Bless me, Great Chicken, for I have sinned. I did something irretrievably, unforgivably stupid last night, and I need absolution…
My flock, as you know, gentle reader, pastures from 7:30am until they put themselves to roost at dusk. (I say “pastures” rather than “free ranges” because the legal definition of “free range” is not what you think. More here.) As one might imagine, the “putting themselves to bed” part is rather a moving target, especially this time of year, when the time of sundown is changing most quickly. I am home most evenings, so this is not an issue. Except when it is.
The Man and I had to be away from the house from 4:30pm until 7:30pm last night. This takes preplanning, and the plans change with the time of year. Had we had the same plans in mid June, no extra steps would be necessary, as the girls would be out for the duration of our absence, happily ranging, still outside upon our return. Were we gone for those hours in early January, I could put them fully to bed before we left, no problem.
But, here we are, sundown at 6pm-ish. Just lock ’em up! I hear The Man say. Yes…BUT. Confined to the coop well ahead of roost time, the pecking order becomes a tad…sinister, and 2.1 bears the brunt. That’s hard for this Chicken Mama to bear.
Clearly, the flock needed to be confined while we were gone, and yesterday’s afternoon rain showers helped immensely. The flock was already sheltered in the run, coop and barn; all I had to do was close the run door, and the barn outer doors. Voilà! A large, enclosed space where everyone can get along and get to roost in the fullness of time. C’est bien, oui?
I’ve done this before and had no issues. It wasn’t until we were on our way back, about seven minutes from home, when one salient fact came to my tiny, pea brain. We’ve had a raccoon in the barn the past few days.
He’s tipped over the feed bin, in an unsuccessful attempt to gain access to the $40/bag organic turkey grower pellets. He managed to pry open the treat bin lid just enough to stick his little paw down and enjoy a few handfuls of sunflower seeds, but I fixed that, too. He’s now reached the level of frustration that calls for mindless, purposeless, infuriated vandalism. I am sure he will move on soon, if I can stay a step ahead of him…
…by providing him with seventeen trapped hens, after dark.
I needn’t tell you, gentle reader, how long those seven minutes were, once I’d put this together. The Man did his very best not to speed, but we were worried. When did the raccoon visit us? 2am? 6am? 7pm?!
The property was pitch black when we arrived, and The Man pulled up the driveway briskly, to shine the truck’s headlights into the barn, once we got the doors open.
I threw all my weight into the heavy barn doors to find…everyone on their roosts, asleep. No blood, no carnage, no screaming. HUGE sigh of relief. The Great Chicken, in her mercy, had not cashed my stupidity chip. I entered the coop to check, count, and boost Tallulah. It went a little something like this:
7 1.0s on poop pit roost (+ 2 in the house) = 9 CHECK
6 2.0s on the new roost CHECK
PHEW. Wait a minute…
I called out to The Man in the showroom of the barn, “I don’t have 2.1! Where are they?!” About five seconds of panic followed, when The Man started my heart again by calling out “They’re here!”. 2.1 had decided to sleep on their own, given the option, outside the coop, on a plastic rod, suspended over the found crate.
Just hangin’, all sleepy and “what?” I scooped them up, Mae under my left arm, Marilyn wriggling free to roost on my right hand like the lamest falcon ever.
Coop closed. Pulse restarted. Lesson learned.
Thank you, Great Chicken. THANK YOU.