"The real winners in life are people who look at every situation with an expectation that they can make it work or make it better." - Barbara Pletcher

Monday, September 17, 2012

Science Class

Adventures With Backyard Wildlife...

We built our chicken run knowing it wouldn't keep out anything really motivated to eat our birds.  Chicken wire is really not meant to protect the hens from predators, it's just to keep them from running loose while they exercise during the day.  The original plan was to close up the coop (which was built to keep everything out) after they went to "bed" for the night...but that hasn't turned out to be super practical.  We aren't always home right at dusk, it's been really hot and I feel like they need the door open to increase the airflow in there, um...we forget...  Nevertheless, it hasn't been an issue at all.  We've got neighbors' cats and dogs in our yard every single day and night, and haven't had any problems. 

Then, Wednesday night last week in the middle of the night in the rain my handsome husband and I found ourselves saving our extremely agitated and quite ungrateful hens from a 'possum.  It had chewed right through the chicken wire, just like everyone on the entire Internet had said it likely would.  How DARE anything try to eat those chickens!!!  I would not make a good farmer.  I feel personally offended about this recent attempt on my hens' lives.

The next night, it came back.  This time we were ready.  Suckahhhh.

In case you ever need it, a tutorial:

Step 1: Trap. In Lincoln, people are permitted to use their own humane traps, or rent one from the city for $10 (plus a $30 refundable deposit).

Step 2: Relocate. Again, in Lincoln you're allowed to do this on your own, or Animal Control will pick up trapped animals for a $40 fee. They will not catch the animals for you; they must already be caged.  The general "rule" is the animal must be a threat to humans or destroying personal property. Chewing through fencing is considered destructive. ;)

If you're home with 7 kids and aren't sure how you're going to get the cage from your deck to your van without causing a scene in front of the Chimney Sweep you forgot was coming, maybe your cousin will happen to stop by and offer to help you!  Thanks again, Tam-Tam! 

Step 3: Release.

Having a brother-in-law who lives in the country and who needs clothes mended is really handy in this situation.  Yes, please allow me to replace a button for you as long as I don't have to touch that thing.

Pretty interesting to watch it "come to" after "playing 'possum".  It looked fairly scary with it's mouth frozen open (for the love of the land, those teeth!!!) but moved in slow-motion, like a very rusty robot.  It finally picked up a little speed and eventually walked normally toward the trees.  We are excited to do some more research on these (ugly) creatures!

Trenton and Rowen, always so helpful ;)

Step 4: Repeat.  This is not going to be the "solution" to our problem, because we'd be doing this every night until Jesus returns.  In three consecutive nights we caught two opossums and a skunk.  That's right, a skunk.  Mitch earned double punches on his man card for handling that situation before 8am on Sunday morning. 

We spent Sunday afternoon making some adjustments to our enclosure, and took the opportunity to clean everything out and set up lights and heat lamps for winter.  The days are getting shorter, and hens need 12-14 hours of light to keep up egg production.  They'll also need some heat when the nights get super cold (below zero).

After a week of hen drama, hassle and more money spent on these birds, it was soooooooo fun to find our very first EGG Sunday afternoon while we were cleaning the coop!!  Rugger spotted it first, and dug it out.  What a big moment, after months of hard work keeping those chickens fed and watered, clean and dry, and alive.  This was definitely a lesson in patience and delayed gratification for all of us ;)

The egg was large with a nice thick shell, and a nice big bright yellow yolk.  Hooray!  They're really doing it!  :)

Until the newness of eggs wears off, I will be looking forward to children who are eager to do chicken chores ;)  That should last, what, a week?  At least!!!