Last night I was outside feeding the critters just a little after 6pm, which, at this time of year, means I’m feeding in the dark. I don’t mind feeding in the dark, or even milking then either. I wear a headlamp and we have a big yard light that lights up the front part of the milkers pasture. The boys and the horses, however, are completely in the dark.
Down the hill a ways, at the edge of the woods, are the buck shed, the old milker shed, and the shed I would really like the chickens to sleep in at night. But they prefer the trees. All except mama hen. She insists on sleeping with her babies in the buck shed, in a pile of hay in the corner.
I have been watched by a pair of foxes on several occasions while feeding the horses, so for several nights I was picking up mama hen and her chicks and bringing them up to the house at night. One night I forgot and the next morning mama hen was out with all 7 of her babies, so after that I just left them in the buck shed at night. I figured the foxes were not really that hungry.
Three nights ago Chloe, our “road kill” puppy was barking frantically on the front porch. I put on my bathrobe and went to see what she was barking at. There was a small, shiny, healthy-looking possum behind her dog crate on the porch. I got a stick and poked it out of there and it ran off. It must have ran past the sleeping mama chick and her bitties because the next morning there was one less. But, I didn’t think about the possum. Until last night.
While I was outside, I heard the chicks suddenly start screeching. I ran down the hill as fast as I could, yelling all the way, hoping whatever was getting the chicks would drop them and run. By the time I got down there I had two dead chicks. That same little slick and shiny possum was sitting in the corner of the buck shed looking at me, with a dead chick in his mouth.
I got a stick and ran him off and went outside to gather up the rest of the chicks. The three that were left were all huddled together outside near a tree branch laying on the ground and were only too happy to let me gather them up. Where was mama chicken? UP IN A TREE!
After I gathered the chicks I noticed Chloe was barking frantically outside the fence. I knew she was barking at the possum so I yelled to her to “kill it”. As I started up the hill I saw that the possum had decided to play dead and Chloe was pulling on its tail. I watched it for a minute. Its mouth was open and I could see a whole lot of really sharp teeth. It wasn’t very good at playing dead. It kept twitching, and when Chloe would back off it would open its eyes a little and look around, closing it’s lips over its teeth. When Chloe would poke it, it would smile again, showing its teeth and close it’s eyes.
I had been hoping Chloe would kill it, but when I saw the size of those teeth and how many there were and how sharp they were, I told her she better leave it alone.
This morning, mama hen was at the front door, sqwaking about her chicks that were inside a hay-filled cat carrier locked in Chloe’s dog crate on the front porch. I let them out and she immediately ran off with them, not even stopping for the food and water I had put down for her and the chicks.
What an ungrateful hen! She would have let that possum have every one of her babies if I had not intervened. I guess chickens really are one of the dumbest animals alive. And most maddening to me!