If you know me, you know I really enjoy my Chickens. They are my girls. I have raised them. I have taken care of them. I have laughed at them. I have cried over them. Can I just tell you something, though? There can be a downside to the things that you enjoy. The major downside to chicken ranching, or farming, or wrangling, or whatever you want to call it, are the predators that they attract. If you have read any of my ramblings here, you have read about skunks and possums. I am not a fan of either.
We had our first possum encounter this year. It happened about a month or so ago. My Full-Timer and I went out to make the rounds at the barns. We went to the hay barn and gathered eggs, made sure their water and feeders were full, and were on our way out to head in for the night. As I reached over to turn off the lights, I caught a glimpse of a tail hanging down from the rafters.
I told my girl to take the eggs and go in and get the Man in Charge. "Tell him that I need his help and to bring his gun." Well, I waited for what seemed like forever, and she finally shows up alone.
(me) "What the heck?"
(her) "He doesn't want to come."
Now, I have to say that it was about 11:00 pm, and I know that he was already in bed, probably watching television, but this is no excuse. So, I send her back inside to tell him that if he doesn't want to bring his gun, fine, but I still need his help. I know this is one of the times in life when she really hates the fact that she still lives at home, but I didn't ask her to stay and keep an eye on the possum while I went inside. Plus, I know her, and this was the slowest walk to the house that she had probably taken in a long while.
He finally shows up, with his gun, and I point to the perpetrator, and we discuss a plan. The plan went something like this...
(him) "I can't do anything with it if it is still in the barn."
(me) "What do you want me to do?"
(him) "I don't know, but hurry."
So, I grab a shovel and start poking at the thing. My intent is not to let it get into my hay. Well, it's intent is not to leave. I have never seen anything like it. It ran back and forth, all up in the rafters, in and out of my chicken coop. The girls were all on their roosts, and other than the fact I was running around, they didn't seem too bothered. Finally it lodged it's self up at the ridge of the barn, and wouldn't move. I managed to get a shovel stuck up there so that it couldn't enter the coop, but it wouldn't back out and leave.
(him) "Hurry up. What's the problem in there?"
When I ran out of things to try, the Man in Charge came in and gave it a go. The thing would not leave. We were hitting it with the shovel. Poking at it. No luck. Now, you can't really shoot it in this position, or we would have been blowing a hole in the roof. Finally, my Full-Timer heads to the house to get the pellet gun. The plan is that I will stand on one side of it (inside the coop), and block it with the shovel, and he will shoot it in the backside with the pellet gun from the door, until it gets so uncomfortable that it leaves.
One problem with the plan. We have a metal roof on that barn. All I can think about is, what if he misses the backside of this thing? That pellet is going to hit the metal roof and ricochet somewhere, right? Probably in my direction, right? Isn't that how things usually go? I did not like this plan. I voiced my concerns, but no one was listening. The next few minutes went like this...
(him) "Okay, have you got it?"
(me) "No! Not yet!"
(him) "What about now?"
(me) "Okay, but wait..."
at this point I cover my face with my hands
(me) "Okay - now!"
This went back and forth forever! There were times when he hit it, and times when he didn't, but the thing still would not move. No, I never got hit by a stray bullet, but that is beside the point. Finally, out of frustration, I was kicked out of the barn, and the Man in Charge came inside and took aim from another angle. The thing jumped down and ran out the door. At which point, I started chasing it and swinging at it wildly with the shovel. We managed to get it trapped at the fence and my Full-Timer was there with the trusty Muck Bucket. With precision aim, she threw the bucket over it and we had him. At this point, she looked at me and said, "I hate being the one with the bucket."
This little adventure took about 45 minutes. It was absolutely ridiculous. The Man in Charge just looked at me, and said, "Can I go back to bed now?"
Our most recent adventure happened yesterday...
I went to the chicken coop to gather eggs in the afternoon. I usually try to check on them a couple of times during the day. I have felt like our egg numbers have been low, and was thinking that the cooler weather should be making a change in the numbers, unless...
I went inside to find most of the girls laying around taking their dust baths. They scratch holes in the dirt and then jump in. It is kind of fascinating to watch them throw dirt all over themselves in an attempt to clean up. This is what chickens do. At the first nesting box I check, along with some eggs, I find a shell that is open on the end, but empty. I pick it up, and start in with the questions.
"What the heck?"
"Who did this?"
"Is somebody breaking eggs and then eating them?"
As if one of the girls is going to stand up and confess the truth, I had turned to face them. Only to have my heart jump out of my chest because the watering can that was about a foot in front of me has a snake curled up in the base. All of my chickens are laying all around this thing. Like it is no big deal. Looking at me like,
I am pretty proud of my behavior at this point. I did not break a single egg, and I did not scream. I calmly walked out of the area. I set the eggs down in a safe place and grabbed a shovel and a hoe. I walked back into the coop, and picked up the watering can. I carried it outside about five feet and sat it down on the ground. I picked up the shovel and the hoe, and began tapping on the base with the shovel.
He didn't like it.
I disturbed his afternoon swim long enough that he finally decided to leave. As he slithered around the base and made his way out of the water, I pinned his head down with the shovel. I then proceeded to chop it off with the hoe. All of this took place very calmly and methodically. Like I have done it a million times before.
What is happening to me?
You will probably never see pictures of snakes on this blog. I have a theory about snakes. Don't walk away from one. This is based on the fact that I feel like if you walk away to grab a camera, or, I don't know, some help. It will disappear. Then you will have to be thinking about it every time you go out to the barn.
No, thank you.
People will generally ask me, "What kind of snake was it?" My answer is always the same, "A dead one." I have another theory on snakes, and that is that it is not dead until it is in two pieces. Sorry for being so graphic, but it is the only way that I like mine.
Once this task was so calmly accomplished, my heart started pounding, and my adrenaline was pumping. I went about the task of washing the watering can and refilling it. I returned it back to the coop, only to see that the cat was in there asleep on my hay. Really? Let's get every one involved, and no one do a thing!
Lazy! Just Lazy!
This is when I noticed something a little funny. Chickens love anything that is different. Once they spot something, they fixate on it. They can't help it. It is their nature. A small group of hens had gathered around the body of this snake. I would say it was about three feet long, and they were really giving it a look. There was some low clucking as they were discussing their new find. Then one of them pecked at it, and it caused the thing to move, which freaked them all out and they ran off. They all came back. This time, one of them tried to pick it up. This again caused it to move, and they all freaked out and ran off. Then they came back again.
Now I was watching, and thinking that there may be some poetic justice happening here. What would be the correct thing to do? Is it wrong to let them rip this thing to shreds? Then I was thinking that would probably just get them accustomed to being around the things, and that couldn't be good, so I was going to have to stop this comical little game. As this conversation was taking place in my head, one hen noticed the other part of the snake. The much smaller part that was laying near by. Before I knew what happened, she had the head and she took off running.
Well, this started a whole game that chickens love to play. The game where one of them gets something and instead of just being quiet, she announces to everyone that she has something and then runs. This is where the chase begins. They do this all day long with grasshoppers. The one that has it will run, and then she drops it. Another one will pick it up, and then they are chasing after her. The only problem was that this was not a grasshopper. So, get ready for the visual.
One chicken has the snake's head. She is running for her life. About 10 other chickens are chasing her. Following that mob is, yours truly, with the shovel. We must have made about three trips around the barn. All the while, I am yelling at her to "Drop It!" This command works with my dogs. It does not work with my chickens. Finally she ran inside the coop, and when I got her cornered, she spit it out and just walked off, like,
"Oh. Where you talking to me?"
I picked the thing up with the shovel. Walked to the door. Took a good look around to see who might possibly have been outside to witness this adventure. Luckily, I did not see any of my neighbors. Then I disposed of the predator, and the game was over. I have now become de-sensitised to disposing of snakes, and am apparently not above embarrassing myself in front of my neighbors.
I am not sure where we will go from here.