Sunday, August 9, 2009


A couple of weeks ago weird things started happening in the chicken coop. First I noticed some very large poop on the roof of the hen-house. I explained to myself that an interested animal could be watching from the chicken wire top on the coop and the poop just falls on through.

Then I noticed that the stick that I use to prop open the hen-house had fallen to the ground. The stick isn't huge, a chicken could surely bump it off a ledge, but it's kept in a spot that I don't think the chickens can get to. Maybe they could. So I was able to explain away that curious happening as well.

One day I found big animal poop inside the hen-house. I had to face the facts, something big was getting into the hen-house. I needed to first figure out what it was and second take care of it if it was something that shouldn't be in there. At first I figured it was Oreo, the neighborhood cat that doesn't actually belong to anyone, but everyone seems to feed. The poop was rather catesque, but seemed a bit big to be cat poop. It was also curious that none of the chickens had been killed. Well, we lost one quite some time ago to what I figure was a raccoon that stuck it's arm through the fence because I found the dead bird in the fence in bad shape, as if attacked by a cat or raccoon (I hadn't assumed Oreo's innocence in this matter either).

The next morning I went out there early and when I opened up the coop I found two baby raccoons camped up on a ledge inside the chicken coop. That was bad, but I needed to get to work. So I left. Besides, I didn't know how they got in there.

The next morning I woke up early and took a broom out there. The raccoons were there and there were actually three of them. I jabbed at them a bit with the broom until I got them to leave in an attempt to figure out how they got in there. The first one slid out before I could see how. The second one went right through the links of a chain link fence. I thought from the looks of it that there was no way it would fit, but it slid right through. The third one tried to slide right through, but seems to have gained a bit of weight since getting in and didn't make it. I opened the door for him and let him out. Here's a picture of the size of the raccoons and the size of their poop.
That afternoon I bought some chicken wire and wrapped the bottom of the fence in it so the raccoons couldn't just slide right through.

The next morning I went out and while they had already left, they had dug a hole under the fence and spend the night with the chickens. I put some wood and bricks down to stop them from getting in. I don't remember which morning it was, but one day I got a couple of good pictures of the raccoons in the hen house.

The next morning I found that the raccoons had been there again. I had done a poor job of blocking their passage way. I blocked the passage better and hoped for the best.

The next morning I went out and they had not gone under the fence, but they had still gotten in. I did a little looking and figured that hey must have climbed through the fence onto the roof, so I put some chicken wire up behind the hen-house thinking that if they were unable to step through onto something, they wouldn't be able to get through. I was wrong.
The next morning I went out there the raccoons were in there again (actually there were only two this time, I don't know what happened to the fat one that didn't fit through the links). I thought for a moment. Eventually these things would get big enough that they couldn't get through the links, but by that time I would guess they would realize that they had it pretty good with food, water and shelter at their fingertips. I was afraid that they would do anything to get in there, even if I wrapped the entire coop in chicken wire. The other option was to really get rid of them. So I went and got the only weapon that I had, a pitch fork, and I fatally wounded the two raccoons.

I say that so simply, but it really bothers me that I would do something like that. Sure, I took on the responsibility of protecting chickens, and that may have been the only way to protect the chickens (really I have no idea why I still have 9 chickens). I'm not the violent type that can kill an animal with a garden utensil... Yet I did. Now I find myself thinking about it a lot and feeling really bad. Additionally I will find myself tempted to tell the boys to stop playing violently, but I can't say it, not after brutally murdering animals in my back yard.

So the raccoons have been taken care of and nothing has been in the coop for the last two days (except the chickens). On to brighter subjects, I have a fun photo of Shack mowing the lawn.

I find it interesting that people will tell me that I need to be careful with the real mower because kids could get hurt... THis from people who use a gas mower because it's safer? Anyway, my oldest is the only one who is strong enough to make the blades move and he knows better. There seems to be a perseption that old technology is worse and more dangerous when in fact that isn't always the case. My mower cuts grass better than a gas mower and I have no reason to believe that it's any more dangerous.

The last video is one taken this evening of the Oldest child chasing the chickens trying to get them back into the coup. I let them out for a little foraging in the yard and they loved it.


Bri-onic Man said...

Yeah, I'm not very good at killing things either . . . I've done some good mole killing in my yard but that's about it. I guess I should've done more fishing and hunting with my dad when I was a kid or something.
But, I've had occasions where raccoons got under my house (after picking at screens screwed into concrete no less) and they can really do a lot of expensive damage under there.
So, I very much don't like raccoons, and they need to die. They're pretty much like rats, only bigger. Good job.

Heffalump said...

I would have gone with a live trap and relocation of the racoons, but that is just me...

The Woulfes said...

trap and release is a bad idea unless you plan to drive them to Utah. Raccoons are smart (as you have discovered) and will come back after release.

I don't know about pitch forking them...I bet in that area you could have put an ad out on craigslist for someone to trap them who would sell the fur and eat the meat...

They'll be back too. Chickens are like magnets for raccoons

Hewett Gardeners said...

bummer. it's a shame something so cute can be such a menace and downright threat to your flock.

i agree that trap and release only works if you plan on driving to another state. they are so smart.

on another note: when we want our chickens to go back in their pen, we just get a scoop of food and call, "here chick, chick" and shake the food. they gather and follow us into the coop. of course, that only works if they haven't been had feed yet that day. and of course, you may like the fact that Oldest has to run a lot to get them in. :)

cyclingred said...

At my last house I had a constant battle with racooons and squirrels getting in my attice. Not matter what I did they would "out fox" me.

I have to say that after that experience I don't see squirrels or racoons and cute at all. As someone said, squirrels are just rats with a good PR agent.

Both the raccons and squirrels would claw and chew through everything.

Just reading your post makes me want to start swearing again.

I once had two push reel mowers. I thought it was a great way to mow the lawn and not worry about kids dealing with gas or doing major damage to themselves.

Emily A. W. said...

I feel so bad that I am finally just getting to read this blog. Sorry G! I had no idea the racoons were causing so much havoc. Have they returned since then?

As far as killing, I can understand the guilt you feel killing something,especially when you espouse non violence and such. Your kids can be taught what is appropriate for killing. Killing is all over in the scriptures...sometimes it is necessary. Its part of having dominion over the things of the earth. You are protecting your investment and a food source, which your boys can understand. It had to be done.

I think there could be some resolution if you decide to use the racoon pelts for your family use or something. Its kind of gruesome to think of, but if you made something useful, maybe you wouldn't feel so bad about it.

Cheer up G. God doesn't expect everything to be all smooth all the time, and he knows your heart. Thats all that matters.

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