For those of you who think living the country life is filled with peace and tranquility — think again. There are definitely ups and downs wherever you live. My backyard is starting to resemble a battlefield as far as unwanted critters are concerned. I can say, with all sincerity, that there isn’t enough room for all of us.
When my chicks first arrived five weeks ago, I happened to notice two shiny eyes staring at me in the moonlight in a small grove of trees next to my chicken house. At first I thought it was a really big cat, now I know that I was dead wrong. After several sightings, I have discovered a masked crusader creeping into my yard at night and it’s definitely not Zorro. Unfortunately, I have a raccoon about the size of my dog eating berries from my mulberry trees.
I couldn’t care less what happens to my berries; however, I am more concerned about my 41 feathered friends a few feet away.
Over the last couple of days, I have heard countless horror stories about raccoons and other critters invading chicken houses. My parents’ neighbor recently lost all but two of her precious chickens to a weasel. I have also read several other accounts on the Internet, which have caused some sleepless nights and very real nightmares.
Around 10:30 p.m. Saturday, I decided to venture outside to see if my girls were all snug and safe in their coop and to close a window I had unfortunately left open inside their pen. I just had a feeling I needed to go out there. So, I grabbed my lantern and ventured out into the wild blue yonder called my backyard.
When I got to the chicken house, I had a feeling that I was not alone. When I turned around, I saw the biggest raccoon I had ever seen about 5 feet from where I was standing, sitting on its hind legs eating mulberries. I let loose a blood-curdling scream that made Janet Leigh’s shower-scene scream in “Psycho” look like nothing. I screamed, “Get the heck out of here!” so loud that my throat hurt. I swear people living within a 5-mile radius must have heard me.
After I strained all of my throat muscles, I ran back to the garage as fast as I could. I’m surprised my heart didn’t jump right out of my chest as hard as it was beating.
Thankfully, the coon left, but I knew I had to go back out to the coop to shut the window inside the pen. So after I composed myself to a degree, I ran back to the coop and shut myself inside the pen and hooked the window shut. I swear my knees were knocking together so bad you would have thought I was playing the bongo drums.
After this face-to-face encounter, I was too scared and too upset to go to bed. I decided to keep watch outside my computer room window just in case he decided to return. I kept watch until midnight.
In the meantime, I started chatting online with my neighbor’s daughter, Beth. I started asking her if they ever had coons try to get into their chicken house, but none had to her knowledge. She said I was doing the right thing by leaving a radio on at night since they don’t like the sound of human voices and leaving my backyard light on. She helped calm me down enough that I eventually crawled into bed and went to sleep.
In an effort to understand what I was up against, I started reading up on raccoons. To my dismay, they are very intelligent, clever creatures of the night and don’t get too discouraged when roadblocks are put in their way.
On Sunday, I started feeling very much like Kevin McCallister from “Home Alone” when he had to protect his home from burglars, Harry and Marv. His battle cry, “This is my house. I have to defend it,” struck a chord with me. My motto quickly became, “These are my chickens and I have to protect them.”
In 100-degree heat, I was swinging a hammer like Martha Stewart’s evil twin closing off open areas and securing the front door with a spring-loaded latch and padlock.
Since I had trouble attaching a lock to the other door, I simply decided to nail that sucker shut. My chicken house is probably as secure as the infamous Folsom Prison.
If you think I stopped after these measures, think again. I also bought solar flood lights to stake in front of the chicken house to light it up more. They are working well so far. If I have to buy 50 more to light the coop up like Wrigley Field, I will do it. I am even contemplating taking my dad’s chainsaw and cutting down the mulberry trees so the raccoon’s food supply is extinguished. Needless to say, if I could sit out in front of the coop all night I would probably feel a lot better.
As you can see, there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my girls. I am ready to do whatever it takes to protect them. I just have one thing to say to my masked crusader, “Bring it. You will wish you had never messed with me.”
Angie Bicker has been employed with the Clinton Herald since 2001. She can be reached at email@example.com.