So, I suspected a raccoon. There is enough space beneath a couple of the barn doors for a raccoon to squeeze under and the hens were vulnerable, still nesting on the ground with their chicks. Last night we let Nutmeg stay outside all night, and this morning, she was patiently waiting beneath the tree next to the chicken coop, having treed a raccoon. Circumstantial evidence suggested he was the culprit.
raccoon that I took such an endearing photo of with Nutmeg a month ago.
First, I called a couple neighbors to see if they had a live trap we could borrow; then I called the DNR to find out where they recommended to let the raccoon go when we caught it. They said it is a nuisance animal and recommended that I shoot it. I realize that is what any self-respecting farmer would do - it is your responsibility as a farmer to protect your livestock. (Plus, you can't really afford to let them be devoured!) But the only kind of gun I have ever shot is a BB gun when I was a kid.
Our neighbor's daughter, Hannah, arrived with a shotgun to dispatch the raccoon, which Nutmeg still had conveniently treed. Hannah offered me ear protection (because of course I had my camera to photograph her in action) and in the one minute it took us to get the ear protection out of the car, Nutmeg got distracted and came over, and when we turned around, the clever raccoon had disappeared without a trace!
Drats! But I am certain he will be back. We will have to let Nutmeg keep watch outside at night until we get him.