The Farm Report: The Chicken-Killer Is Gone … We Hope

We’ve lost five more chickens since my post a week ago. Chareva checked the fences and the nets. I checked the fences and the nets. We can’t for the life of us figure out how a critter was able to get in.

I still want to know, but we’re hoping it’s a moot point, at least for now.  Two suspects in the Chicken Mass Murder of 2019 are now gone.

We spent Thursday through Saturday in Atlanta to take a tour of Georgia Tech, which is high on Sara’s list of possible choices for college. Chareva’s younger brother took care of the chickens while we were gone and reported three more dead. Damnit.

In case you’re wondering, yes, I have a trail cam.  I set it facing the chicken yard earlier last week, but apparently didn’t set it for night vision. All the pictures were of the chickens enjoying the daylight.

We returned from our Atlanta trip early Saturday evening.  We found this critter in the trap I’d set:

Yes, possums kill chickens, but I had my doubts this was our predator. I’d set the trap almost every night for more than a week. Whatever was killing the chickens wasn’t interested in the bait. Seemed a bit unlikely a chicken-killer would suddenly develop a change in dinner preferences. Of course, I sent the possum to possum heaven just in case.

My suspicions that the predator was still at large were confirmed when Chareva found another dead chicken this morning. I uttered a string of ancient curses known only to small-time farmers and looked up how to set the night vision on the trail cam.

This afternoon, Chareva and the girls went out for a bit of shopping and other errands. When they came home, Alana ran upstairs to inform me they’d spotted a raccoon hiding under my car. Yikes. If a raccoon is out and about during daylight hours, there’s a strong possibility it has rabies.

I grabbed my trusty Ruger, went outside and squatted down on the driveway, drawing a bead on the raccoon’s head and making sure I wasn’t at an angle where I’d hit a back tire if I missed. Chareva flipped open an upstairs window and suggested that shooting anything under my car was asking for trouble … like, say, a ricochet that hits a pipe. (Those weren’t her exact words, but you get the idea. The word dumbass was definitely not used as far as I recall.) She offered to drive the car forward to expose the raccoon.

Okay, I said, but he’s going to run.

And run he did. As soon as his cover moved away, he took off. Fortunately, he ran directly away from me, so I didn’t have to swing the rifle side to side. I put the red dot from my scope on his butt and hit him with the first shot.

He ran into some underbrush, but I figured he was making a beeline for the forest and correctly guessed he was about to run up against a fence. I hustled over there and saw he was already struggling to climb the fence. I put him out of his misery.

So Rocky Racoon IX may have been our chicken-killer. But I’m putting the trail cam out tonight anyway. If we lose any more chickens, I’d sure as heck like to identify the killer.

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24 thoughts on “The Farm Report: The Chicken-Killer Is Gone … We Hope

  1. Renee

    I thought Possums were beneficial and eat ticks and garbage? They also get into rat nests and eat the babies. I would love to have one in our neighborhood.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      They kill and eat chickens as well, but my money is on the raccoon for the latest killing spree.

      Reply
  2. Don

    We have five acres that abut woods, probably similar to your property. We have about 40 free range chickens and twenty ducks, and we rarely lose one. We have a half-lab, half-golden retriever that would never think of running off. She would show robbers where our valuables are but she runs off any animals who try to eat our birds. Maybe you need a dog, but a different breed. The birds would never leave the property either. Once the original flock knows where the boundaries are, new birds can be added and they will stay. I think that’s where all the chicken crossing the road jokes come from because they just won’t do it. People are amazed when they see our chickens just pecking around the yard and always ask if they run off. Plus, when you pen up your chickens they’re sitting ducks for predators. I’ve seen our chickens roosting thirty feet high in a pine tree. Given the chance they can avoid predators just like they do in the wild. Just some food for thought.

    Reply
  3. Firebird7479

    Did you search through the “Beverly Hillbillies” catalog to find Granny’s recipe for Possum Stew?

    Reply
  4. Don

    I have a book entitled Camp Cookery that was written in 1919. It has everything from skinning and processing a grizzly bear to, yes, possums. They were considered good eating, but only if taken during the winter. Maybe I’ll post the procedures for cleaning and the recipe some day. I’ve never tried them personally. Grizzly neither!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I’d eat a possum if I were starving, but otherwise I’d prefer not to touch something so butt-ugly.

      Reply
  5. Dianne

    Did you have Rocky IX’s remains checked for rabies? State/county health officials like to know about the presence of rabies in an area, and most will arrange for the testing.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Nope, didn’t think of that. Any predator I have to kill, I toss the carcass in the nearby forest. They’re usually gone soon after.

      Reply
  6. Kathy in OK

    There was a time when all I knew about raccoons was something like “they sure are cute”.

    Then we moved. To 100’s of trees, and really bad roads, and a variety of wildlife like I had never experienced. Raccoons, possums, foxes, snakes of all kinds (including copperheads), deer (so sweet until you realize they are covered in ticks) and a distant neighbor took a picture of a mountain lion from her deck.

    Now, raccoons are like ants and roaches. A nuisance and almost impossible to get rid of. About the time you think you’ve seen the last of one and relax a bit, suddenly he’s back. Dammit!

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yeah, they’re cute in Disney movies. In real life, they’re vicious little predators.

      Reply
  7. Nicola Liddicoat

    We have foxes but not racoons here in the UK, still and all dogs will catch and kill predators as we have no boundaries on our land. We have 3 dogs, all of whom know exactly where the boundary line is without a fence, and will guard the chickens and sheep. My mantra is if your dog is not actively employed by you he/she will find their own job, so even if my job for them is to lie down in their beds that is their job until I give them another one like, let’s go for a walk. I never lose eyesight of all 3 of my dogs, that would be like not knowing where 3 of my very young children were.

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I wish our dogs had learned about the boundaries of our property. Probably something we should have taught them as pups. When they got loose, they’d wander for miles.

      Reply
  8. Namu

    It’s good practice to mind your backdrop before shooting, yeah. I think it’s one of several ‘first rule of shooting’, even. Did you figure out how Rocky the Ninth was getting inside the chicken pen ?

    Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Nope. But we haven’t lost any chickens since his demise. I hope that means the guilty party is gone.

      Reply
    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Nothing offensive. I had insomnia two nights in a row and didn’t bother checking the blog yesterday in my walking-dead state of mind.

      Reply

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