Friday, July 13

"Yes, those are raccoons."

Two nights ago at nearly dark, I went out to close the coop door on the main building and raise the ramp in the tractor to secure the young chicks for the night.

Main building, no problem. All hens roosting comfortably.

As I approached the chicken tractor I head a rustling on tree branches and a sort of chittering squeak. Since I did not have a flashlight with me I wasn't taking any chances and I went back to the house to get Roy's big black and rather heavy flashlight from the coat closet. I wanted to see what I was up against and if necessary, have something with which to defend myself.

I walked back out to the tractor shining the beam of light around on the ground and then on the tractor itself. The chicks all seemed to be inside the nest box but there were a pair of bright beady little yes glowing at me from the ground inside the tractor.

An adolescent raccoon had made his way inside the tractor and was munching away on the chicken food that he had spilled from the overturned feeder. He made no move to run as I advanced towards him and kept on eating. Then I noticed a second raccoon, just the same size as the first, perched on top of on e of the heavy pieces of fencing outside the tractor. He didn't move either as I jogged back to the house to get Roy. Knowing that these small raccoons were the ones causing all the trouble of the past week, with the tractor anyway, was a relief. I had been dreading that it was the fox coming back. Now I was so happy it was not the fox that I was excited about the fact that there were two cute little fuzzy coons hanging around the tractor.

My Aunt and Uncle had four pet raccoons that they raised from babies. They lived in the house and were for the most part like very large house cats. I could see, looking at these two little guys, the appeal of having one curl up on your lap on a cold January evening.


Aunt Sandy with one of their pet raccoons.
I got Roy outside and he was not excited, not annoyed, but mostly complacent. "Yes, those are raccoons."

I had him hold the flashlight while I advanced toward the tractor thinking they would run as I got closer and i could retrieve the spilled feeder and secure the ramp for the night. But they didn't budge. I had no desire to get bitten so I just stood there wondering what to do next in my raccoon showdown.

It was then that I noticed a third little guy who had managed to get himself stuck in between the netting and one of the walls of the nest box. He had squished himself as flat as a pancake with little feet and claws digging into the wood. Luckily the netting had some give to it and Roy was able to show him the way out with some gentle prodding with one of my wooden garden stakes.

The problem soon became evident that we now had three not very scared raccoons hanging about the chicken tractor in the dark. We manged to get two of them to scoot into the tall grass with a little noise and flashlight waving but the third had jumped down from the heavy fencing and sat in the grass staring at me as I reached in and grabbed the feeder. I could see the hold where they had destroyed the netting and gained entry. I forgot about closing the ramp knowing that the raccoons would not bother the chickens and we said goodnight to all involved and went back to the house.

Yesterday afternoon the baby and I purchased a roll of 4' chicken wire and a box of staples for my staple gun. The mash netting was going to be replaced with chicken wire even though I do not like working with it. I always end up with scrapes and cuts and uneven edges in the finished product, but at this point wire was needed and chicken wire was the option in our overextended chicken care budget.

After Roy arrived home from work yesterday and dinner was done, I got on my work clothes and prepared to do battle with the unruly chicken wire. I was not going to go one more night with intrusions and food stealing.

I measured each section of the tractor so I could make all the cuts beforehand and have each piece ready. I was going to have to remove some of the sections of netting from the inside before I installed the chicken wire on the outside of the frame. It is a long story as to why I had to do this, mostly due to my late addition of a nest box after I had attached the netting in the first place.

I was able to get two sides of the wire installed and things were going a little easier than I had anticipated. The heat and humidity were not as bad as they had been during the day but I was still sweating up a storm. I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to get very dirty and just let it happen.

Half way through the project I got three spectators - Roy, the little man and the baby came out to watch and offer helpful suggestions.

Just before dark while being bitten by mosquitoes I drove the last staple home and called it a night. Try to claw through that you disrespectful young raccoons!!

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