I will have to do a recount tonight just to figure out how many chickens we have lost to predators this year, it is going to be over 24. They are decimating my birds. Annmarie woke me up in the middle of the night again to the sound of chickens squawking. I did not want to get out of bed. The bed was warm and it was still dark. After some “discussion” and a final blood curdling squawk from one of the chickens I leaped to action (after I found my glasses). Due to paranoia reasons I no longer take the 22 out at night, so I grabbed the shotgun and a truly crappy $0.99 flashlight (my good ones keep disappearing, must be the flashlight gremlins, they are trading with the sock gremlins). I hold the flashlight in my left hand on the pump mechanism. I pumped a round in the chamber and hustled over to the chain link gate shining a crappy weak light into the coop yard. A black blur ran toward the back of the coop and I ran after it. The sheep were on the backside of the coop yard earlier in the night but luckily they had moved so I didn’t have to run through them. I heard some scrambling so I knew some thing was crawling up the 4×4 post. I shined the light and there was a big raccoon sitting on top of the fence. I was on the outer corner, but when I aimed the shotgun the barrel was pointing toward the old house and our house. I had to move four feet to the left, but now I had to raise the shotgun up high to get over the chicken fence I had just stepped behind to change angles. I shot, damn flashlight fell on the ground, I heard the culprit jump down (didn’t sound like a belly flop) so I stepped right and blindly shot at the ground in the approximate area. There is a reason I don’t let the dogs come out with me at night. I found the flashlight (still on) and picked it up off the ground. NO dead raccoon. I shined it up to the spot it was sitting on the fence and there is a 1 inch x 4 inch wide chunk of wood missing from the 2×4 the raccoon was sitting on. Unfortunately, it is eight inches to the right of where it should have been. I missed. I met Annmarie on the way back to the house. We had a discussion about how she only hears the chickens when I am home. I will run out and throw the dead stupid chicken (not supposed to roost in the yard) into a live trap today and tonight I will set it up and see if the raccoon comes back.
Yes, it is 4:30am. No, that is not my usual time to be awake and sitting in front of the computer. I was (once again) awoken by the sounds of squawking from the chickens. This is always a bad thing after dark. I nudged Steve, and he “discussed” with me the value of checking on the chickens. I “discussed” back and we came to the agreement that if he wanted to have chickens he needed to get out there and see what he could see. So, he fumbled around for his glasses and threw on the his robe while I got dressed (my robe is in the wash). As I was grabbing the 30-30 (22’s are not lethal enough), I heard the shotgun discharge twice. I headed out, and Steve informed me he had missed. Since I wanted more details, I asked him to tell me what had happened.
He went out last night to lock up the chickens, and had indeed latched the door on the coop proper – a good thing, as it turns out. What he found in the coop yard was a fairly large raccoon trying to open the sliding door to get into the chicken house. Now, this raccoon had apparently climbed over the (not currently electrified) chicken wire to get into the chicken yard and knew there were chickens behind that closed door. In truly annoying raccoon fashion, he set about trying to get into the buffet. Luckily, they are not quite advanced enough to be able to unhook the hook-and-eye latch. When he (generic he – gender is actually unknown) saw Steve, he ran around the back of the coop and climbed up onto one of the upper supports for the baby fort knox. Steve adjusted his angle so he wasn’t shooting at the house and took his shot. He missed. He claims he missed by only eight inches, but he is the only witness. Besides, the critter is still mobile, so how much he missed by is only a matter of his pride.
The good thing is that we now know what is killing our chickens. The bad thing is that we detest raccoons. They are too clever and are difficult to catch. We’ll do all the things we should. We’ll set out traps, and electrify the fence, and keep locking the door on the chicken house rather than just the much more convenient outer door on the yard. Hopefully the chickens will get smarter and stop sleeping out in the yard and we’ll either rid this earth of one more raccoon or he’ll move on to easier pickings. We did loose one more yard-sleeping chicken tonight. But we interrupted the critters dining, so maybe he won’t try again. Hope does spring eternal, after all.
I tried to get Mr. President to help me this week. I have so much stuff to do at work that this is my last week of pushing to completion the home projects. I have decided that hired help is needed ASAP. He was busy all week long, but luckily for me his older brother just came home for a couple of weeks and is available. He came out to help today and will be further referred to as “Mr. Vice-President”. We went to work on the horse enclosure. It got dug out completely, OSB boards to separate the sheep and horses, completed the outside wall, added another support beam in the middle of the wall. It looks decent, very functional. The scrap wood pile was moved to the burn pile and I raked out the yard.
Next, we went and installed the horizontal supports for the fencing railroad ties. Mr Vice-President put in the slanted wire and tightened them all up. I tried to use the tractor loader to pull dirt into the low spot on the upper fence. I just managed to rip up the ground and make it very uneven. I need to use the box blade for this type of work, but the box blade was not on the tractor. They make a fancy mounting system ($350) that lets you just back up to a piece of equipment and flip three switches and you are hooked up. This doesn’t even require you to get off the tractor seat. I did not purchase said system, so it took me almost 45 minutes to hook up the box blade and needed the assistance of Mr. Vice-President. I could not get it done alone. In my defense this is only the second time I have put an implement onto the tractor, that should count for something.
Annmarie said that the horse feeders are mounted too high and need to be lowered about one foot. I kinda suspected that once we got them in place, but needed the expert opinion before altering any thing.
My poor chicken yard looks like someone tore open four goose down pillows. There are feathers every where! Mr Vice-President is going to dig a trench around the coop tomorrow a foot deep then we will attach wire to the side of the building, lay it in an “L” shape in the trench, fill said trench with very large rocks and add dirt to fill in crevices. I think the predators are living under the chicken coop again. Stupid problem #11.
At the rate things are progressing I expect to have the entire upper fence job completed by Sunday!!!! All of the outside work for the year will have been done before Winter, simply amazing.
I went out to lock the chickens up and did a head count. Only 46 chickens roosting in the coop and I had to chase out the mother cat and her five babies out of one of the nest boxes. Sarah later informed me that there was a chicken carcass in the yard. I am not sure who is doing the killing. On a positive note, I did get the wheat truck running and drove it over to get the last 80 bales of hay loaded. No one was around so I hoofed it the two miles home. If the weather will hold for another 3-4 weeks I may be able to get the upper fence completed. Here is to surface frost only and no deep freeze.
|storage area starting point|
The second pile of hay is in the barn. Everything ran the way it normally does for me. My help showed up on time and we started to clean out the hay area. Once the chutes were maneuvered out the door I had him jump in the pickup so I could drive the hay over to the house. Amazingly, the truck started fairly easily. I had to drive into Pilot Rock and weigh the truck on the scales. We needed to know how many bales are in a ton. I drove to town and my help (further known as Mr President) went back to the barn to finish cleaning it out and getting it ready. The truck weighed 5150 lbs (done a couple of weeks ago), full of hay it was 12050 lbs. 90 bales weighed 6900 lbs or about 77 lbs/each, 10 ton of hay = 260 bales. There are currently 180 bales in the barn. I need another 80 bales. I was pulling away from the scale when the truck started to die. Truck ran out of gas. Since the gas gauge doesn’t work it shouldn’t be a surprise. I placed a call to Mr. President on his cell phone, I wanted him to bring the pickup and a gas can. He is the only teenager I know who doesn’t carry his cell phone on him. I ended up walking to the hardware store, buying a gas can and walking to the gas station. The gas station owner let me use his pickup to take the gas to the wheat truck. While I was pouring gas into the tank the cheesy little plastic tube that directs flow fell into the gas tank. I got out to the house and the truck died right outside the barn lot gate. Damn thing would not start again. I tried multiple times to jump start the truck with no luck. So I brought the new tractor out all 23 hp. I hooked onto the loaded wheat truck and pulled. In four wheel drive it pulled the truck. Mr. President was driving the non-powered large loaded wheat truck with specific instructions to pump the brake pedal to build up pressure so he can stop. We made a large circle in the barn lot and the chain came loose. I kept pulling but the path to the barn at this point is slightly downhill. All of a sudden the wheat truck started to get away and come at the tractor. I ended up having to dive to the left in the tractor to avoid getting hit by the wheat truck. I was screaming at Mr. President to “pump the brakes”. He managed to get the truck stopped directly over the chain. I ended up just going behind the truck and pushed it forward about six feet. The real work began.
|Ready for more hay.|
We started unloading and making the pile taller. We needed to leave room for the next 80 bales that are still needed. Once the stack gets taller than 6 bales high it started to get painful to drag those bales up to the top. Annmarie came over and was talking to us when we found a snake on the truck buried in the hay. It was a bull snake, Annmarie stayed far away. I just tossed it on the ground so it could go eat more mice and bad snakes.
|My “farm” tractor and its load.|
|Bales stacked eight high.|