Monday, July 19, 2010

I'm grieving chicken.

Our chicken house, AKA the death chamber.

I've written about the three girls Chris and I raised in our office and set free to roam in the backyard.  They started laying fresh eggs ~2 weeks ago, and last Thursday night an opossum put his natural instincts to work, leaving us one headless black chicken and a brown chicken with missing tail feathers.  I got up at 5:30 a.m. to let Jacques out when I noticed the chicken run was still's our fault the chicken was massacred. 

Heart beating I raced out, opened the hen house and piles of brown and black feathers greeted me.  I immediately knew our chickens were dead (thankfully a few minutes later I discovered the two brown chickens as far from the hen house as they could get.)  Peering around the run to an area Jacques was barking, I saw an opossum in full dramatic death act.  While he looked dead, I knew better and ran inside to get Chris to come deal with the little bugger.  I figured gunshots in our neighborhood aren't all that abnormal.  By the time we got back out there the opossum was gone. 

Chris got the shovel, picked up the black chicken and headed to bury it.  Looking at the two brown chickens frozen with fear across the yard I said, "Shouldn't we show them, so they know?"  "They're not that smart Paula," he replied, and went to dig a hole.  He was ticked, and kept saying, "I was going to eat that chicken."  I suggested he eat the black chicken, and his Gma said if he was a real famer he would have, but he wasn't interested in an opossum's leftovers.

So I'm grieving and feeling really badly that we didn't protect the chickens.  We're on the hunt, in two ways really.  For an opossum and for some chickens.  We're experimenting with a live animal trap for the opossum, and craigslist for chickens.  We hope for hens, I'm not ready to turn my office into a chick nursery so soon.

And, for the comfort of those of you who are animal lovers (how could you love an opossum) - we plan to free the murderer in the country, far from our chickens.  I realize, he was just following his instincts, as angry as that makes me.


  1. That opposum was probably staking out your place just waiting for the day you forgot to close the door. Sometimes, they just suck the blood out of them which I always thought was weird. Good luck on your hunts. If you do catch the opposum in the trap, he won't play dead, he'll be mad! We had one in a trap once. Have a way to move the trap safely--long handled hooks, leather gloves, etc.

  2. I think you're right - I'm sure he's been in the back yard before, lured by the compost pile. My safe way to move the trap = Chris. :)

  3. And on behalf of my in-laws, who live just far enough out in the country for "city folk" to dump their problems on them (they get half a dozen pregnant cats a year, for instance): don't dump the opossum on someone else. Just take your reveng... er, humanely dispose of him.

  4. My family lives in the country too - I grew up on a farm. We had many "stray" dogs show up. I figured an opossum is not a pet, it can fend for itself in the wild, so that supported my thought of taking it to the country. I guess I could always dump him in another Wichita neighborhood - just kidding!!

  5. Yeah, that's what people assume, and they dump it in the greenspace by the river.

    Problem is, "the wild" already supports as many critters as it can, so when you dump one there (according to the Fish & Game folks I've talked to) it either starves before it establishes a territory, or it displaces whoever already lived there, and the guy on the edge of "the wild" moves into someone's backyard.

    Then there are other issues... not so much with possums, but with formerly-urban foxes, coons, and coyotes, for instance, you may be dumping a critter carrying distemper or rabies into a fully-wild population that wouldn't otherwise have been exposed to it.

    Basically, F&G will tell you it's much better conservation-wise to kill than to relocate any critters, even squirrels.

    And you could relocate him over here, but the grand-daddy possum (he's the size of a small car) we have would just displace him over into Riverside or something. Oddly, Granddad has not bothered the ducks, even when we've left them uncooped for the night (rare, but occasionally necessary). Apparently he finds birdfeeders and outdoor pet dishes easier pickings.

  6. Very interesting points Karen, not things most of us would think about I'm sure. Chris told me last night his plan is to take it to the country...along with his shotgun. All I heard him say earlier was take it to the country, I guess we'll be doing what the F&G folks would recommend to do anyway, although the animal rights folks may not be so happy about it. Oh well, can't make everyone happy.