Thursday, March 28, 2013

Bad Mojo

Yesterday afternoon while doing barn chores, I tossed a bunch of scratch out for the chickens.  Everybody runs like maniacs from wherever it was they were to where the scratch magically appears.  And then some of the roosters start going at it.  Not that I really care, it's actually kind'a fun to watch their little "I'm a bigger cock than you are" dances and feather fluffing. Then it hit me.  I haven't seen our older black chicken.  In like, well, I have no idea.  And then when I started thinking about it, I didn't recall seeing him roosting in his normal spot on top of the nesting boxes.  For like, a week.  Maybe even longer.  He was probably my favorite rooster.  Sure, he was gimpy, but by no fault of his own, and I kind'a felt sad when I realized that he was gone.  Now that I've sat down and thought about it, I may actually know why he's gone.

About three weeks ago we got home late after dark and I went to round up the goats and chickens. Then I saw the old black rooster cowered against a fence and he had blood on his comb and wattles and looked more than a bit disheveled.  I figured that the younger roosters ganged up on him and gave him a good what-for.  So I picked him up and was going to hand-deliver him to the coop.  When I opened the door there was an opossum in one of the nest boxes, with a mouth full of egg.  He looked up at me as if to say, "Whaaa?", then went back to eating his ill-gotten midnight snack.  I quickly glanced at where the chickens were, half-expecting a horrible murder scene, but the only other chicken that was hurt was a younger rooster and he only had a bloody comb and wattle.  Obviously the opossum tried attacking the roosters and then decided that the eggs would put up less of a fight and make just as good of a supper.

Ok, here's where it's going to get pretty graphic.  So if you're not into blood & guts and such, come back tomorrow when I'll post funny cat pictures.  You've been warned.

I yelled for Paul to get the .22 and he came outside.  But the opossum was in such a position that we couldn't safely use the gun to end it's marauding marsupial life.  We ended up pinning it's body against the back of the nest box with a shovel, unsuccessfully tried to decapitate it with said shovel, attempted to knock it unconscious by a whack or three to the skull, then tried to kill it by stabbing it in a vital organ or two.  It's not as easy as one would think to push a knife through the chest cavity of an animal.  I'm telling you, this bugger wouldn't die even with a punctured lung and blood dripping out of his chest.  When I though he had finally expired, I released the pressure on the shovel and he made a lunge right for me!  I almost wet myself.  I was finally able to position the shovel on his body so I could get to his neck, let Paul hold the shovel on him, and then got a good couple slices across the bottom of his jaw, deep enough that I felt bone.  Even then it took what seemed like forever for him to finally die.

Now before you all go PETA on me or say what a horrible person I am for torturing this poor creature, let me tell you it was not a pleasant experience, nor was it my preferred method of dispatching chicken-killing nocturnal critters.  I sincerely wish that we could have quickly and humanely ended it's life with a bullet.  But there was no way that we could have safely discharged the firearm without the real possibility of having the bullet go through the back of the coop and into a goat or chicken.  (Why didn't I just round up the goats & chickens and put them at at safe distance, you ask?  Obviously you've never had to quickly round up goats before.)   And I would like to remind anybody that thinks killing something is an easy thing to do, that it is not.  No matter how much of a farmgal or guy you may be, killing something is not remotely fun.  It's brutal and can be messy, nasty and altogether unpleasant (a very mild understatement, at that).  There is blood and snarling, muscle fits and life-ending gurgling sounds. I know it sounds bad, but sometimes the best thing IS a bullet to the head.

Wow.  I had just wanted to say that I was missing the black rooster and went all murder on you all.  But now I'm pretty sure that the rooster had sustained life threatening injuries in conjunction with the opossum attack and either found a place to die or was found to be easy pickings for a hawk or bobcat.

Bummer.  For him, and the opossum.


  1. Been there done that, but with a rat. Since it was smaller, we had a bit of a time at it. And yes, you can't risk shooting up the coop and hitting the other animals either. Sorry about your rooster.

  2. It's part of having livestock of any kind. There is always something that wants to harm/kill it. And there is usually just you between hunter and prey. I agree - killing something is emotionally draining, awful, no fun, and a completely miserable experience. But I would have done it, too, if faced with losing my chickens. I had the (sort of) same thing with a mink in the coop. But I decided not to tackle it alone and called a neighbor, who called a neighbor, who came over with a pistol, while I shooed everyone out. Geez. Sorry about your nice, old rooster. It's always hard to lose a nice one.

  3. What I wouldn't give for a nice rooster right now. I got a sliver laced wyandotte from the neighbor. I bet he would have taken on your possum and won though. He beats up on my husband, the lab/beagle mix, the neighbors weimer, the cats. I would let you borrow him in trade for a nicer rooster, but he's such a bastard I wouldn't want to inflict him on anyone. I do hate it when I have to dispatch of a critter that just won't die. I feel so bad even though I know it needs doing.

  4. That's one of the "joys" of country living, you do what you have to do to protect your livestock. I think I would not have been able to do it if it was a raccoon, I know they can be just as "ornery" and distructive as possoms but they are so much cuter.

  5. Your poor little roosters. I would have done the same thing with the opossum.

  6. We have the good fortune to have a rodent/marsupial proof hen house. My husband is rather... Well, he builds things that an invasion of Vikings with Sherman Tanks would have a hard time with, so critters aren't a big problem INSIDE. However, the shotgun with birdshot has discourage coyotes, a bobcat or two, and we have lost a few chickens to ???. And yes, trying to kill something isn't easy. I had a machete to dispatch a bird one time, and still had a bit of a time of it.

    Ah, yes, the bucolic joys of the country...


  7. Don't feel bad, I've done it too and before work, in my work clothes beating a opossum that wouldn't let go of the wire of the chicken yard.

  8. Since I am not a fan of the opossum I say, "Way to go!!"

  9. Oh wow... good on you for being able to do it the safe way, albeit the sweat inducing less-than-ideal way! You should be able to wear a pretty "flock protector" crown or something... pink and bedazzled! Do the roosters try to protect the rest of the flock and/or eggs? Very cool look into the reality of homesteading - I like it better than cat pictures LOL