Friday, February 28, 2014

Life lessons from a masked bandit.

Cornered, yet another life-lesson from the barnyard.
In continuation of my previous post about the masked bandit in the chicken barn, here's the rest of the story.

After a little research I learned that raccoons mate between February and March. This explains why our newest visitor arrived in the barn a few days ago. Then apparently raccoons have their little kits in April.

I've always thought raccoons to be some of the coolest little animals, with their human like paws and their smarts and their athleticism. Yet I'm fully aware that these lil guys are also wild and as wild animals do, survival is the name of the game.

Judging by the fact that broken egg shells have been on the barn floor the past 2-3 days, and that upon my entering the barn at dusk two nights ago and some of the chickens were roosting in the rafters and not on their usual perches (even the turkeys were eyeing higher ground) it was obvious that the birds knew they were sitting ducks for the next strike.

I suppose that chickens probably don't have emotions anything like humans, but they clearly understand immanent danger after they've witnessed the "offing" of one of their own. (Remembering here the gutted hen recently found laying frozen by the entrance to the barn).

Taking an animal life isn't something I would pick to do given the choice. Like euthanizing a wild bear after it has killed a human, sometimes the choices are made for us. Cornered into having to make a decision you don't want to make.

The moral of the story here is, the chickens and turkeys are safe again. No more masked bandit around to prey on them unsuspecting. In times like this I am reminded of those who lived here many years ago and what it might have been like to live in such a place where your livestock meant an increase in your own chances of survival. Where your farm animals were so very important that any threat to them became a threat to you and your family.

While my life isn't anywhere near that sort of experience, raising any animals means that I take responsibility for their care and safety at the very least. Choosing to live in the country will always mean run-ins with the wild. Which also means challenges and the ensuing difficult choices will have to be made.  I just hope that through these experiences I am shaped into a wiser and more aware individual and can pass along this knowledge to others. Sure beats sitting around watching TV!

Rest in peace mr. raccoon.  Thank you for the life lessons.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

adventures in the chicken barn thanks to Winter 2014

It finally happened. I'd had my share of skunks and double digit mice experiences in the chicken barn. But yesterday marked a new experience. And based upon a few days ago of finding broken egg parts scattered about on the barn suspicions were confirmed.  Hello raccoon.
I walked into the barn rather unsuspecting. And as I went through my usual routine of entering, grabbing scoops of whole and cracked corn and adding to the troughs for excited chickens I couldn't help but think it odd that one of the chickens was wondering about outside the barn altogether. (should have taken that as my first clue that something was awry).
Also in the spirit of routine...I always take a glance into the egg laying nests as to what I might find there (simply as a reminder as to what the whole point is of having laying hens to begin with). And to my quite shocking surprise found a visitor that I've never seen in our barn (in spite of rumors that such predators do exist in the neighborhood). There was a raccoon cuddled up all cute inside one of the laying buckets. He even let me pet him.
Naturally at first I thought he'd be aggressive or at the very least defensive that he'd been "caught in the act" of egg stealing. But something seemed a bit "off" with this lil fella. He wasn't the least bit aggressive and was in fact quite shy.
My thoughts immediately went to, "now what do I do?"
Most specifically thoughts of "once an egg stealer always an egg stealer"...and also..."did this guy have anything to do with why the chicken I found wandering outside the barn now seemed to appear injured as I looked closer at her?
As I saw it, I had two choices.  Make relocation preparations or off him. After all...we can't have a raccoon (which always means a family of racoons sooner or later) wreaking havoc on our chickens.
There happens to be a place nearby that is known for helping to rehabilitate wild animals. So I went inside and asked Chris to call them (Nature's Nursery) and see if they would take said raccoon if I could capture it. Turns out, no.
There went my plan. I had already managed to seal up the laying bucket he was holding out inside of and make it portable and secure when I learned that apparently there are DROVEs of such calls into Nature's Nursery and it's just not possible for them to rehab all these fury fellas.
So back to the barn I went and Chris followed. After discussing our options, we decided that maybe the best thing was to release him back into the barn.
Need I say here, not the most brilliant move...but at the same time I must also say here I prefer kindness to animals over the alternative. Foiled! Foiled I say!
Apparently Mr. Coon wasn't injured. Because upon entering the barn today...that chicken who was wandering around outside the barn yesterday? well, she is now a frozen corps. One of the perches has been broken so I'm guessing said coon is a stellar climber. And more eggs destroyed too. That can only mean one thing.
Here we go again, forced to do something I'd rather not have to. He found a winter buffet. And we can't have that. So begins the next round of raccoon wrangling. Wish me luck. I hope there is only one.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

it REALLY is the little things

I'll bet you're well aware of the relentless cold and nature's winter warfare that has taken hold of the northeast. (hah, if you're a reader of this blog...pretty obvious if nothing else).  It's in times like these that the littlest of things brings the smallest reliefs and poof one's perspective changes.
Vacuuming had become quite a chore at our house simply due to the fact that every time I pulled out the vacuum and plugged it in...usually within the first 5 minutes (or less) the damn thing would fail. I was always having take apart the aparatus that involved the beater bar and fiddle with something to do with the belt...that is until the other day. I'd had enough of the nonsense of this. (Also am confident that Chris tired of hearing me grump and moan and cuss and fuss over the process vacuuming previous caused).
Being hard-headed...with the mindset of "surely this is a simple thing and can be fixed" had begun to grow old. After all the definition of insanity is said to be "doing the same thing over and over expecting different results". Even I have my "this is just stupid" breaking point.  So thanks to the internet and UPS...we are now the happy owners of a forty dollar dirt devil and O M G, why the HECK didn't we do this sooner?
Dealing with the constant strain of being held captive inside by this relentless winter...and trying to do simple things indoors like keeping the house clean became an additional strain because simple little appliances like a vaccum we previously used added to this...naturally having one that actually worked like it was supposed too? A dream!!!
So I say here to all the world...thank you Dirt Devil! Thank you for being a little flicker of light and hope. And even as I write this I know it to be ever so dramatic over a vacuum cleaner. But at the same time is worthy of a blog post because on a day that just wouldn't stop with frustration...the new vacuum arrived. I put it together, plugged it in and POOF. Attitude adjustment activate. It brought a smile to my face. Everything from that point forward on that day seemed much improved. And to know that when it's time to get out this little gem and vacuum will work. Like it's supposed to. Is oh so lightweight and holy crap the sucking power of this thing. I am impressed!
And as ridiculous as it sounds...I can hardly wait to vacuum again. Much mucho easier than shoveling snow, although won't help my cause in winning at arm wrestling as it provides no workout like shoveling.
It truly is the little things. The small stuff...can in fact make us crazy...unless of course we declare enough is enough and look to go more with the flow.
I know one thing...carpet dirt is toast in our house. Thanks again Dirt Devil. You made my day!