Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Ghon and I owned two homes prior to buying the farm. There are some tough things you have to learn and do when being a homeowner. But being a farm owner, I am certainly doing things I never imagined.

Like cleaning out a snake and mouse infested attic and workshop.

Like hunting for raccoons at night from a pick-up truck.

And trapping critters.

This spring, we had close to 80 chickens. Between a variety of predators, mainly raccoons, we have lost most of our flock. We are down to less than 20 chickens. It's a huge loss. The time spent raising them. The cost of the chickens and their food. And maybe even a little attachment.

After Ghon removed one raccoon from the mix, we hoped we would stop losing chickens, or at least have a decrease in the frequency. But that didn't happen.

Sunday we purchased several live traps. We picked two large traps, and one came with a small critter trap. I stopped at the store and bought cat food for bait. The trap instructions recommended fish, specifically, sardines, or cat food. I chose 3 cans of white fish with sardines and 3 cans of poultry. I figure if they like our chickens for dinner, perhaps they'd enjoy a little poultry in a can.

Ghon set two of the traps close to the main chicken run, one on each side. One is close to the woods and the other is closer to the field where we found a pile of feathers from a previous take down. The small critter cage he placed near the mobile chicken pen. The route Ghon takes to his new job doesn't take him past the farm, so it became my duty to check the traps on my way to work Monday morning.  If I saw anything, he would leave early to deal with the prisoners.

It was a dark and stormy night. At 4:45 AM, I arrive at the farm. I pulled my truck along side the coop and grab my flashlight. Swing left to the critter trap. Nothing. Swing right to the coop and check both traps. Nothing.  Either the raccoon didn't come due to the rain, or he just wasn't interested in the tasty vittles we left for him.

Monday night rolls around and Ghon leaves for two nights for job training. It's now my job to check the traps, and according to Ghon, if I catch a 'coon, load a gun and shoot it. Really? I can't really see that happening. I can't imagine. No way am I going to be able to figure out what gun to grab, how to load it, then shoot the chicken killer in a cage. No matter how angry I am at the stupid creature for eating all the chickens before we could, I don't think I can do it.

Monday was another dark and very stormy night. At 6:40 AM Tuesday, I arrive at the farm. I pulled my truck along side the coop, and check the traps by the coop.

Holy shit.

There is something alive in one. What am I going to do now?!

Yep, I check the other traps and leave for work. Well, first I did go have a stare down with it. It wasn't the chicken killer, but a cute groundhog.

Hey there! Thanks for the cat food!

Before heading home to get the kids, I stopped by the farm to release the groundhog. But first, I check the other trap - and guess what? Another critter. This time, it was just a stupid chicken.

Silly chicken - stay in your pen and you'll have more space!

The big kicker in all this trapping business is that I have no idea how to work the trap. Ghon didn't show me how. I'm a city girl. I don't know the first thing about opening a trap or resetting it. At this point I'm partially ticked at the stupid chicken and partially grateful - she will be my practice run at opening and freeing a critter from a trap. Which was easier said than done.

After what felt like forever, I finally get the chicken out, and spend another five minutes trying to reset the trap. There was nothing graceful about this process. If I was messing with an extremely ticked off critter, I'm sure I would have been bit. Several times.

Now, it's time for the groundhog to be set free. Remember I called it cute? I didn't realize how big their teeth were. Wowsers.

Of course, the trap is different from the trap the chicken was in.

I'm screwed.

Fortunately, the groundhog doesn't seem ticked off. I take a minute to determine how to work the trap door. I straddle the trap, opening facing forward, and with cautious hands, I open the trap.

Nothing happens. The groundhog stayed put. Are you kidding me? It's been locked up for at least eleven hours, if not more, and it stays in the trap? I had been warned to straddle the trap, to be prepared to run the opposite direction, and it doesn't come out?

So I kick the trap ever so lightly.

The groundhog comes scurrying out. And stops, about three feet away from the trap.

Again, I'm screwed. Fight or flight is about to kick in. Well, mainly the flight part. Ghon has already had an interesting experience with a groundhog at the farm. One got into the root cellar. Ghon was able to chase it up the stairs and onto the porch. But instead of running outside, the groundhog ran inside the house and upstairs. Seriously. Ghon chased a groundhog through the inside of the house. As he said, imagine a big redneck drinking a beer and chasing a groundhog through the INSIDE of the house. What a sight. Eventually it came out of the house, but Ghon was never sure if he went back into the root cellar or made it outside. And I thought snakes and mice were a problem.

Back to this story. The running commences. Through the grass and food plot in the chicken run and toward the outbuildings before stopping. Not me, the groundhog. I stayed put.

Have you ever seen a groundhog run? It's kind of funny but they can be fast when they want to be.

After his release, I figured out how to reset the trap and reloaded with cat food. Surprisingly, the groundhog ate a whole can. I reset the small critter trap and set off on my way.

I don't think we are calling for any rain tonight, Tuesday, so maybe I'll catch a raccoon tonight. Ghon comes home Wednesday, so he can deal with traps from here out.

I will admit, there is a certain excitement in checking the traps to see if we caught anything. But the excitement ends there.

*Wednesday morning update: Empty traps. One trap was tripped, and it was the one I had a harder time with, so Ghon can fix it later. Fingers crossed for a trapped evil critter tomorrow at 4am!

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