it in, but there was only time for action to see who we could save. I dashed back inside and grabbed the flashlight. While I held the door open and shined the flashlight into the coop …

Jack (my husband) points the gun and shoots! I don’t know what he’s shooting at but it’s not dead yet. He shoots again. My hand shakes, the flashlight beam wavers. I don’t like shooting, it scares me. The predator crawls to the open door and dies; it’s the biggest possum I have ever seen. My husband drags it out and we look to see how many of my six hens it got. One Rhode Island Red is dead. I feel terrible, but it gets worse. We count chickens, it looks like five girls (hens) made it through OK. We go back to bed.

It took forever to get warm and to get back to sleep.

Later, while having morning coffee, looking out the window at the coop, we were talking about what a crazy night it was and how upset our neighbors must be at shots being fired in the middle of the night. My husband felt bad about the hen. I was feeling bad about the hen and the possum. If I had not left the coop open the possum and the hen would still be alive. Then we saw this beautiful coyote come on to our property. Predictably my husband runs for the rifle. I shout, “No!” I have a real soft spot for coyotes. He does not; one killed his dog when he was a kid. I said the hens are safe in the coop and he should not shoot at the coyote. Why am I even having these conversations anyway?

We watched the coyote sniff around the coop and then wander off. I think fine, see chickens are safe and coyote is safe, win – win right? We sipped our coffee and I am going on and on about how beautiful the coyote was when the coyote streaks across the yard with one of my hens in its mouth!!!

We are both out the door and yelling before we can even think straight! The coyote drops the hen and dashes off. Of course, you guessed it, my husband and had gone for his rifle (again!) I yelled don’t shoot it. He’s not convinced that NOT shooting it is a good idea, but he knows I will freak if he shoots it dead so he fired off some shoots to scare it.

I went after the hen, yes I’m still in PJs and slippers and it’s starting to snow. The hen has disappeared. She is just gone. By time I got around the corner of the house she had vanished. I looked everywhere; followed the trail of feathers she was dropping until the trail ended. I was afraid that there was another coyote on the other side of the house who picked her up; anyway I looked for her, went inside put warm clothes on and looked some more, tramping around as it snowed.

After giving up all hope for any happy outcome what so ever, becoming resigned to the fact that I had failed my little flock of hens, not just once by leaving the coop open, but twice by not counting correctly after killing the possum and leaving one poor little hen wondering out by itself all night, I went back outside to sow some wildflower seeds. The snow had stopped and the ground was wet, a perfect time to sow wildflower seeds for flowers next spring and summer. I was in the front garden when I heard the best little noise ever, the soft clucking sound of a hen checking to see if I might have some treats. Yay! There she was, a bit battered, but overall in better shape than you would think after being  between a coyote’s teeth. So, she is back in her coop and I now understand why so many of my friends built chicken runs and do not free range their chickens anymore. I’m not sure what I will do. Certainly devise a better system to remember to close up the coop after the girls have gone in for the night – if I let them out during the day at all anymore.

Planting gardens that are more like small farms and orchards, having animals to care for and keep safe, making choices about eating a wild Thanksgiving turkey I had to pluck myself are all things that remind me that living in the back country is a lifestyle change that I embrace but not a lifestyle change I was really prepared for. I’m playing catch-up here, I read blogs by others that are trying to do what we are doing and they are encouraging.  We are 20 to 40 somethings and baby boomers, a small but growing group who are reclaiming the privilege of growing our own food. We make mistakes but we keep trying.

possum

Possum (not the one that got shot last night)

coyote

Coyote on the prowl!