Monday, August 20, 2012

The Layers vs. The Coons

We currently live in a historical district in Rock Island. Therefore, it took us a while to 'take the plunge,' but we have eight hens: Chicken Bicken (part of the original flock), Baby and Sunflower (part of the 2nd flock), and Pink, Yellow, Green, Blue, and White (part of the 3rd flock. They look identical, so they have anklets made of zip ties to tell them apart. Don't ask me why we have to know. Ask my four year old.) We haven't had any issues with neighbors complaints or anything like that, which is nice. If you've ever been around chickens you know, even the hens can get loud. We find they generally get loud when threatened. Which brings us to the topic of this post.
The coop
4AM this morning, Abigail, wet the bed. Luckily, I was nursing Lydia, so I nudged Daddy awake. He took her to the bathroom (which is in the back of the house, with a window facing the backyard where the coop is). He came flying back into the bedroom. The hens were FREAKING OUT. He looked out said window and saw a raccoon running through the yard. Now, these raccoons aren't just any ol' coon. They're giant raccoons from outer space. Allow me to explain: There was a man who lived two doors down from us who fed the raccoons. Literally, he purchased giant bags of dog food for them on a weekly basis and fed them on his front porch. The only reason we never did anything about it is because he did it because his beloved wife used to do it. ::insert sappy love story:: So we just allowed it. The coons came out of the sewer even when it was still daylight to begin their feasting. All of this dog food made them huge. Like, seriously, mind boggling huge. Also, because they were being fed by a human, they were not in the least bit concerned about us or anyone else in the neighborhood. You could try and shoe them away, they only came closer. So, when said neighbor passed away last summer, we all sort of thought the raccoons would go back to normal. They did not. They've become pretty pesky, actually. They are in everyone's garbage, in our compost and now, messing with our hens.
It should not come as a surprise that when Jared and Rowdy (our beloved, yet completely ridiculous yellow lab) went out into the backyard, the coon didn't budge. He was under the actual coop and just hung out there. After a few attempts to get the thing to move, Jared determined that the thing to do was go back inside and he'd come out. Sure enough, that's what happened. The hens eventually calmed down, though at random intervals throughout the day, they made their displeasure known once again.
Esther schooling Abigail on how to pick up hens
This is not the first time we've had issue with raccoons, unfortunately. I don't think it will be the last, either. The first time, Jared went out to feed the hens in the morning only to find a mama coon and her three babies hanging out in the run, eating the hens' leftovers (they get kitchen scraps). We didn't want to lay out poison or anything because of our children, our dog, the hens, the environment, etc. We found a concoction online that included an onion and a bunch of habenero peppers that had been boiled in water. We put the solution in a squirt bottle and Jared sprayed the perimeter (after he had barricaded their holes). That worked for quite a while, we haven't had an issue in a few months. Alas, here we are again, spraying crazy juice around our yard. Another suggestion we found online was to lay rags around the coop and run soaked in ammonia, so that's another option we may try. Of course raccoons aren't the only predator when raising urban chickens (or any chickens for that matter). They're just the only one we have an issue with. The hens also go crazy when our friendly neighborhood hawk flies overhead. Although he/she has never attempted an attack, it seems that he/she gets some sort of cheap thrill on freaking out the hens and does so periodically. Other predators, I'm sure would include dogs and cats, but since we have a fenced yard and the hens are completely enclosed, we've never had an attempt from one of them either. We don't have a lot of the other vermin around - opossums, weasels, rats, etc. - that we know of.  
Anyway, that's it for this episode of 'The Layers vs. The Coons.' Hopefully the last!

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