Living in the country means you occasionally have to deal with a predator problem. Once upon a time, we had a chicken house full of Australorp chickens, nice shiny black birds that produced our breakfast eggs in abundance. Then my six-year-old daughter and I woke up one morning to find that the neighborhood raccoons had been to visit, and we now had a lot fewer chickens. Obviously, protection strategies were of the essence. Since my husband was working at the South Pole, I couldn’t palm the job off on him, so we girded our loins (metaphorically speaking) and tackled the problem.
First on the agenda was an inspection of the housing situation. Our chicken house was no more than a shell when we bought the place, and we had put up new siding, fixed the roof and added a door and window. Our construction was cheap, but solid and effective, and the inspection didn’t reveal any raccoon-sized inlets. So we turned our attention to the fence, a standard wooden post and chicken wire enclosure with a recycled door and large rocks around the board bottom. And wouldn’t you know it, there was a hole. So we scrounged up some chicken wire and patched the hole. That night I slept with one ear open, although I didn’t really expect any problems – after all, the hole was patched, right?
Somewhere in the middle depths of the night, however, I heard sounds of chicken mayhem emanating from the back yard. Grabbing the shotgun, I headed out with the dogs to find a pair of raccoons skinning over the fence. I couldn’t get a good shot, although the dogs and I made enough noise to cause any self-respecting coon to think twice about coming back for chicken dinner. Obviously, I was going to have to rethink my strategy.
The next day we looked over the situation. When we built the fence, we deliberately left it a little loose, so that any critter trying to climb it would not find a stable structure but would sway back and forth. Many animals are scared off by unstable footing. It had worked for several years, but apparently these coons were either too hungry to care about swaying wire or they didn’t suffer from motion sickness.
Sterner measures were called for. As we stood eying the situation, my gaze fell on the electric wire we used to keep our stallion from going to visit the girls down the block. Aha, just the ticket, I thought to myself. We rummaged in the shop until we had enough insulators to put two on each corner post, one about six inches above the other. I figured if the raccoons tried to skin under one wire, the second one would get them. Then my daughter held the roll of wire while I strung it up. We hooked it into the “clicker”, retired to the house and waited.
Sure enough, just as it got dark, the masked bandits came back for more chicken dinner. We knew that because the silence of the night was shattered by loud cussing in Raccoon. Apparently they thought there was some sort of mistake – why would the welcome mat be jerked out from under them? So they must have tried again. This time the invective was louder and accompanied by loud squalls. Stupid raccoons – they kept trying to get in for several hours, and each time the fence bit them. Eventually they tired of the jolts and went off muttering imprecations, while my child and I high-fived before catching some well-deserved rest.