Archive for July, 2017

The Whatever Happened To Rocky Raccoon VI? mystery is no longer a mystery.

It was two weeks ago that we realized our efforts to keep a chicken-killer out of the chicken yard had failed because the killer was a raccoon living somewhere in the coop.  Rather than try to hunt down a raccoon in tight quarters, we constructed a new coop in one day and moved the chickens.

I set a trap for the raccoon inside the chicken yard, but he just knocked it over without going inside.  So a couple of days later, I set two arm traps, the kind that snag a paw when the critter reaches in for food.  Nearly two weeks went by with no sign of Rocky.  There were also no signs that he burrowed his way out of what is now the Fort Knox of chicken coops.  I began wondering if we’d been dealing with a ninja raccoon all along.

Nope.  We went out yesterday to begin working on a new chicken yard, and there was Rocky VI, arm snagged in a trap.  He was also quite dead, so I’m guessing he finally went for the bait out of desperation and died soon after being caught.  I would have preferred to catch him in the big trap right away and dispatch him quickly with a shot to the head, but so it goes.  At least we know he won’t be coming back and attempting to break into the new coop.

The new coop is fine, but those chickens need a secure yard where they can run around, so we started that project yesterday.  The plan was to build the yard between the garden and the chicken yard where Rocky lived.

Any project that Chareva plans, you know there will be cattle panels involved.  The only two panels we hadn’t already used were inside the pen where the hogs once lived.  It’s reverted to a jungle, so I had to use the brush attachment on my weed whacker and hack a path to the panels.

As I’ve mentioned before, the previous owner left a lot of stuff behind, including some big ol’ dog pens.  We decided to use the last two sections of a dog pen for the fencing closest to the garden.

You can be sure I was quite careful when working with t-posts and the t-post hammer for this project.  One near-death experience while building chicken yards is quite enough.

Now that we’ve done this a few times, we have a better idea of what we want when building a chicken yard.  High on my list is keeping the net far above my head.

When building the other yards, I sunk poles into buckets of concrete and buried the buckets.  Later, doing that thing wives do where they come up with the easy solution after you’ve nearly killed yourself with effort, Chareva suggested we could just strap the poles to t-posts.

Son of a ….

Anyway, now that putting tall poles around the yard doesn’t involve concrete and lots of work with a shovel, we decided we’d strap one fence on top of another to create plenty of head room.  That way the net won’t have to drop to 48 inches above the ground.

Another lesson we learned from our previous efforts was to dig a trench.  That way we’re not trying to bend a fence over mounds and dips in the ground.

With the poles attached to t-posts and the trench dug, we strapped on two levels of fencing.

Like I said, it just wouldn’t be a Chareva construction project without a cattle-panel arch somewhere.   The door to the chicken yard (also made from a cattle panel) will close against the arch.  We’ll have to surround the fences and the doorway with heavy-duty chicken wire pegged into the ground to keep critters from trying to dig under.

When everything else was in place, we started stringing Paracord from pole to pole.

We still have to do some crisscrossing with more cord, but when we’re done, the 50 ft. x 50 ft. net should fit over the entire yard … although I have a feeling raising the net over the 10-foot poles and draping it over those cords will make for an interesting weekend experience.

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Boy, I was really hoping we wouldn’t be found out. But now that it’s out in the open, I guess it’s time to admit it: I’m a member of a cult. Dr. Steve Nissen, the nation’s statinator-in-chief, exposed the cult in a recent editorial. Here are some quotes from an article in CardioBrief:

A leading cardiologist has unleashed a blistering attack on “statin denial,” which he calls “an internet-driven cult with deadly consequences.”

In an editorial in Annals of Internal Medicine, Steve Nissen (Cleveland Clinic) expresses grave concerns over statistics showing that only 61% of people given a prescription for a statin were adherent at 3 months. “For a treatment with such well-documented morbidity and mortality benefits, these adherence rates are shockingly low. Why?” he asks.

Good question: why are so few people taking their life-saving statins? Since I’ve employed several Svengali-like deception and persuasion techniques in my posts, many of you who read this blog probably think people are avoiding statins because the drugs don’t work as well as the pharmaceutical companies want us to believe.  Or because the side-effects are worse than reported by pharmaceutical companies.  Or because statins damage muscles.  Or because there’s no evidence statins prevent heart attacks in women or the elderly.  Or because statins screw up people’s brains.

But Dr. Nissen (who by pure coincidence receives a ton of money from pharmaceutical companies) has figured out the real reason:

Nissen writes that “we are losing the battle for the hearts and minds of our patients to Web sites developed by people with little or no scientific expertise, who often pedal ‘natural’ or ‘drug-free’ remedies for elevated cholesterol levels.” The anti-statin forces employ two distinct strategies, “statin denial, the proposition that cholesterol is not related to heart disease, and statin fear, the notion that lowering serum cholesterol levels will cause serious adverse effects.” Nissen admits that some patients will have statin-related adverse effects but “intolerance in many patients undoubtedly represents the nocebo effect.”

That is, of course, what happened with my mom. The only reason she experienced awful muscle and joint pains while on statins is that she believed they might cause muscle and joint pains. Granted, she didn’t believe statins could cause muscle and joint pains until she complained to me about the pains and I asked if she was on statins. But that’s the power of cult-like thinking: it can go backwards in time and cause a nocebo effect.

Anyway, now that the cat’s out of the bag, I may as well tell you about the cult. To make the confession more convincing, I clipped some “signs and practices of cults” from the internet as headings.

Authoritarian leadership. Cult members are expected to completely submit to a leader who is seen as a prophet, apostle, or special individual with unusual connections to God.

Our authoritarian leader is, of course, Dr. Uffe Ranvskov. All of us who joined the cult have a 10-foot-tall picture of him somewhere in our houses or apartments. We’re required to bow to the picture six times per day while chanting “cholesterol does not cause heart disease.”

Dr. Malcolm Kendrick is our Maximum Leader’s … uh, I mean Dr. Ravnskov’s second-in-command. His picture is only six feet tall and we only have to bow to it on Sundays. However, we all know that any command Dr. Kendrick issues is coming directly from Dr. Ravnskov and should be treated as such.

Opposition to Independent Thinking. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.

I’m on the email list for THINCS (The International Network of Cholesterol Sceptics), and I can tell you there’s never any debate or discussion among the members. It’s just one email after another agreeing with whatever Dr. Ravnskov says.  This is, of course, exactly the opposite of what happens with doctors, who are constantly debating the risks and benefits of statins while attending seminars sponsored by Pfizer.

And I can attest to that bit about punishment. Remember when I told you all how I banged myself in the head with a t-post hammer while building a chicken yard? Well, that’s not what happened. I made the mistake of wondering aloud if perhaps statins were okay for some people. I was alone in the back pasture and didn’t think anyone was listening. But sure enough, I got a call from Dr. Ravnskov within the hour.

“Listen, doubter,” he told me. “Your brain clearly isn’t working correctly. I want you to go to the tool shed, grab a 16-pound steel hammer, and smack yourself in the skull with it. Do this, or be banished.”

Love Bombing. Cult members show great attention and love to a person to help transfer emotional dependence to the group.

After he ordered me to hit myself in the head with a hammer, Dr. Ravnskov had several cult members drop by and tell me how awesome I looked with a big wound on my head. Then we all played checkers and they let me win every game.  I never felt more loved.

Isolation. Subservience to the group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group.

I was hoping all those farm reports including pictures of Chareva and the girls would provide some cover. But the truth is, they left two years ago … perhaps because Chareva asked me why I’m always posting about the dangers of statins, and I offered to smack her in the head with a 16-pound steel hammer to help get her mind right.  Anyway, doesn’t matter.  Those pictures of us working on the farm together are all old.  I now live alone and dedicate all my time and energy to whatever Dr. Ravnskov asks of me.

Group Think. The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel.

Yes, that happens all the time in our cult. I don’t know how I feel about it because Dr. Ravnskov hasn’t told me yet.

Salvation. Members are often promised salvation from an apocalyptic future through association with the group and its Special Knowledge.

I can’t explain this one in great detail. I’ve only reached level nine in the cult, which means I haven’t been given all the details on the master plan. (To reach level 10, I have to start giving them 90% of my income instead of the current 75%.)

I do know, however, that the plan came to Dr. Ravnskov in the form of secret messages in Beatles songs. The gist of it is that if we convince everyone to stop taking statins, the current leaders in society will all die of heart attacks. With a leadership void created, the oppressed masses will rise up and kill all the oppressors and all the good doctors who prescribe statins. The cult members, of course, will be hiding out in the desert until it’s over. Then we’ll emerge from hiding, and the formerly oppressed people will welcome us as heroes and put us in charge. Then we’ll oppress them by refusing to let them take statins and other miracle drugs.

If for some reason the oppressed people decide instead to put themselves in charge and oppress us, we’ll all drink a special concoction of coconut oil and bacon fat, at which point a spaceship will pick us up and take us to another universe, where we’ll be placed on a planet with no human population, but an endless supply of eggs. Then our task will be to eat eggs and populate the planet.

I’m not sure how a planet without humans can be full of chickens to lay eggs, but like I said, I haven’t been given all the details.

Mind-Altering Practices. Meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, and debilitating work routines are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader.

I don’t know if we do this one or not. But I have to stop writing now. Dr. Ravnskov just called and told me to go out and mow the entire back of the property, then do it again tomorrow.

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In last week’s post, we saw how media shills for the Save The Grains Campaign have been warning us that if we ditch the grains, we’ll develop diabetes, fill up with mercury, then get sick and die. And lest we assume they’re being overly dramatic, they assure us these claims are backed up by research.

Well, it’s true … really lousy research in the form of weak observational studies. The SBC News article that flatly declared we need whole grains to avoid diseases and death, for example, cited this study as proof:

Methods

The study included 367,442 participants from the prospective NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study (enrolled in 1995 and followed through 2009). Participants with cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and self-reported end-stage renal disease at baseline were excluded.

Results

Over an average of 14 years of follow-up, a total of 46,067 deaths were documented. Consumption of whole grains were inversely associated with risk of all-cause mortality and death from cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, respiratory disease, infections, and other causes.

Same old garbage. Researchers send out food questionnaires over a period of years and follow up by examining medical records. Then they look for correlations – and by gosh, they tend to find exactly the correlations they were seeking.

Food questionnaires are notoriously unreliable. And even if people could accurately remember what they’ve eaten over a period of years, the correlations merely tell us that people who choose whole grains over white flour have better health outcomes.

Does that prove that whole grains are better than white flour? Not really. It could simply be that since whole grains have been declared health food, health-conscious people are more likely to consume them. Health-conscious people are different from I-don’t-give-a-@#$% people in all kinds of ways. Even the authors of the study acknowledged as much:

In our study cohort, both whole grains and cereal fiber were correlated with high levels of physical activity and better health status, as well as with low BMI, low levels of smoking, and low intakes of alcohol and red meat. However, our results were less likely due to the potential confounding of these factors because careful adjustment for these factors in our analyses did not significantly change the results. Nevertheless, we acknowledge that the positive associations may still be related to residual confounding of non-measured covariates.

Researchers can try to adjust for all the confounding variables, but it’s nearly impossible. Sure, you can try to balance out factors like smoking and alcohol consumption, but how do you know the I-don’t-give-a-@#$% people aren’t lying about how much they drink? Do the health-conscious people get more sleep, take more supplements, and generally have a better attitude on life that results in less stress? The researchers don’t know.

But let’s suppose for the sake of argument that the researchers really and truly teased out every possible confounding variable, and that people who eat whole-grains foods are really and truly healthier than people who eat white-flour foods. So what? That doesn’t in any way prove that whole grains prevent diseases.

To use my favorite analogy, if we compare people who smoke filtered cigarettes to people who smoke non-filtered cigarettes, the people who smoke filtered cigarettes will have lower rates of lung cancer. But only an idiot would look at those results and declare that filtered cigarettes prevent lung cancer, so people who don’t smoke at all are going to get lung cancer. That’s the logic of “whole grains prevent disease, so going grain-free will make you sick.”

Another Save The Grains Campaign article I didn’t mention last week was a hit piece on Pete Evans, the celebrity chef from Australia. (He visited the Fat Head farm in 2015.) The article was titled We Put Pete Evans’ Paleo Diet And Dairy Claims To A Clinical Dietitian. Here are some quotes:

“Pete Evans does an amazing job in his own field. But the concern is because he isn’t trained in any nutritional science, he doesn’t have the knowledge to be administering this kind of health advice. And a lot of it isn’t backed by evidence,” Accredited Practising Dietitian Melanie McGrice told The Huffington Post Australia.

Riiight. Because the standard-issue advice from dietitians is based on such rock-solid science, as we’ll see in a minute.

“I think there are some good aspects about the Paleo diet, for example its emphasis on fruits and vegetables, and cutting down on highly-processed and packaged foods. He supports these aspects,” McGrice said.

“But it falls down in its restriction of core food groups like grains and legumes. The latest research shows that grains and legumes are protective against conditions such as hypertension and other cardiovascular markers.”

Do dietitians ever ask themselves why grains are a “core food group”? Do they ever wonder how humans managed to thrive without the “core” food for 99% of our time on earth? Do they ever ask themselves if human health improved after we took up eating grains a mere 12,000 years ago? Apparently not.

As for the science, the quote from the Accredited Practising Dietitian had a link under the words latest research in the online article. So I followed the link. But before we go there, let’s review what the dietitian said:

“The latest research shows that grains and legumes are protective against conditions such as hypertension and other cardiovascular markers.”

So obviously the link will take us to a study demonstrating that grains and legumes – all of them – protect us against hypertension and cardiovascular markers. Now here are some quotes from the study:

Health claims regarding the cholesterol-lowering effect of soluble fiber from oat products, approved by food standards agencies worldwide, are based on a diet containing ≥3 g/d of oat β-glucan (OBG).

Yup, the study is about oat bran. That’s it. Not legumes, and certainly not all grains. Oat bran. And why is oat bran such wunnerful, wunnerful health food?

The objective was to quantify the effect of ≥3 g OBG/d on serum cholesterol concentrations in humans and investigate potential effect modifiers.

So it’s a study (actually a meta-analysis of studies) of oat bran’s effect on cholesterol levels. And by gosh, it turns out oat bran lowers cholesterol. The study lists the results in mml/l, but in terms of mg/dl (the units we use in the U.S.), oat bran lowers cholesterol by about 11 points.

Wowzers! If a food lowers cholesterol, it absolutely, positively MUST reduce heart disease, right?

Wrong. In the past couple of years, some embarrassing studies from the 1960s were “re-discovered.” In a study published in The Lancet, men who switched from animal fats to soybean oil experienced an average drop in cholesterol of 60 points. That’s a huge drop. And the result? Here it is:

The total number of men who had a major relapse at any time in the trial was 45 in the test group and 51 in the controls; of these major relapses 25 in each group were fatal. None of the differences found is significant.

A change in diet produces a big drop in cholesterol, but no reduction in heart attacks. So why the heck should we just assume a ten-point drop produced by oat bran will save us from heart attacks? Obviously we shouldn’t.

The “rediscovered” Sydney Diet Heart Study was even more embarrassing. The intervention group switched from animal fats to safflower oil. Their average cholesterol levels dropped by nearly 40 points. And here are the results:

The intervention group (n=221) had higher rates of death than controls (n=237) (all cause 17.6% v 11.8%, hazard ratio 1.62 (95% confidence interval 1.00 to 2.64), P=0.05; cardiovascular disease 17.2% v 11.0%, 1.70 (1.03 to 2.80), P=0.04; coronary heart disease 16.3% v 10.1%, 1.74 (1.04 to 2.92), P=0.04).

Big drop in cholesterol, but also a higher death rate – from all causes, including heart disease. Same thing happened in another “rediscovered” study that was conducted and then apparently buried by Ancel Keys.

So let’s follow the (ahem) “logic” of the hit piece on Pete Evans: he can’t be right because he tells people to avoid legumes and grains, and legumes and grains are good for you. We know this because of the latest research! … which consists of an analysis concluding that oat bran will lower your cholesterol. That means all legumes and grains must help to prevent heart disease, even though the effects of oats tell us nothing about the effects of other grains, and even though diets that produced a big drop in cholesterol in other studies also produced a higher death rate from heart disease.

Got that?

To summarize, the evidence presented by shills for the Save The Grains Campaign consists of 1) meaningless observational studies that compare the effects of whole grains to white flour (and therefore tell us nothing about the effects of ditching grains), and 2) one meta-analysis that tells us oats will reduce cholesterol, but in no way proves oats (much less other grains) will prevent heart attacks.

Now let’s look at an actual clinical trial – you know, the type of study that can tell us something useful. I like the opening of the abstract very much:

Recommendations for whole-grain (WG) intake are based on observational studies showing that higher WG consumption is associated with reduced CVD risk. No large-scale, randomised, controlled dietary intervention studies have investigated the effects on CVD risk markers of substituting WG in place of refined grains in the diets of non-WG consumers.

Perfect. They acknowledge that nearly all the studies purporting to demonstrate the wonders of whole grains are observational, then set up the central question: what if we have people who don’t normally consume whole grains start eating them? That eliminates the problem of comparing health-conscious to I-don’t-give-a-@#$% people.

The researchers divided the subjects into three groups: the control group continued their usual diet (i.e., a diet with almost no whole grains), a second group added 60 grams of whole grains for 16 weeks, and a third group switched to 60 grams of whole grains for eight weeks, then 120 grams of whole grains for another eight weeks. Then the researchers measured markers of cardiovascular risk, which they defined as:

BMI, percentage body fat, waist circumference; fasting plasma lipid profile, glucose and insulin; and indicators of inflammatory, coagulation, and endothelial function.

That’s a lot of markers. If whole grains are such wunnerful, wunnerful health foods, that third group must have rocked the house compared to the other groups. Here are the results:

Although reported WG intake was significantly increased among intervention groups, and demonstrated good participant compliance, there were no significant differences in any markers of CVD risk between groups.

Nothing. Epic fail. A big, fat zero. That’s after nearly four months of gobbling those heart-healthy whole grains. Perhaps to save their future funding, the researchers suggested that four months may not be long enough for whole grains to confer their magical health benefits.

Yeah, that’s one possible explanation. The other is that whole grains aren’t health food – no matter how hard the media shills for the Save The Grains Campaign want us to believe otherwise.

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During the time I was going a little batty trying to finish a version of the Fat Head Kids film, what I refer to as the Save The Grains Campaign was in full swing. I didn’t respond to any of the articles, but did save them for later. Let’s look at some of the horrors that will be visited upon us if we ditch bread and cereals, at least according to media shills for the Save The Grains Campaign.

Horror #1: You’ll die

No, seriously. If you don’t eat whole grains, you’ll get sick and die. That’s the warning from the opening of an article from SBS News in Australia:

Think avoiding all grains is healthier, helps you lose weight? Just like fruit and veggies, we need wholegrains to avoid disease and death.

Goodness. I stopped eating grains as anything other than a very occasional indulgence almost eight years ago. As a result, I also waved goodbye to arthritis, psoriasis, twitchy legs, frequent bellyaches, gastric reflux and a mild case of asthma. In fact, I’m pretty much never sick with anything. So now I’m wondering which disease caused by wholegrain deficiency is lurking under the surface, waiting to kill me.

To avoid dying, the article suggests eating more grains like Quinoa. But the writer offers other options as well:

But there’s no need to go fancy – brown rice, rolled oats, muesli and popcorn are wholegrains, too.

And later, after admitting that some people can’t tolerate gluten:

Those people can eat gluten-free wholegrains, such as rice, quinoa, corn and buckwheat.

Okay, then. You gluten-intolerant people still need grains to avoid dying from a grain-deficiency disease, so load up on the rice.

Horror #2: You’ll fill up with so much mercury, you’ll be able to measure the temperature outside by watching the mercury rise in your eyeballs.

I may have exaggerated it a bit, but here’s the warning against gluten-free diets from an article in Natural Blaze:

According to a new report in the journal Epidemiology, people who eat a gluten-free diet may actually be at higher risk for exposure to arsenic and mercury.

This is quite concerning considering the growing popularity of the gluten-free diet with a quarter of Americans having gone gluten-free in 2015. That was a 67% increase from 2013.

Just think when the global warming really kicks in and all that mercury starts rising. We may see gluten-free people’s heads explode in the South.

The cause for the increased risk for arsenic and mercury exposure, however, is not necessarily a result of the gluten-free diet itself.

Say what? You mean a lack of gluten in your diet doesn’t cause your body to fill with toxic metals? And here I was, thinking gluten must plug holes in our skin where mercury naturally seeps in from the atmosphere.

Instead, it appears to be due to the fact that many gluten-free products contain rice flour as a substitute for wheat. Rice has been known to bioaccumulate both arsenic and mercury, as well as other toxic heavy metals, from water, soil or fertilizers.

I see. So we need to eat grains to avoid dying, but some people can’t tolerate gluten and should get their death-preventing grains from rice … but the rice will fill them with mercury. Man, I’m starting to think maybe we’d be better off with no grains whatsoever in our diets. But that can’t be right, because …

Horror #3: You’ll develop Type 2 diabetes

Here are some quotes from a U.K. Telegraph article titled Is going gluten-free giving you diabetes?

Gluten-free diets adopted by growing numbers of health-conscious consumers enhance the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, scientists have warned.

A major study by Harvard University suggests that ingesting only small amounts of the protein, or avoiding it altogether, increases the danger of diabetes by as much as 13 per cent.

Wow. So in addition to plugging the holes in your skin where mercury seeps in, gluten somehow creates a protective shield against dangerous diabetes.

The findings are likely to horrify the rising number of people who are banishing gluten from their daily diet, encouraged by fashionable “clean eating” gurus such as Jasmine and Melissa Hemsley.

I have, in fact, noticed a lot of horrified expressions on faces in my area recently, but I figured it was because so many people are moving here from Illinois and California.

The Harvard team examined 30 years of medical data from nearly 200,000 patients. They found that most participants had a gluten intake of below 12g a day, which is roughly the equivalent to two or three slices of wholemeal bread.

Within this range, those eating the highest 20 per cent of gluten had a 13 per cent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared with those eating up to 4g a day. The study showed that those who eat less gluten also tended to eat less cereal fibre, a substance known to protect against diabetes.

Apparently Type 2 diabetes is like a virus that attacks and invades your body unless you have some kind of protection against it – protection that can only come from cereal fiber.

Boy, if only we could test that idea by comparing the before-and-after health status of humans who didn’t eat any grains at all, then started eating grains after being conquered by grain-eating people with better weapons. I’m sure the record would show that they were riddled with Type 2 diabetes until they were forced to become “civilized” and live on grains.

Unfortunately, the humans who didn’t live on gluten-containing grains quickly became extinct. I know this because …

Horror #4: Your babies will die

Here are some quotes from a U.K. Daily Mail article with the rather long title of Malnourished seven-month-old baby dies weighing just 9lbs in Belgium after his parents fed him a gluten-free diet which included quinoa milk.

A malnourished seven-month-old baby has died weighing just 9lbs after his parents fed him a gluten-free diet which included quinoa milk.

That’s horrible and I hope the parents are prosecuted. But since we were told earlier we need to eat grains like quinoa to avoid dying, I’m trying to figure out how the gluten-free aspect of the diet caused a baby to die.

The parents, who run a natural food store in their hometown, fed their child on a special milk diet.

According to their lawyer Karine Van Meirvenne the parents thought Lucas had an eating problem. Van Meirvenne said: ‘Lucas had an eating disorder. He got cramps when he was fed with a bottle and his parents tried out alternatives. Oat milk, rice milk, buckwheat milk, semolina milk, quinoa milk. All products which they also sell in their store.’

Gluten-free was the problem? I’ll bet you dollars to donuts (and you can keep the donuts) the parents had the baby on a vegan diet. Only a shill for the Save The Grains Campaign would blame a lack of gluten without asking if the parents are also vegans.

So there you have it. Eat your grains and your gluten, or you’ll develop diabetes, fill up with mercury, then get sick and die. Oh, and your kids will die too.

This is, of course, complete nonsense. But the shills for the Save The Grains Campaign assure us there’s just scads and scads of evidence that whole grains prevent disease. We’ll look at some of that evidence in an upcoming post.

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Here’s the brief version of the latest chapter in the chicken-killer story:

#$%@ing @#$% *&@#$% @#$$#@!!

Glad I got that off my chest. Now for the longer version.

My theory about a weasel turned out to be tragically (for the chickens) wrong. We spent Friday afternoon closing gaps around the door into the chicken yard, but still had a dead chicken on Saturday. So I figured it had to be a weasel or some similar critter that can squeeze through 2 x 4 inch openings in the fencing. We spent Saturday covering those openings with chicken wire. I also set a trap outside the fences, figuring the weasel would find he couldn’t get into the chicken yard and go for the bait.

I went out Sunday morning to check. Nothing in the trap. Well, okay, maybe Mr. Weasel finally gave up.

Then I went into the coop and found another dead chicken. (For those of you keeping score at home, that means we’ve lost more than 30 chickens in the past few months.  The entire older flock disappeared first.)

Okay, I said to myself, there’s no way some critter burrowed into this Fort Knox chicken yard without leaving evidence of the break-in, so what the …?

After I finished sharing my expansive vocabulary with the nearby trees and wildlife, I remembered some bank-heist movie I saw years ago. The cops were going batty trying to figure out how a master thief had escaped the bank. They couldn’t find the route. The punchline was that he’d never left. He was simply hiding inside the bank and waiting for the investigators to give up and leave.

Son of a …. we’ve been trying to keep a critter out, but the critter is already in. It probably burrowed its way under one of the wooden pallets in the coop and set up living quarters.

Fortunately, I’d finally had the good sense to put my trail cam inside the coop on Saturday.  Sure enough, I got some mug shots:

Not a weasel.  Another @#$%ing raccoon.  Now it all made sense. I was mystified as to why the electric fence surrounding the coop wasn’t discouraging the chicken-killer. The fence hadn’t been disturbed, so I had visions of a critter either squeezing through and taking the shocks or jumping over it.

Nope. The critter didn’t care about the electric fence because he was already inside the coop, living in a basement apartment and coming up at night for water, chicken feed for an appetizer, and a fresh chicken for the main course — all provided free of charge by us. It also explains why the predator never wandered into my trap, which I’d set outside the electric fence. His dinners were inside the electric fence, and so was he.

I imagined two scenarios if we lifted the pallets and exposed Rocky Raccoon’s den: 1) he attempts to run to the fence and dig his way out while I blow him apart with a shotgun, or 2) he charges and attempts to bite me while I try to blow him apart with a shotgun without blowing my own foot off with a shotgun.

Being the sensible sort, Chareva suggested a third option. She’s been planning to move the surviving chickens to fresh ground anyway.  She pointed out that to avoid an up-close-and-personal showdown with the raccoon, all we’d have to do is build the new chicken coop in one day and move the chickens. Nothing to it.

So that was our Sunday. We’ll eventually want a whole new chicken yard, complete with nets overhead, so we stocked up on materials at Tractor Supply and Home Depot. We plan to double the height of the fences this time and string the nets 10 feet over our heads.

But that’s later. Sunday’s goal was to build a secure coop. Fortunately, the shell was already in place. Back in the spring, Chareva had created an arch with cattle panels as a trellis for green beans. She intended all along for that arch to be converted to a new coop.

The gaps in a cattle panel are too big to keep out predators, so the first task (after pulling down the beans) was to cover the entire structure with 1 x 2 inch fencing.

Then we covered the whole thing with a tarp.

When we do get around to building a new chicken-yard, it will have a door. In the meantime, we had to rig one for the coop itself. It’s not easy to see in the photo below, but Chareva also staked down some fencing in front of the coop to discourage predators from burrowing under the door.

I cut 2 x 4 planks and attached braces on the ends for roosting perches. With that done, the last task was to move the chickens out of the yard that now features a basement apartment occupied by a nasty tenant. Since the electric fence is portable, we positioned it between the chicken yard and new coop and let the chickens wander, then moved the fence closer and closer to the new coop.

I counted the surviving chickens. There are only nine, which means we lost 15 from that flock. Good grief.

Thanks to all the reinforcing of the chicken yard, Rocky Raccoon VI is probably locked in there now. With the chicken dinners gone, he’s bound to get hungry in the next day or two. So I set out what I hope is his last meal – a can of cat food in the trap, with no electric fence to discourage him from going for the bait.

 

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One chicken-killer down (the raccoon we trapped last week), but still one to go. After Rocky Raccoon V was sent to raccoon heaven, we lost three more chickens, but all were eaten from the middle. Raccoons typically tear the head off and eat some breast meat, then leave the rest.

Last week we closed the window we accidentally left open – the 4 x 5 inch openings in a gate – so whatever is getting in there now, it’s a small critter. Based on comments from readers and some online research, the best guess is a weasel. I wondered why a weasel would need to eat so many chickens, but then read online that weasels can’t store much body fat and therefore need to eat nearly half their body weight per day. Yup, that would make a critter hungry for a constant supply of chicken dinners.

The most obvious entry point for a small predator was the gap around the door Chareva uses to enter the chicken yard. So on Friday, we closed those gaps with some additional wire. I was of course hoping that did the trick.

Nope.

Last night one of our Rottweilers jumped the fence (she does that now and then) and ran off barking in the direction of the chicken yards. When she announced her presence at the front door of the house later, she smelled a bit like skunk. Being an incurable optimist, I figured perhaps our predator was a skunk and it had wandered into my newer, bigger trap. Perhaps the dog got too close to the trapped skunk and was hit by a bit of spray.

Wrong again. The dog probably was reacting to a chicken-killer, but there was nothing in the trap this morning, and Chareva found another dead chicken in the coop. When I read online that weasels 1) are small and 2) can release stink bombs that smell like skunk, I became more convinced it’s a weasel that’s still killing our chickens.

So we spent a good part of today turning the chicken yard into a poultry version of Fort Knox. The fencing on the uphill side of the chicken yard came from a big dog pen the previous owner left behind. The gaps are 2 x 4 inches – again, enough to keep out raccoons, but perhaps big enough to let in a weasel. So we had to cover that entire fence with chicken wire. We also went around and attached chicken wire everywhere there was a gap more of more than two inches.

Man, I hope this works. Just a few weeks ago, there were 24 chickens in that flock – and that’s after the older flock disappeared, mind you. Now it’s down to 14. I put my trail camera inside the coop, but I hope all it captures is chickens sleeping peacefully.

If not, I may be sitting in my car out by the coop at night with a .22 rifle on my lap.

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