Posts Tagged ‘opossums’

Critters

September 28, 2009

We heard coyotes Sunday morning. When I say we, I mean I heard them, Tim heard them, and so did my mom. They sounded quite close to the house. It was around 4:30 in the morning and that might be why Mo woke up, too. She thought she heard dogs and said she wondered where the owners were. I told her I didn’t think they were dogs. Anyway, the two of us finally went back to sleep, but I kept hearing some kind of scratching going on by the coops. When I looked for tracks today, I didn’t see any by the coop so maybe I was hearing things. I did, however, see something walking around on the sidewalk between the house and garage. I think that was a possum. I also heard something step on a snapper (not the fish, but the tiny bags of gunpowder that you throw on the sidewalk so they pop). I hope the noise scared it away!

The other morning I went out to let the chickens out and there was a raccoon on the ground, dying. It was not dead, it was dying. I say this because I told Tom it was dying, but he didn’t seem to understand. He was in the office telling me what to do and I told him he had to come see it before he started telling me what to do with it. So then he comes down, looks at it, and says, “Oh, it’s not dead.” Yes, I said dying, not dead. So anyway Tim ended up taking care of it. I didn’t hear the whole story, but he used a shovel and moved it somewhere else to let it die, so it wouldn’t die near the house. Apparently he somehow put it out of its misery, which is not something I could easily have done.

About two weeks ago we lost a hen to a coyote. Or most likely to a coyote. Our electrician was working on some outlets in the office (did I ever describe Tom’s super cool office with a view?) and said he saw a wolf by the chickens. However, we don’t have wolves in this part of Illinois, but we have coyotes galore. So most likely it was a coyote, in the middle of the day, coming for a snack. So far they haven’t been back, but the chickens do make a lot of noise if they see something. It almost sounds like the noise they make when laying an egg except much louder and they are all making the noise at once. That was what they were doing when the electrician mentioned the “wolf.” They did it again one morning, but were safely in their coop so i did not go check anything out. And we’ve heard that noise a few other times and gone out and not seen anything. I’m sure they saw something, though. Perhaps their squawking scared off whatever it was.

We also seem to have wild turkeys nearby. We hear them around dusk and I can only assume they are making noises and roosting at that time of night. I wonder if that is what the chickens saw one morning? I can imagine they’d be scared of a wild turkey. Shoot, they are scared of my mother-in-law’s Yorkshire terrier. Speaking of critters I had best go see what the kids are up to. Plus, it is almost time to get the chickens in to keep them safe from critters.

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Garden covers

June 3, 2009

If you’ve looked at the pictures of my garden, you probably noticed the covers on the garden frames. These covers are necessary to keep out critters of all sorts, including rabbits and deer, raccoons and opossums, and cats and chickens. The cats and chickens seem to get in the beds the most: the cats to poop and the chickens to take dust baths or to peck at bugs and sometimes growing plants. This is not good, thus we have the frames. So far they seem to be working well to keep everyone out. A couple of weeks ago, Karen at ChickenSense commented on the garden covers. I figured it was worth a post to show how they are made. I can’t claim much credit as the idea is from All New Square Foot Gardening and the work was done by Tim, with a little bit of help from the kids and me.

Tim started with 2″ X 2″ pieces of lumber and cut them into 4′ sections. Then he used a screw to connect the corners. This part made a square and is the bottom of the cover. It is the part that rests on the the 2″ X 6″ pieces of wood that we used for the frames. Next, he took the chicken wire and stapled it onto the wood. This is the hard part since the chicken wire is in a roll and he had to hold the frame down while unrolling and stapling the chicken wire to it. Tim did this by himself more than once, but said it was easier when I helped him. 

Corner of garden cover

Corner of garden cover

Chicken wire stapled and zip tied together

Chicken wire stapled and zip tied together

After the sides of the cover are stapled on, it’s time to cut two or more pieces for the top, depending on what size chicken wire you are using. We used zip ties to connect the top pieces with the side pieces. The little white things are what is left of the zip ties after Tim clipped off the part hanging out. 

Zip ties to keep top and sides together

Zip ties to keep top and sides together

Side and top of garden cover

Side and top of garden cover

Zip ties holding top and sides of chicken wire together

Zip ties holding top and sides of chicken wire together

The great thing about these covers is that they are fairly quick and easy to make, while also being inexpensive. You need wood, zip ties, a staple gun with lots of staples, a few screws, and some chicken wire. The covers are lightweight and the kids can lift them so they can get a little snack of lettuce while we are in the garden. I’m not sure the covers would keep out a determined raccoon, though. I say this because we did see Swirly try to climb one and it kind of caved in. The garden is pretty safe from deer, rabbits, cats, and chickens, though. 

Eventually we plan to fence in the garden, but these covers work well. The frames can also be used to provide shade for garden plants or, if covered with the sort of plastic used in greenhouses, could be used to extend the growing season. So even after our garden is fenced in, we will still use these frames.

How to attract wildlife to your back porch

April 8, 2009

Here’s how to get a close up view of wild animals:

  1. Move to the country, preferably an area surrounded by woods and a creek
  2. Acquire outdoor cats with purchase of house
  3. Spoil outdoor cats by feeding them soft cat food
  4. Give them more food than they can eat in the evening and forget to bring it inside
  5. Watch the skunks, opossums, and raccoons come by for the free buffet
  6. Learn that the outdoor cats are not at all afraid of skunks or possums (not sure about raccoons yet)

Working with what we have

March 4, 2009

I’m still thinking and reading and trying to figure out which breed to get and where to get them from, as well as when to get the chicks. When to get them is tricky, mostly because I am impatient to get the chicks! It would be better to wait until it is warmer so that they can be outside sooner and learn to forage on their own sooner. But, that also means waiting longer to have fresh eggs and to get the chicks. I keep going back and forth about this issue in my head. I think I will probably end up getting them fairly soon just because I am so eager to get them, even if it means more work for us at first.

In the  meantime I have finally decided to use the coop that is already here. I’d like to let the hens range freely during the day and then have them in the coop at night. I’ve read a couple of different ways to do this, including letting them out for only a couple of hours a day and then tempting them back in with milk or bread. Others say to keep them in the coop for a couple of weeks and then let them out and they will just know where the coop is. Either way, they will be spending some time in the coop since there are too many predators out here for them to be out at night. There may be too many for them to range long during the day.

Of the common predators for chickens, we have almost all of them. Common predators include, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, hawks and other birds of prey, foxes, wolves, bobcats, cougars, fishers, minks, weasels, and rats, along with domestic and feral cats and dogs. I know for sure that we have skunks as the kids have had the pleasure of smelling skunks hit by cars. Tim has seen a ‘possum and we’ve all seen raccoons on the back porch. Tim and Moira saw a bald eagle the other day and our neighbor told us there are lots of hawks around. We’ve heard the coyotes close by at night and my mother-in-law has seen a fox on her way here, too. Apparently there are wolves in Illinois (I’m not sure I agree completely with the tone of that article, so just consider it informative.) It’s possible that the other predators are around, as well, as many of them seem to be native (though we are not near Cook County since that is Chicago!).

Anyway, I seem to have gotten a bit sidetracked on researching the predators in Illinois. It’s pretty interesting and I might post more later. I have to say there are way more dangerous animals here than I remember or knew about. I never would have thought there might be wolves or bobcats!

So back to the point of this post: working with the chicken coop we already have. Here are some more pictures of what we have to work with:

It needs to be cleaned thoroughly. I started that last week, with some help from the kids. We swept off the concrete slab, so that is done for now. There is a covered area that has some pine shavings in it. For now I just swept some of that back inside the nest box, but we probably need to clear that out, clean it, and put in new. The upstairs is pretty dirty, from what I hear. I had Tim add another step to the ladder so that Aidan can climb up and down (and maybe me, too??). I’m not sure if the chickens would go up there or not. They’d have to fly up there to roost and I honestly don’t know if they will fly that high.

Other than cleaning, it also needs some chicken wire or fine hardware mesh. The fencing around it has holes about 2 inches wide and I think that is too wide because rats could get through and steal the eggs, assuming the hens lay eggs in the coop. Two sides of the coop have wooden boards at the bottom. I think we need to add another board on the back, as well as adding some chicken wire to the outside. The chicken wire might be good if it’s just a few feet up and not up the whole way.

Those are some minor fixes, so hopefully it will be easy and will do the trick to keep the hens safe. I would also like to paint it. Right now it is painted a brownish color. I think a fresh coat of red paint would really spruce it up. I’m not sure why red, except that red seems to be the color for a hen house.

If the free ranging doesn’t work, there are lots of options for movable coops and hen huts and permanent hen houses. It might be fun to build one of those, but for now I think it is best (and cheapest) to work with what we have.