Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Chicken Chronicles: Rats!

Somewhat sobered by recent events, I sensed the sun might be setting on the whole 'chicken thing'. Hubby had gotten way over it already (probably about the time he had to off the first hen) and even I had to acknowledge that he had several reasons to justify calling it quits.

Unfortunately, the affliction I suffer (caused by my dominant 'Don't Boss Me, Bitch' gene) meant that none of those very valid and compelling reasons were quite enough to get me to throw in the towel*.

Like the feather in the opening scene of 'Forrest Gump', the last straw drifted down from above when we started going through feed at an alarming rate. It was only a matter of time before I spotted a large, well-fed rat noshing at the feeder one evening. We rigged the feeder on a rope strung through a hook on the ceiling so we could raise the food at dusk and lower it in the morning. That seemed to help a little, although remembering to do the raising and lowering was a challenge, especially when it was cold and dark at 4:30 pm. But the feed consumption seemed to level off through that winter: Mission Accomplished! Or so we thought. Until Spring.

With the lengthening days came an increase in the frequency of occasional rat sightings. Even I had to admit that wasn't a good sign. Despite our dedication to the raising and lowering scheme, feed consumption increased, which could only mean that those ballsy mothereffers were hitting the buffet in broad daylight. And flipping me off when I caught them at it.

One evening at dusk, as Hubby returned from hauling up the feed, I could tell as he approached the back door that he was extremely agitated. He burst through the door, his face pale, and in a choked voice uttered the phrase that marked the beginning of the end.
If I saw one rat, I saw fifty!
And not half an hour later we got a very nice but direct phone call from our neighbor over the fence expressing his... concern over the infestation.

A quick investigation revealed the rats had taken up residence in the dirt under the coop during the winter, plotting and scheming and just waiting for the warm weather to launch their plans to take over the world. Which they apparently decided would begin that evening. The battle had begun. My response? Mass carnage. I wanted them dead. Yesterday.

I bought the recommended poison at the feed store. It took a little doing to figure out how to make the stuff available to the rats but not the hens or the dogs or Young Son, but there are some very ingenious contraptions out there. Who knew?

As advertised, within a day or so began our sightings of dazed and decidedly ill-looking rats stumbling around the yard. The sport became finding them and scooping them up before the dogs did. It only took a few days of Dead Rat Patrol for me to finally accept the inevitable. There was no way I could keep those chickens without harboring rats.

Dammit! I friggin' hate it when I'm wrong.

I called my farmer pal, the one who taught me how to molest a chicken. She had a neighbor who would take the lot. And after a hilarious hour spent herding chickens, that was that; the ignominious end of The Chicken Chronicles.

Cosmo continued to stare longingly into the pen for his fluffy prey pals. We continued Dead Rat Patrols until signs of life ceased, although over the next year or so we did continue to find dessicated rat carcasses wedged into the strangest places. My favorite was the one Hubby found in the middle of the huge compost pile. We decided our unwelcome guests must have been the morally-evolved, ecologically-conscious, self-composting rats.

Oh, by the way, I recently scored a dozen farm eggs, finally. And you know what? They were so rich that Young Son couldn't eat them. I'm not so sure I really enjoyed them myself.

Oh well.

* Poor guy. And we were married for almost 30 years. Can you imagine? I know!

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