We've had an interesting 24 hours here. Last night, we decided to treat ourselves to a night out since we didn't get to have our vacation. It was finally a nice, sunny day, so I left the sliding front door to the barn open when we went to dinner, hoping to let things air out a little since everything was feeling so damp. We got home after dark, and when I went to shut the chickens in for the night, I found their can of scratch dumped over in the barn. I figured a raccoon had been opportunistic and helped himself to a nice snack. I went on with chores/night check, and swung through the barn one more time to be sure nothing was hiding in any stalls. There was something moving around in the woods next to the barn that sounded big enough, and when I pointed my headlamp in that direction I saw eyes staring back at me, but again, figured our raccoon friend was hanging out. I shut the sliding door tight and headed to bed.
My husband woke me up this morning after he had been out with the dog to tell me that "something had pulled the barn door off its hinges during the night," which sounded nearly impossible as that door is a super solid, old school wooden door on a slider track that I can barely move
But sure enough, I got out there and the door was off its track with a huge gash where our "raccoon" had wrenched it open. The can of scratch and chicken food was dumped again, but for the mess that was made inside the barn, there really wasn't much food actually eaten- but the sunflower seeds in the scratch bucket seemed to have been painstakingly removed while the cracked corn was left behind.
The more we talked about it, the more we concluded that the neighborhood bear had finally come to visit us. My neighbor has been asking me since we moved in if I've seen it, because she sees it all the time near her barn, and I haven't. I still can't prove
this was done by a bear, but I don't really want to meet the raccoon that can do that ^^ to solid wood!
We decided not to mess around and swung by the farm store to get a few things to hot wire the door. As soon as the word "bear" was mentioned, I swear every male employee in the store wanted to come talk to us about how to handle it
. I did appreciate the young guy who actually helped us come up with a plan...as enthusiastic as he was about "zapping that bast**d," he did give us some useful advice on picking out a powerful charger and high tensile wire that was easy to rig up. It's hard to see here, but basically we hot wired the full door and ran it in a "<" over to that little bracket under the window on the left, hopefully cutting off the point of entry. We shall see what happens tonight!
In the midst of rigging this up, we let the chickens out to get some free ranging time. To my horror, while I was working on cleaning up inside the barn and my husband was at the front door, we heard the chickens go nuts in the woods to the left of the barn. They couldn't have been more than 15 feet from my husband, and he ran over there just in time to see a fox swooping in on them and grabbing one of the chickens. He screamed and ran towards it, chickens and feathers flew everywhere, and he was pretty sure he saw the fox take off empty handed. In a few minutes, we seemed to have them all rounded up...but only counted 9. We have 10. The one missing matched the pile of feathers left behind in the woods. I was just dejected. I know a lot of people won't understand being attached to "just chickens," but these ladies are pets more than anything to me. I've had this particular flock for years and it's been years since I've lost one to a predator. I just couldn't believe that with both of us standing RIGHT THERE, it was possible for one to get picked off
I walked through the woods for about an hour, calling for her and shaking the cup of scratch that usually gets them to come running, but nothing. My husband was adamant the fox left without one, so there was a chance she was just hiding out somewhere, but the trail of feathers seemed to go in the direction the fox went, and it seemed pretty hopeless. After about an hour, I just sat down and cried a bit more, and then pulled myself back together. What a week. We finished the wire job, and I went on to do chores with the horses. I came back up to the house, now about 4 hours after the fox, and just sat down on a bench in our mudroom, feeling sad but trying to compose myself.
YOU KNOW WHERE THIS IS GOING....
BOK BOK BOK BOK BOK BOK BOK
I couldn't believe it was possible, but I looked out the door, and against all odds, there was my little Dottie, looking impossibly tiny and vulnerable but amazingly all in one piece- and chatting up a storm.
I managed to get her herded back into the run with the other chickens, and felt an incredible sense of relief. I can't think of much better than ending the day with 10 little chickens getting ready to roost!