This post is a bit overdue and therefore loses a bit of of it’s hilarity for me. But I’m sitting in the passenger seat on the final leg of a crazy boondoggle to take Charlie out to Wyoming for a 30-day backpacking trip. Dave is on the phone wheeling and dealing, and I just finished a book so good (When Breath Becomes Air) that I don’t want to ruin the afterglow by starting my next one (The Sandcastle Girls).
What else is there to do but tell this tale of heartbreak and gruesome hardship of living on the rural prairie?
A couple months ago, I added a few chickens to keep Little Red company. I haven’t settled on names for them yet, but have been working my way toward that. They consist of:
- A Barred Rock that started off bullying Little Red terribly and was almost dispatched when they suddenly became the best of friends.
- An Araucana (blue egg layer) that has that trademark wild pheasant look to it
- And a Blue Laced Wyandotte that is absolutely gorgeous, with the noted exception of her missing tail, pecked off by her previous coop-mates. This chicken is a nervous wreck and has not settled down at all. Additionally, she appears not to lay eggs. Which means I’m feeding 4 chickens but only 2 lay eggs. #pushover.
I have been lulled into complacency by the effectiveness of my electric wire around the chicken run against everything except the fatality that made Little Red an “only chicken” two years ago: the Golden Eagle. After the Golden Eagle massacre, I kept Little Red, locked up in the coop until I was sure the eagle had moved on. After giving it a lot of thought, I determined I could not prevent such an attack in the future and simply hoped it was an isolated incident because I was (and still am) unwilling to put wire over the top of the chicken run (I tried it several years ago) for several reasons:
- I am unable to stand up under it
- Snow collects on the wire and compromises the fence posts
- It’s ugly
- It requires a LOT of maintenance
- I am lazy
Besides. I have not lost a chicken to anything other than an eagle (and my own dog) since installing the electric fence several years ago.
However, not too long ago, I began finding broken eggs outside the coop. I clearly had a predator eating the eggs that I needed to deal with and I set my trusty oversized live trap that very evening.
In the morning, completely forgetting about the trap, I went out there with Lola to bring the chickens some treats and had to do a stressful yet calm backwards shuffle while whispering frantically to Lola to “LEAVE IT” when we found ourselves only steps away from a caged skunk. I was not expecting a skunk because I can usually smell them when they are hanging around the area.
Regardless, I now had a caged and very angry skunk, in a trap, right next to my chickens who were pecking in the background, completely oblivious.
I had been in this situation several years ago and after googling what to do, I followed the steps — which, despite their illogical nature, worked perfectly. Basically, you just act calm and cover the cage with a tarp, watching carefully for signs of spraying (raised tail, agitated dancing). Apparently, once covered up, skunks are not apt to spray. And this is where I truly cannot believe what I did all those years ago: I waited until dark and I let it go. Dave had been out of town and I didn’t want to shoot it.
This time, however, my skunk was having none of Googles suggestions. Despite a lot of patience and several attempts, I didn’t get within 10 feet of the trap before he unleashed his fury. As he spun around and raised his tail, I screamed and threw the tarp as I ran away. I was fortunate to catch the edge of the tarp on the cage and after letting the ungodly stench dissipate for a while, I was able to crawl close enough out of his sight with a rake and finagle the tarp over the rest of the cage.
Then I gassed him with my car.
Google said it would take 20 minutes. I gave it 45 for good measure.
When I confidently strode up to the cage and peeled back the tarp, there he was, smoking a cigar in his personal sauna looking at me and wondering where his margarita was.
I screamed again and ran away before he could lumber up from his 105 degree mist and spray me again.
Then I went back into the house and googled “2013 Ford Focus CO2 emissions.” Mystery solved: my car apparently could not kill a mouse, much less an antagonized skunk.
So I waited for Charlie to get home with the Suburban.
Then I gassed him again.
I confess that I felt pretty bad about it. And still do. But I’m not sorry. In fact, I coiled that rarely used pool hose back up and hung it right inside the greenhouse door where it is nice and handy. And vowed never to sell that 2011 emissions-laden, gas hog of a Suburban. With a skill like this in my back pocket, who know the places I’ll go.