Ending a Reign of Terror (for the chickens)
I have installed my last remaining bantam hen, Creamy in the wooden brooder in the barn. It is safe space for her and her chicks for the time being, but eventually we need to get all these baby chickens outside. This will entail allowing the risk of catastrophe but I got the bantams to free range the barn and yard and even though I lost two to predation I don't want to become overprotective.
Step one in dealing with that particular problem was persevering in trapping the raccoon. I knew it was using my barn as a fast food stop and toilet. There will likely always be new predators since we raise tasty, mostly defenseless, food animals and plants but we can be as wise as possible. We are working on addressing our fencing to give the dogs greater freedom to discourage interlopers, we have installed several solar motion lights, and purchased a critter cam to better understand what we were dealing with. By watching when this wily raccoon emptied the trap (without triggering it!) and checking the barn for scat (poop for the uninitiate) I was able to see that it was not staying in the barn but coming through every couple of days.
Since it has eaten two chickens with impunity it seemed likely that when I let my mother bantam out it would make short work of her since she can't roost up high until the chicks can fly to the beams of the barn, as our friend Jake says, "No Bueno!".
SO I set the trap repeatedly figuring the more comfortable the coon was the more likely it would eventually get careless. I switched up the bait between marshmallows, anchovies, and peanut butter biscuits and I placed the critter cam to get a nice shot of the action.
Yesterday morning, I went to do chores at six a.m. and decided to check the trap first off, and there it was a fairly big raccoon jammed into the trap! Marshmallows pulled apart so they were sticky, and stuck up through the bars of the trap (just like all the websites had recommended) worked. Unfortunately, our new critter cam stopped working, which may explain why it came to us in new condition but in a box sealed with scotch tape (we are not happy with you, Field & Stream!) so we aren't entirely sure from which direction the coon came or if it was alone.
We chose to dispatch the raccoon mainly because we felt there wasn't a lot of other choices. Trap and release of raccoons is illegal in PA and we didn't want it back at our place. We have had many other raccoons on the farm but this was the only one that had repeatedly preyed on our stock. In the future with the dogs patrolling we will be able to coexist better with the predators in neighborhood.
I felt both sad and relieved. I really hate killing anything, period. Even when I harvest an animal that I raised for meat, the moment of death is a powerful reminder that death is never to be taken lightly.