Mayhem on the Farm

Monday morning before sunup I looked out to see that a doe had slept in my yard for the night. I love the idea that they feel safe here, beneath the “Fairy Crossing” sign.
Panoramic view of my pretty yard, with the pond on the left and house on the right.
Another panorama, of just the pond.

Some days it’s just another day. And some days everything happens at once. They say when it rains it pours, but while in early May that rainy idiom is typically applicable in my town of Rainier, Oregon, Monday was unseasonably sunny and warm.

After I took photos of the deer on Monday morning, I put on some boots and clogged out to the chicken house. I saw a pile of red feathers inside the pen and gasped “No!” But it was true. I lost my favourite chicken, Tawny. Ugh. I cannot figure out what’s happening. I thought it was a raccoon, because I’ve known them to attack and kill ducks before. But I had circled the pen and blocked every entrance point big enough for a raccoon. Now I think it’s rats. Rats come into the chicken house all the time to eat their food. Periodically I have to poison them to reduce their population. Before moving here I did not know that so many rats live in the forest. I never had to deal with rats in any city I ever lived in, but out here in the woods, rats are as common as mosquitos. Do rats kill without eating their prey? Why? Why does something keep killing my hens and just leaving their bodies? It doesn’t make any sense to me.

I frequently spotted Tawny under the birdfeeder in front of my office window, as she is here last weekend.
There’s my girls on Sunday. Tawny and Jamie, the only two I had left until Monday, because something is killing them.
See that gap under the door into the chicken pen? I thought raccoons were getting in, so I blocked it with large rocks.

I am so sad to lose Tawny. She was my sassiest Hussy, a Rhode Island Red. She was bold and pecked me without reserve, but not maliciously, just to get attention, or to tell me they’re out of food. She would always come running to me when she spotted me, and hovered inches from my legs at all times, and would let me pick her up, or just pet her soft feathers. She’s the one that always broke out of her pen to go directly to my flower beds and begin tearing them up. It would have been more of a problem except that the way to catch her was merely to call “Hey pretty girl!” and she’d come running right to me and I’d scoop her up and take her back to the pen. She laid ginormous dark brown eggs.

Ohh, my girl. I am so sorry I couldn’t protect you.

I’m also worried that I won’t be able to protect my Lil’ Hussies when they grow up and move into that pen, until I can solve the mystery of what is killing them. I am so frustrated.

Just as I finished disposing of Tawny’s body, the bee people showed up. It’s time for bees again! I host them on my property every summer and fall, and get paid in honey.

Bees moved this year to a different place on my property so that they get more hours of sunlight.
Foklift moves hives from the truck to the grass.
The new bee colony at the very back of my property.
Ooooh! Look at them all buzzing around and getting their new home in order. Click the image for a larger version and you can see them.

I went back into the house to my office to do some computer work planning for my upcoming trip to New England, and spotted two more visitors. Hello? Were you two invited?

Squirrel discovered the bird seed. I am used to a tiny grey squirrel and a tiny black squirrel I call the Squirrel Ninja. This one is big and has probably been eating the bird seed at someone else’s house too.
And then right before my eyes, the neighbor cat came hurtling into the garden and up the tree, after the hummingbirds. You could film an episode of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom at my house. (Ooops, did I just expose my age again?)

Then it was time to clean all the rat caches out of the chicken house, and block all their nasty holes and entrances. The caches are cubby holes they pack full of stuff they want to keep. This time it was pineapple tops I had thrown in there, straw, chicken food, and naturally, rat poop. Then I fed them poison because I needed to do something for my broken heart.

For good measure, I then grabbed my poisoned worms that had recently arrived in the mail, and baited 20 mole holes, those little bastards.

Moles were tearing up my yard all winter.

And that reminded me to poison fleas. So I grabbed Racecar and dosed her in flea killing oil. Once a month I dab it on the back of her neck to keep the fleas away. She hunts chipmunks and birds and mice so she collects new fleas from her prey. In answer to your question: No, no she does not hunt forest rats.

It makes me shudder to think of all those toxic chemicals I just put into the world on Monday, but I was mad. And also….I haven’t found anything effective that eliminates these pests without toxic chemicals.

Raccoon paw prints on the cat carrier.

Done with my office work I went back outside and spotted another pest. The cat carrier no longer hosts chickens, but was still sitting on the porch because I hadn’t put it away. A raccoon’s paw prints show that a raccoon was on my porch last night, investigating. Grrrrr! Luckily I can’t prove the raccoon is getting my hens, or I’d find a way to poison it too.

I was mad again and a good way to deal with that is to go to work, so I hauled out the weed whacker and filled the tank and checked the string and harnessed myself up and off I went. I went at it for four hours. It definitely helped. By then I was exhausted and my back was killing me.

I took down the tall grass all the way around the pond, and around all the trees on the far side of the pond.
Me getting dirty. I think it’s so hilarious how splattered I get with what I call “weed guts.” Green glop gets sprayed from top to bottom, coating my glasses, sticking in my hair and onto my face. I guess a person can’t expect to be glamorous when she’s working on the farm.

I went to check on the Lil’ Hussies to make sure at least someone in my realm was ok. They were ok.

Babies had a great day and they are doing fine over there beside the horseshoe pit and the apple tree in bloom. But what is that in the distance by the pond?
Great Blue Heron is hunting the frogs in my pond. I’m cool with that. You do you, beautiful bird.
This is one of the rare times I’ve ever had a chance to photograph this bird properly.
Enough for one day!! It was time for dinner and some pomegranate cider. I have to make my salads look amazing to trick myself into eating them, ha ha.

Wish with me that Jamie stays safe now and that the Lil’ Hussies grow up safe and strong and do not ever have to battle rats.

17 thoughts on “Mayhem on the Farm

  1. we had a problem with protecting our chickens as well – but we built them a house up on stilts with a little ramp up to the door, and perches inside. Every night they went into their house to roost and we would shut the door until the morning. Keeps the rats away…

    1. Finally, an idea I can use! These chucks have the same arrangement: house is elevated, and they enter through a ramp. The chicken house has a big door that I enter and exit through, but the chucks come and go through a hole in the wall. There is no door, however, so that’s what I can do: build a door to keep out the rats.

  2. I’m so sorry you lost another one. It’s hard to keep them safe when they are out in the yard. Chicken wire keeps them in but not everything out. Hope things go better tomorrow.

    1. So far Jamie is still ok. I feel like such a bad mom. Some ways to protect her are just not practical, and I have to make the conscious decision to leave her in some danger. That’s hard. For example, the rats burrow underground and come up into the cage through holes in the dirt. There is no way to keep them out except by paving the pen, which is a ridiculous idea. A friend of mine suggested that raccoons can climb the fence and recommended putting a top on it. This pen is about 30 by 40 feet! That would be impossible. I like Maureen’s idea though. I can totally build a door for them.

  3. When I see your beautiful gardens I am even more amused that they are yards in US, whereas over here a yard is a poor little area usually at the. back of the house. Re assassins, do you have the resources to instal a webcam?

    1. Well, to your credit, yards in the US are typically the way you describe there. Mine is exceptionally large. There are portions of the states (I’ve noticed more common in the Northeastern states), where people take the trouble to clear and mow enormous acreage. It’s not common everywhere, and people in towns and cities don’t have access to this much land. Only us folks way out in the country.

      Even though ginormous lawns are not common in the West, when I bought this place, it was already that way. There is always a risk of forest fire around here, so I keep the grass cut short to reduce fuels for a fire, in case one should come through. I cut about 4 acres of grass, which is a lot of work and no one would volunteer for that, I think. When I’m done, it looks like a municipal park! ha ha.

      I call it “my yard,” sort of tongue-in-cheek. I’m still astonished at my great good fortune to live here on this big beautiful property. Also, because my girlfriend’s boy Nikolai visited the first time when he was about 8 years old. Later I overheard him talking to a friend, “Her back yard is HUGE! It’s the biggest back yard I have ever seen!!” So ever since then I’ve been calling it my yard.

    2. Oh, also! I wanted to say a webcam was one of the first things I thought of!! It would be the only way to solve the mystery for sure. I’m afraid the logistics are intimidating, but this is probably the most practical idea of all: stop all the guessing and just find out what’s going on.

  4. I’m sorry for your loss, but I have to unfollow. Way too much random death inflicted in response to animal-inflicted death surprises me in this blog, actually, and I just can’t take it these days. Best wishes, and maybe think of the karmic stuff–

    1. Thank you for letting me know how you feel Donnalee. I’m sorry that the events in this post hurt you. I think it’s absolutely right that you unfollow if you find a post too negative for you. I am a huge believer in keeping around us what brings us joy. Thank you for your follow up till now. Hugs. Be well.

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