Sunday, September 19, 2010


This past week has had some visitors.  Some welcome, others less so.

My mom and her kids came on Wednesday.  It's been... busy!... keeping six kids fed and clothed and disciplined and refereed, and don't even ask about the status of the housekeeping....

Oh the housekeeping.  Tuesday it was looking fairly decent around here.  The whole Appraisal Motivation thing, you know...

Before that, however, my kids sadly reported finding the remains of Whitey-Black out near the chicken pen.  She is one of our oldest and nicest (or slowest... the kids can catch her easily) hens.

From our first batch of chickens.  Whitey-Black is one of two that survived the Chicken Massacre of '07.

In any case, I was sorry to lose her, and wondered what may have gotten her.  Aside from the above-mentioned massacre, we've been actually quite lucky when it comes to losing things to predation.  We leave town with the chicken house door open, and they free-range for days without coming to harm.

 a Young Rusty

Wednesday morning, in the wee hours, the dog was barking more than usual.  Our window was open, and the fan on, so it wasn't too much to sleep through, but it was notable.  Hubby left for work early, and the dog would bark off and on as the sky lightened.  I had baby in bed with me, and at one point (full daylight, almost 8:00 maybe?) the dog's bark changed at the same time there was considerable ruckus among the chickens (who were already out for the day of course).  I got up from my bed, and looked out my window to see what I thought were 2 large dogs - german shepherd, maybe? - and they were standing in the weeds and dirt just past the chicken house.  Most of the chickens were scattered about the backyard, clucking nervously.  I yelled at the dogs from the window, and watched them bound towards the north property line (not far from where they were) and then straight west along the edge of my neighbor's hay field.  They paused where Neighbor's ATV track cuts through the field, and I saw 2 patches of white.  When I yelled again, those patches took off south until I couldn't see them.  Unlike before, when I had an impression of the dogs but couldn't identify them well enough later, I noted several things about these dogs.  I inspected the area, and was very sad to find Rusty torn apart.  She was a rust-colored aracauna.  And then I went to find my neighbor, as he uses only a cell phone now and his number is not in the book.  He wasn't home, but I left him a note (he was actually out checking water on his ATV by then, on the very track the dogs had raced down).  Later he called, and didn't know of anyone with that kind of dog in the area, but encouraged me to shoot them. :)

I have just acquired a small handgun of my own, but didn't have ammo for it.  I purposed to remedy that, and considered the situation.  I was perplexed though; while they looked like large, cardboard-brownish dogs, with tall, pointy ears, pale undersides (if that's what I'd seen from a distance).  Problem was, they didn't act like dogs.  If they'd killed Whitey-Black, then they were coming to kill and eat.  Dogs come to play, and when one toy breaks, they go to the next, and the next, and... Several people asked if maybe they were coyotes, but these seemed to me to be much bigger and taller.  I did some research, and decided that my perspective from upstairs was probably the least-reliable information I had to go on, and that they were probably coyotes.

My handgun ammo was harder to track down than I thought, and really wouldn't be useful unless I was right on them anyway, so I had Hubby teach me how to use his .22 rifle that evening.  The next morning Hubby had showered, and was in the bathroom when the chickens freaked out and the dog went nuts.  I ran to the window, peering into the darkness with a gun in hand, but could see nothing.  The birds were closed into their coop, but something was obviously out there, and I was so frustrated to be unable to help.  I threw open the bathroom door, half-sobbed that they were back, and slid open the bathroom window to illustrate my point.  I let him put on a few clothes, and sent him out. :)  Shortly I saw his figure creeping in the shadow of the playhouse.  I watched, anxiously, but heard no gunfire and he eventually turned on his headlamp.  He bent, and was putting something against the wire of the coop, and rearranged a board that was leaning on the side of the structure.  Then I saw white wings in the darkness, lifeless and waving as he picked the bird up from it's feet.  I pounded the windowsill and thought dark thoughts toward the beasts.  Hubby dropped her on the grass just inside where a light (from the wrong side of the shed/coop) spills.  Bait.

He told me it was the petite, pure-white one we call Grace.  There was a gap in the wire, and Grace had either slept just inside there, or had walked by at the wrong time.  Her head was crushed, but they hadn't been able to drag her out, and likely ran off when the cacophony erupted.  Hubby left for work, and I took up my position at the bedroom window, watching and waiting.  Baby woke, and I nursed her, wondering how inappropriate it would be to try to shoot something at the same time.  The creatures didn't come back for their bait, though I watched until 8:00.

a young Grace, upper left.  She lost the coloring on her back eventually.

I was completely certain at this point that we were dealing with coyotes, whether or not they looked too big to me.  The MO was right, and their tails were too fluffy for german shepherds.  I read that they hunted at sunset and sunrise, usually, so Hubby grinned, armed himself to the teeth, and spent 2 hours after dusk in the chicken house, listening to chickens snore.  He did the same for a half-hour on Friday morning, and I took up my post again too, but there was nothing, either time.  Nor Saturday.  Now it is Sunday, and 5:30 had the dog barking again, though not crazily.  Hubby went on patrol, and lay in wait, but nothing now, either.

We're talking about getting someone to trap, have a motion-sensor light to install (but I'd really rather them dead), and I fantasize about shooting the beastly thieves myself.  I'm so ready to do that.

Because then?  I could actually sleep the whole night (excepting my Baby's bad habits), and get some decent rest...

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