Masked Marauders and Murder at Moi Maison

2 10 2011

Today’s post contains graphic content based on real-life events. Reader discretion is advised.

The first sign of trouble came at around 7:30 a.m. in the form of a text message to my neighbor.

“Do you have a staple gun?” I wrote, “There’s been a murder at my house. I’m fine, but I need a wire cutter and a staple gun.”

Now, before you start thinking that dating has driven me to murder, or that I would choose to defend myself with a staple gun, let me set you straight. My weapon of choice, in this case, would be my grandmother’s 410 shotgun. My second choice, though not as useful for this cause, would be a 9mm handgun.  I happen to know from practice that it fits nicely in my hand, but what I really need is something like the 410 that will blow an intruder (or in this case, intruderS) to smithereens.

The problem, of course, is that right now, my neighbors know me as the sane, sociable neighbor who has thrown the block party for the past two years.  I can’t start firing off weapons, and fall out of favor with them. I don’t want to become known as the crazy lady down the street with the shotgun.

Thor woke me up this morning for what I thought was his routine morning ritual.  I stumbled out of bed and took him outside.  My world was still pretty blurry since I didn’t yet have my contacts in. I’m blind as a bat without my contacts, but I did notice my two Rhode Island Reds huddled in the corner of their chicken coop. It seemed early for them to be down off of their roost. The sun was barely up, but there they were. I noticed a bunch of white feathers seemed to be scattered about, but the huge Douglas fir tree in my backyard was blocking my view of the other end of the coop. Thor and I ventured out further into the yard, and suddenly I could see that there were white feathers and blood EVERYWHERE.

Raccoons had murdered my Aurucana hen, the one that lays the blue eggs.  The blood was still fresh, so I suspect they got her in the early morning hours, and perhaps that was what woke Thor up to go outside.  Most of the chicken’s body was gone, but her wings and feet were still in the coop along with what seemed like a blizzard of her feathers.

The raccoons had found a weak spot in the poultry fencing, and burrowed a hole under the door of the coop. This is one of those times in my life when I wish I had a man around who likes to fix things. In order to clean up the mess, I would need to get rid of the chicken carcass, clean out the coop, tip the coop on its side to fix the wire on the bottom of the coop, and then replace the wire around the perimeter of the coop.

It dawned on me that even after 21 dates, there wasn’t a single man in my cell phone who I felt I could call to come to the rescue.

Hence the text message to my neighbor, not for help, just for tools.  He’s a DIY guy, but his wife doesn’t like sharing him, especially on the weekends.  (The good ones are always married.)

The most daunting part of the task before me seemed like it would be tipping the coop on its side to get to the bottom. The coop is 4′ wide by 8′ long and about 8′ tall, and I didn’t know if I would be able to move the coop by myself.

I went back in the house to figure out how I was going to factor this problem into my day.  I had promised my sons I would make pasta Bolognese for lunch, and this could really screw with my plans.  I decided it would be best to get the sauce going on the stove before going back out to deal with the chicken problem.  The ragu needed to simmer for at least 3 hours anyway, and I knew once I got started with the chicken project, I would feel gross and dirty, and would not want to go in the house to make lunch.  Plus, I needed to chop 4 ounces of chicken liver up for the sauce, (if you’re going to do Bolognese, you need to REALLY do it the traditional way) and I knew it would gross me out less if I did it BEFORE dealing with the carcass outside.

As I got the sauce started, my youngest son came up to see what was for breakfast. I asked him if he had heard anything, and told him about the chicken.

“We’re going to have to go get some welded wire mesh from Home Depot,” I said, “Do you want to go with me?”

“Sure. I like Home Depot,” he said.

“Good. I’m going to need your help, ok?”


I got the ragu going, and went to take a shower. Now, it occurred to me. like perhaps it has occurred to you, that I was going to get dusty, sweaty, and gross while dealing with the chicken problem, but there was no way I could let myself go out in public unshowered and in sweatpants.

K3 and I headed to Home Depot where I purchased galvanized 1/2″ mesh. For a brief moment, I considered hiring one of those guys who stand at the entrance looking for work, but none of them were tall enough or cute enough to take home.

Once we got back home, K3 and I headed directly outside to start working on the clean up.  The first order of business, of course, was to get rid of the chicken remains.  It turned out the biggest problem wasn’t the blood and feathers; it was the yellow jackets that were attracted to the carcass.  They were everywhere.

What can I say? Sometimes the processes of ecology totally suck.

I had to get the body out of the coop, or we wouldn’t be able to do anything. I got my pitchfork and lifted the chicken out of the coop. I held it out in front of me far enough where the yellow jackets didn’t seem to bother me, and dumped it in the far corner of the backyard, which has become sort of a chicken graveyard. Two others have been buried there due to other causes.

Once back at the coop, I realized that I still wouldn’t be able to remove the old wire on the bottom of the coop. Yellow jackets were still hovering around because of the blood. In order to get the coop away from the yellow jackets, I had to drag the coop away from the site of the murder.

This is where all of my working out started to come in handy. If it weren’t for Zach and my personal training over the past few months, I would have never been able to do any of this. However, because of my newly formed muscles, I dragged the coop away from the murder site, and actually tipped the coop on its side all by myself.

I have to admit; I felt pretty buff.


I cut the rusted poultry fencing away from the bottom of the coop with the wire cutters, battled a few more yellow jackets, and helped K3 haul the old straw from the coop over to the compost pile.

When the Bolognese was finished, we cleaned up, took a break, and ate lunch.  I let myself have a glass of wine with my ragu.  I figured I wasn’t operating any heavy machinery.  The worst thing that could happen was maybe I would cut one of my fingers off with the wire cutter.

I deserved a glass of wine, damn it!

Once we were back outside, I tried to use the staple gun and the staples my neighbor had brought over to hold the new mesh in place, but they weren’t large enough, so K3 and I had to make another trip back to Home Depot to get big galvanized staples that you have to hammer in. Why is it that one trip to Home Depot never seems to be enough?

Back home, I got the mesh in place, got the coop right-side up again, refilled the chicken’s water and feed, and got the three surviving chickens back inside. I’m crossing my fingers that all of K3’s and my work keeps the raccoons at bay.

My legs feel stiff from all of the squats I did today, and my arms are tired, but I realized something important today. A few weeks ago, Kat made a comment, “Who needs a boyfriend when you can go wine tasting with your son?” Well, today, after a full day of work with my youngest son I made an important revelation. Who needs a man who can fix things when you have a son who likes Home Depot?

Such is the life of the urban chicken farmer.




2 responses

3 10 2011

So sorry to hear that the raccoons got your blue egg laying chicken! Those buggers are nasty and so destructive! & I know how much you enjoy your chickens and the eggs they lay.

Sounds like you and K3 did a great job of fixing the coop/pen and I hope those bandits stay out of there. Always knew you were capable of fixing anything you set your mind to. I remember the bike you bought from the hired man cause it didn’t work and then took the instructions, took the bike apart, put it back together correctly and drove down the road waving at the hired man!!!! You rocked then and you really rock now!

You’re right, Grama was a whiz with Grandpa’s ol’ 12 gauge shotgun, and when Uncle took that away from her went and bought her own 410 and used it just as easily, but I’m sure that wouldn’t fly in the city of Seattle.

Hope you have a better day today!

3 10 2011

I’m so bummed that they got my Aurucana. However, she was really mean to my Cucoo Maran, so maybe karma was at work. I’m thinking I might get two new chicks in the spring to replace her.

I’m actually really happy with the repairs I did yesterday. I think I actually like the coop better now since I changed the mesh around the bottom.

I wish I could shoot those little masked bastards. There are four of them that regularly go through my backyard. Plus, I have stupid neighbors to the north that feed feral cats and leave the cat food out on the porch, so the raccoons ALWAYS have something to eat. They have no predators and a BB gun probably wouldn’t even faze them.

Today was better. All three of the remaining hens are safe and secure in their coop.

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