Monday, July 12, 2010

The Honey Grove Massacre

When you risk your life to steal eggs from the turkeys, just so you can incubate them and try to be more successful at raising poults to a Thanksgiving weight, it doesn't seem quite fair to get half way to the goal line and have a raccoon change the end game. There are so many calculated steps to raising turkeys in the best of situations. And for what?

Maybe if I hadn't just looked at the turkeys that day and thought how big they were growing. Maybe if we hadn't named one Nellvira after a friend's daughter. Maybe if we had paid more attention to what could get into the enclosure rather than how the babies kept slipping out of it through the lattice work. Or, maybe nothing could have kept this raccoon from taking advantage of not only six turkey poults but also five chicks we had enclosed in the same pen.

The thing about raccoons is that they get into a blood lust with young chickens. This has happened before, but a long time ago. When I think back, I would have blamed the last massacre to ignorance on our part. Now I think it is just a crime of opportunity.

We were new on the farm and we had 12 chicks that were probably three-months old. They had been staying in one side of the coop at night and everything seemed calm. Six were in one section and six in another. I came out one morning and all the chicks were dead or missing in the back part of the enclosure.

The next evening I moved our remaining birds into a smaller coop area since I could see where the raccoon had broken through some rusty chicken wire. When I came out in the morning, the remaining chicks were also dead, strewn over the yard. A new hole had been punched in the wire just to prove a point. My birds had been trapped with a maniac. I had that sick feeling. We re-fenced everything immediately, but, as the barnyard saying goes, "It's like closing the stall door, when the horse has already bolted." or something like that.

The thing about raccoon frenzy attacks is that they don't kill the birds because they are hungry. They kill them because they are blood crazed. Heads are ripped off or guts spilled out, but there is no eating. There are actually very few feathers spread around either. The lesson drives home: the farmer needs to be more attentive, but then, if you think about it, the farmer always needs to be more attentive!

Plus, raccoons are smart. After this last attack, for which one lone chick survived, we set a trap baited with cat food and salmon. If I was a hungry raccoon, I would have gone for the food. But, wait, we said these raccoons aren't killing for hunger. Heck, no! They've been eating all the cherries and berries they can find, enough that there are none left for us.

The only thing we ended up catching was a chicken when I forgot to spring the gate in the morning. It was my escape artist, the chicken that dug up the new garden veggies 2 times running. If I had paused long enough to think about it, I might have left it in the cage to be bait for the raccoon. Could have taken care of two problems at once.

The raccoon has not yet been caught. We have five turkeys left for Thanksgiving... possibly. They are still so small we have them in the house and it's doubtful they will have enough size by November. We removed the massacre enclosure and are re-securing the chicken wire in the coop for a later release. Maybe they will be Christmas turkeys if they ultimately survive the chicken yard battle zone.

The lone survivor of the attack now has a name. We call her Tina Turner. She is a Polish Top Hat and shakes her head of feather hair as only Tina Turner could. So, drum roll please... Presenting...Tina Turner, a hell of a survivor. Let's just hope I haven't jinxed her here. Of course the raccoon will have to catch her first and none of us is quick enough to sneak up on her these days...I doubt even the raccoon!

Photo: Tina Turner as a Polish Top Hat chicken!

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2010 Scottie Jones

1 comment:

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

I'm so sorry, we've had our issues with raccoons too.