We’ve officially changed our status from farm to wildlife preserve. Hostile wildlife preserve, but the distinction is lost on the wildlife.
Last Wednesday I posted about the chipmunk that destroyed Scott’s pride. I am happy, for Scott’s sake, to report that our little chippy must have sensed the collective rise in the blood pressure of the land, because he has respected the invincibility of the pipe in our yard since that day. He hangs out down below the bird feeders, submissively. This chipmunk is interested in self-preservation.
The chipmunk, however, was only the beginning of the late summer edition of Ottinger Homestead vs. The World. That very same evening, after the groan-producing mowing sessions – All the Way a-Round the Two-Inch Pole – we learned that the moles had again pierced the perimeter of the yard. The boy-child chose to inform us of the invasion after he shaved the tops off every tunnel in the lower yard. Traps were set.
That very same evening, after the mole-eradication measures had been taken, gun shots rang out in my sleep. Midnightish, the survivors from the mid-summer edition of Ottinger Homestead vs. The World, two wee little coons, showed back up at the coop – not so wee anymore. Scott pegged one of the little scoundrels, but the other waddled off into the woods unscathed. Other unsavory methods were employed to – hopefully – take care of #2.
Should we keep the chickens locked up until you get the other one? Nah, they’re still too small to do any real damage.
Friday, I abandoned my post as sentinel and protector of the Ottinger Estates, and took two hours out of my day to visit with my dear friend, Kris, and do a little under-the-table basil-dealing. When I returned home that sunny afternoon – basil in hand – five baby chickies were screaming at me from their perch atop the downspout. My heart dropped right through my gut. Mama was nowhere in sight, and the old familiar terror descended. I inquired sweetly as to the location of their mama, but not one chickie offered up coherent explanation. Behind me, across the driveway, I found two more chickies, fighting to hide underneath each other in the absence of their mother/gazebo. This was not good. I dared to enter the coop, and there I found Roo, pacing his perch. His beady eyes told a gruesome story, in which he played the valiant knight that failed to save his ladies.
I summoned the helpers from within the house to gather up the remaining seven fluffballs and three nearby teenagers before any more chickens could fall victim to the body-snatchers. The coop was henceforth locked up tight.
Now if you don’t keep wild jungle fowl as we do, you may not be well-versed in the art of chicken-snatching sleuthery. You, see, when chickens are taken, whether by coon, fox, weasel, neighbor dog, or any other earthly predator, there is a trail. The scene of the crime is not hard to pinpoint. The first few times you lose chickens, you don’t understand how all those feathers ever clothed the chicken. But after a while, as the numbness sets in and you know the cold facts – that chicken feathers take up fifteen times the volume once detached from the chicken – you cease amazement and just start cleaning up.
And therein lies the mystery. Two full-grown hens, one teenager, and four chickies disappeared that day without a trace. Nary a feather.
Upon closer inspection, we did find exactly two black wingfeathers in the yard. There must have been some chase.
We commenced the futile argument as to what manner of putrid magical beast had infiltrated our yard this time.
My theory was that our ‘little coon’ may not have been fast enough to snag them outright, but wore those chickens down, one-by-one, finally overtaking them far out into the woods, thereby leaving a clean crime scene. Seven times. Plausable. Something about 2 in the afternoon tickled the doubt-meter though.
Scott was convinced this was no coon. Had to be a fox. Why? Because it had to be.
Three days later it became odiferously evident that our final coon-child had fallen victim to the aforementioned unsavory coon eradication methods. There was – is – a stink wafting through the yard that could make a skunk sneeze.
This Wednesday, as I left the house, I unlocked the coop doors, several remaining chickens very excited about getting back out to the grass. The chicken-reaper was dead, but somehow I just couldn’t shake Scott’s insistence that the coon wasn’t the culprit. Just before swinging open wide the door to their freedom, I dropped both double-barrel bullet-proof hook-and-eye latches back into their armed positions. Sorry guys. Maybe Friday when I’m home all day to keep an eye on you. Dejected chickens. It was painful.
And this morning, the stench of bloated coon just starting to dissipate, I walked down resolutely, disengaged the security system once more, and opened that door singing Born Free and feeling like a hero.
Until sticks cracked in the woods about four yards from the other side of the coop. Dang cats, y’gave me a heart attack. But above me, both teenage cats – the ones that love to help with the chicken chores – were lolling atop the coop, useless lookouts. I squinted against the dust-littered shafts of sunlight at the mangy – and I do mean mangy – fox that stared at me, unafraid but slightly disappointed at my presence.
Screaming comes to mind.
So tonight, as the Labor Day weekend commences, if you happen upon the Ottinger Homestead, do so loudly; bells, or pots and wooden spoons are recommended. Do not wear neutral colors. Do not lurk towards the chicken coop under cover of night; torches and reflectors are advised. Do not approach at all via any wooded paths. And do not sneak up on the man with the gun.
Lying in wait,
For those about to call the authorities on us and our methods: You should know that it is legal in Wisconsin to dispatch of nuisance animals who are ‘damaging your property,’ through whatever means deemed necessary. According to the nice DNR Wildlife Tech I spoke with this morning, The Gun is the preferred method of removal, but with deference to the secondary effects of each additional choice, multiple other methods may be used to protect your interests. Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. We have not resorted to dynamite as of yet, but it could be in our future.