These are our happy chickens, out enjoying an unseasonably warm day that’s melting all the snow and giving them a chance at good scratching and sunbathing.
The previous night, they were not so happy.
We built their chicken tractor like Fort Knox, knowing what we knew about chicken tractors from folks who kept them in cities where raccoons had already figured out how to open anything a human can (your dumpsters and cat doors and chicken coops were never truly safe from their amazing opposable thumbs). And then after over a year of no serious threats, we gave up on utilizing all its security features.
The other night we learned we’d gotten a little too lax. I’ve been sleeping more lightly these days since I got pregnant, so I woke up quickly when the chickens began to make a fuss in the middle of the night, even though their sounds were distant in our closed up winter house. And it doesn’t take much at all, certainly less than me suddenly sitting upright in bed and yelling out, “The chickens!” to get K wide awake.
When we threw on the porch light, here’s what we found: our ladies, though awake and upset, were safely upstairs in the chicken tractor while an opossum was crouched in the corner downstairs. K went outside in her pajamas and boots, armed with a ski pole, to take care of things. I watched from inside.
The problem with opossums is that they hold their ground. This one didn’t play dead (ahem, ‘possum), but it wouldn’t budge either with simple suggestive prodding from the ski pole. K had to essentially hook the end of the ski pole behind it and push/pull with both hands to get it to move forward into the open space of the chicken tractor, then back out into the night. I swear, opossums would prefer you beat them to death then to take the obvious exit on their own. Anyway, eventually we did get to watch its pale toothy self lumber off into the dark, lock down the chicken tractor back on high security mode, and go back to bed.
Opossums are more egg snatchers than chicken killers, but they’re known to do both. We’re glad our chickens are so good at making a ruckus when they need us, and while we probably won’t go back to protecting our chicken tractor nearly so obsessively as we did in the beginning, I feel like we got off easy with a warning that we should be doing a little bit more to make sure our ladies are safe.
So while K may tell you different, I think the night’s adventures were a net plus in our lives. I know the picture I now have in my mind of K in boots and pajamas wielding a ski pole will be one I treasure for a long time coming.