Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Return of the Raccoon

If you have been reading this blog recently, then you probably know about our new chicks: one hen hatched out two chicks in a 5-gallon bucket and another hen hatched 17(!) of which 14 survived. Well, sad to say, both hens and all but one orphan chick have disappeared over the past few nights. I found one body, a hen with her head eaten off. I would have suspected owls, except that the chickens were closed in the barn.

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.
Nutmeg must have been getting a crick in her neck from keeping guard all night.

I bet it is the very same 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.


Jocelyn said...

Oh damn! That guy has been well fed, hasn't he?

I'm sorry about your large loss-that really stinks. I hope that if the raccoon does come back, you are able to relocate him, either from this life or just from your property.

Snooks said...

Those critters are no good! Possums are go right along with them. So sorry about your chickens.

@ 3Beeze Homestead

Marcia said...

Who would have thought that such cute animals could be such vicious hunters? Sorry you didn't get it his time. Keep us posted.

gz said...

sad to hear about the chickens

SmithGang said...

O so sorry and they were awesome hatching hens. Hope you guys finally get that coon.

Leslie Lyne Zantow said...

It really helps to have a radio and lights on in the barn. I had constant trouble with raccoons and skunks killing my chickens until I put a radio in the hen house. Put it on public radio so the coons think there are people talking in the barn. Even if I accidently left the hen door open, I had no problems with chicken deaths. Broody hens are the worst, they don't seem to get it that there hidden spots are safe from all creatures. Its hard to shoot an animal, I've done it a few times. I got so sick of predators killing my hens and chicks. Sorry for you loss and I hope you catch the culprit at large.

Leslie Lyne Zantow said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

The radio is a great idea, Leslie!

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's horrible. Sorry about the chickens. You could always try packing the open space with bricks and keep track of how disturbed the bricks are in the morning. If they're normal, no coon. If the bricks seemed messed up a bit, then more guard duty for Hazel! If all else fails, you could wait at night with a gun and shoot the coon, or get it back in the Live Trap and keep a close eye on it. I've never had a raccoon escape from a Live Trap, but the things are so clever. A pity that such a beautiful creature was such a pest.