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Survivors of the Great Chicken Massacre

July 21, 2007

Two weeks ago, Little Sunshine woke me bright and early to say that she thought something was wrong in the chickenyard.  Boy, was she right.

Six chickens–including all of our new fledglings–were dead, pulled to pieces inside the run.  One was badly wounded, trying to get itself to shelter.  And one was MIA.  Chicken #7, one of the stout old Buff Orpingtons, died later that day.

At first, we were inclined to blame Davey, our Scottish terrier, who has been known to go a bit chicken mad.  Especially with Tilly, the just-out-of-puppyhood Labrador retriever, to egg him on.  But it didn’t add up.  They’d never got into the chicken run before.  And there was no sign of the fence being torn up.  I just didn’t want to believe it.

More evidence trickled in.  Baggy had heard the chickens carrying on, and a strange, high pitched shriek.  The dogs had been barking and barking all night long.  Could it have been a bobcat?  We have them, for certain.  Or a weasel? Papa remembered the sad day in 1979 when a weasel got into our chicken house and killed nearly 50 chickens we were raising for meat (at a time when there was not an extra penny lying around the house).  But this didn’t look like that.  The poor old chickens had bites on the neck and breast, and a lot of feathers missing–not the swift ruthless bite to the throat that a weasel gives.

Finally we resorted to listening to predator calls on a hunting website.  And there all was revealed.  It had been a raccoon.  The pattern of attack was characteristically raccoon.  The anger call–probably at one of the dogs–was unmistakeable.  So we strengthened chicken house security and bought seven more fledglings from a bird-raising friend of my sister Hoe’s.  (She keeps a hot electric fence around her chicken pen to deter raccoons.)

We haven’t had any more trouble with the raccoon since then.  And last night at 10:30, on our way to the Harry Potter launch party downtown, we saw an amazing sight.  A full-grown raccoon, tail whipping nonchalantly from side to side, was sauntering down our road, followed by three adorable babies:  Ma Barker and her gang. 

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