Tuesday, October 25, 2011

31 Days Unvarnished {intruder}

The hard part of raising laying hens is keeping them alive and safe from marauding intruders until they are big enough to actually lay.  After my keep-them-in-the-house plan disintegrated into a keeping them-in-the-basement plan they were thankfully moved into a drag pen in our well fenced backyard.  We just had to keep them alive through the squawky teenage months and then we'd be knee (or at least dozen) deep in eggs.   

I've mentioned that I love sleeping with my bedroom window open.  It opens out to the backyard, and I love the sounds of spring peepers and crickets and the occasional moo lulling me to sleep. No matter the weather it's always open at least a bit.  

One cool night in early May, the breeze blowing through the trees, I heard the unmistakable sound of chickens rustling around.  I was chatting about the day with mainbain and suddenly stopped to listen carefully.  Yep, the chickens who are early-to-bed-early to rise kind of girls, were distressed and clucking away at 11pm.  I had never heard a peep from them at night, and knew something was either trying to get them or was already in the pen. 


I knew we had to act quickly.  There are some intruders who only like to eat the heads off chickens, which means they could blow through our little flock of 10 layers in about 10 minutes.  Still in my pj's, I threw on my rubber boots and ran into the kitchen to grab a flashlight.  As I was hurriedly assembling a new flashlight, Mainbain wearing nothing but boxers and flip-flops rushed in to load his .22 rifle clip. 

I asked what he was doing with a gun, and he looked at me incredulously.  What do you think?!  We're going to have to kill whatever is out there, Liberty.  Hello, adrenaline surge.   I'd been so intent on finding out what the intruder was, I'd forgotten we would have to "take care of it" as well. 

The chicken pen was about 30 feet from our back door.  I could hear my heart pounding harder with every step, wondering what we were gong to find.  I hoped it wasn't a coyote.  I was positive no pioneer had ever felt more protectively fierce than I did at that moment.  


I shined the bright beam of the flashlight into the pen from about 15 feet away and saw all the chickens crowded together in one corner.  I felt a surge of relief. They seemed fine, but we decided to get a closer look, since they certainly weren't resting.  We were supposed to have 10 layers all together  (10 white and 10 brown) but could only count nine.  A white one was missing from their corner huddle.  

The pen had a tarp around one end and as I shined the light into the opposite corner from the live chicken huddle we saw a skunk.  Jaw deep in the missing white chicken.  Just munching away.  He (I assume all skunks are male) froze.  We froze.  And just looked at each other.  This was not part of the plan.  Not that we had much of a plan, but a skunk!?!?!  Don't they spray when you kill them?  


I'll hold the light on it and you shoot it! I hiss-whispered vehemently to mainbain.  We were both preparing to run at the first whiff of spray, but had no choice.  That intruder was killing and enjoying part of our egg supply for his dinner.   


POP! The skunk staggers and drops the chicken.  Mainbain thinks he got it.  Shoot it again! I say, training the flashlight beam on the now staggering skunk. POP! POP! POP! Some of the pop's miss and bing off the inside of the pen, but most thud with close range accuracy into the skunk.  Even after the .22 clip is emptied and we run back inside to escape the spray we know must be imminent, we're not positive he's dead.  

We were beside ourselves as we ran back into the kitchen.  Could we really have just done that?  I've never felt more like a real do-what-needs-to-be-done-farmer than that victorious moment.  




We went back to get ready for bed,  again.  The window was still open.  Mainbain wondered if we should go back and make sure the intruding skunk was dead.  Going back over the events,  we agreed no animal could survive 7-10 shells being pumped into it.  


And right then, the unmistakable stench of skunk spray wafted in the open window. 


It's rare night when that window is closed. 




Lib
more Unvarnished 31 days posts here
 

1 comment:

Richella said...

Oh, Liberty! I needed a laugh today: your post was better than medicine! "Unvarnished," is it? Wow. I need to read a bunch more of your 31-day series! :)

I hope you're doing well. I can see your face clearly in my mind's eye; I wish I could see you with my real eyes.

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