This has been a rough couple of weeks for my flock. Five dead chickens over the course of four incidents involving raccoons and possibly a possum.
I’ll admit I’ve been very lax with my chickens as far as security. I’ll leave coop doors open and the chickens come and go as they please. We have a privacy fence which probably provides some level of security, or at least makes it harder for predators to realize what’s behind the fence. I also felt that the presence of my dogs and their scent kept the bad guys away just because in over a year we never had any problems or evidence of possums or raccoons.
One morning I came outside to see one of our silkies alone. I thought this was odd because usually our two silkies were always together or at least not far away. As I walked closer to their coop I noticed clumps of feathers…and eventually a trail of feathers leading to the corner of the yard. Fuck. My first chicken casualty.
We started taking some precautions like actually putting them in the coop at night. We got a little more relaxed with it after a few days…
Then one morning I woke up at 4 to let the dogs out. I noticed the chickens were up, which was kind of strange. I went back to bed and then woke up a few hours later…
The yard was covered in chicken feathers again…and this time I could see that it was black feathers and red. I tried to count the living chickens and figure out which ones were killed. Much to my dismay, my favorite chicken Peckerhead was the one who got it…and another one that was very personable.
To be honest, I didn’t care about the first silkie much. I felt bad that one died, but these two stung a little bit.
Then immediately after sundown two days later the raccoon came and snatched up another one of my year old layers before we could put them away. So we’re up to four….
We asked around and borrowed a raccoon trap. Raccoons are easy enough to trap, but what do I do with it if I catch one?
Well, I live in the city limits so shooting it is out of the question…although there’s been a rash of shootings nearby lately and there’s plausible deniability that it wasn’t me. You can’t just let them go because they’ll come right back. If you take them far away and let them go, it’s not always a good outcome for the raccoon. They don’t know their way around, they can spread diseases and they’ll be competing with other raccoons that are already established…and they’ll be someone elses problem too.
So we set the trap over the course of a few nights with tuna, sardines and octopus (yeah, I had a few cans stashed away. Don’t ask)…. No bites.
Then around 4 on Saturday morning I let my dogs out and they go apeshit – there’s something in the trap! I pull the dogs off and get them back inside so they don’t continue to wake up the neighbors, who surely have noticed that something was awry.
There he (or she?) is…. she looked small as she cowered to the floor of the cage when I walked out to her. I sat there and we looked at each other for about twenty seconds. Then I went back inside…
Like most people would do these days, I googled “how to kill a raccoon”. I figured it would be cruel to try to shoot it multiple times in the head with a bb gun (and the dreaded eye shot) to kill it. I also thought about beating it with a shovel or an axe. Or a bat. Or maybe I can poison it with something and it’ll die immediately?
Then there was a time issue… we had to get up and go at 7am, so there wasn’t a whole lot of time to work with. I ended up laying in bed for another hour before the alarm went off looking at my phone and pondering this raccoons’ fate.
I finally decided on my course of action…something I read in a backyard chicken forum…
Death by carbon monoxide poisoning.
Sounds outlandish. Sounds a little…bizarre. But after thinking it over it sounded like the most efficient, quiet and humane way to do this. So I got a giant hefty sack and some duct tape and went out to get the raccoon.
I drug him to the front yard, a little spooked that he could claw or bite at me through the cage. I placed him down in front of Mary’s car’s muffler and carefully placed the trap inside a hefty bag.
I was really happy to do this before all the neighbors woke up and wondered what I was doing. I figured this is something someone might “get alarmed” and call the police or something.
I duct taped the bag to the muffler, which is more difficult than it sounds. It took a few tries to get it on right. I had to start the car, mutter “shit” to myself and tape it back on a couple of times. Finally I got it on and started the car up.
I heard a little bit of grunting and some shuffling around of the tin cans inside the trap. After a couple minutes I heard nothing. I went inside and ate breakfast.
Twenty minutes later I went back out and kicked the cage. No sign of life. I pulled it off the exhaust and drug it near the trash can. Then we went about our day.
I’ve always considered myself something of an animal lover…and it’s been a very, very long time since I’ve killed anything. Well, besides nuisance insects and a mouse.
I felt it was justified, although it’s hard to look at a creature with some admirable qualities that is completely at your mercy and make the decision to kill it…and carry it out. Whenever I felt bad, I just thought of poor Peckerhead and how she was torn to shreds by this raccoon (or one of his brethren)
Unceremoniously later in the afternoon, I transferred the dead raccoon into another trash bag and threw it in the trash. Pickup day can’t come soon enough…
Even though we though we “got ’em”, we still locked up the chickens that night…and then the next night one of them lifted open the egg box and snatched the other silkie. Fuckers.
So we have a predator problem, and it’s either going to be my flock or these raccoons. If you say you shouldn’t kill unless it’s for food, every day I’m more or less out three eggs from the three layers that were killed. That adds up to something, doesn’t it?
Anyways, I will remain vigilant and should I catch another raccoon, I’ll hope that I can get to it early enough to dispatch it before the neighbors wake up and get concerned about what I’m doing.