One of our projects on the road to self sufficiency was a chicken house. Fresh eggs and fresh chicken without all of the ick in commercially-raised eggs and poultry sounded awesome. We turned an old shed into a freakin’ sturdy chicken fortress. We could almost use it as a guesthouse for extra company. … Hmmm.
After pouring concrete, adding plywood and siding, we were ready to shop for chicks. Pullets, to be exact. Little girly chickens.
A trip to the local farm store later, we had 20 feathery little crap factories. They stayed in a big wooden box under a heat lamp. In my sunroom. Off the kitchen. I never knew such cute little things could be so disgusting. They pooped in their food, water, and on each other.
And they were terrified of us. It makes sense. They were infants in their most formative time being chased around store cages by grabby little-kid hands. Big featherless monsters daily squeezed them half to death with love.
The temperature warmed up outside and the girls were old enough to forgo the heat lamp, so they moved to their castle. Okay, they could have stayed inside for a while longer, but they were stinking up my house!
My husband was out of town for work. (Attention creepy stalker types: I’m well armed with a dog who strongly dislikes strangers. The vet cringes when we show up.) I carried the chicks in a plastic container to the coop.
“Here ya go, girls! Your new home. What do you think?”
“I know, right?! It’s awesome.” I was pretty excited for them.
As I left them to explore and fight over who gets what bedroom, I looked at the gap in the peak of the roof. I had told my husband we should cover it before he left. A snake could slither down from the shade tree overhead. He didn’t think snakes were that smart. I’ve seen enough nature shows to know better.
The next morning, I opened the coop door and walked in. “Good morning, my chicky babies! … NOOOOOOO!” One of my girls was lying on the floor, unmoving. I looked around and found five more. My heart was breaking; I nearly burst into tears.
I gathered them up for a proper burial and hung them in a Lowe’s bag in the shade tree. Then I searched for the culprit. Nothing. There was no trace of the perpetrator. There was no crack big enough for the fox family, or any other critter, to have entered through. (Oh, yes. We built a KFC near a fox den. But our neighbor’s chickens were feeding them well. I figured ours were safe.)
I called the game warden and she came out. After examining everything just like I did, she too was stumped. The odd thing was that there were no teeth marks on the bodies, and two chickens had slobbered-up heads. We figured mammalian. We figured wrong.
A couple of hours later, I came to check on the survivors. Everyone looked content. Then I saw movement in one of the high nesting boxes. That’s when I saw the jerk who killed my babies. A very big rat snake.
I sprinted to the house to get my gun. Praying. “Don’t let it get ‘em. Please, God, don’t let it get ‘em!”
Normally, I favor relocation of pests. I moved an entire scorpion colony, for goodness sake. But I knew I couldn’t wrestle that 6-foot son of a b1t@h by myself.
Gun pulled from the safe, I sprinted back, hopped up on adrenaline and the need to save my defenseless chicks. I stopped outside the door. Cocked the gun. Jerked open the door.
Amazingly, he was still a few inches from the floor. (I must be faster than I thought!) He was slithering down in stealth mode to sneak up on my girls. Bastard.
I stepped inside. The girls ran to the corner after I barged in.
Direct hit, a few inches from his head. That didn’t stop him from moving. He swung his head from side to side, mouth open, silently screaming at me for ruining his meal. And his day.
He had snaked his was through the chicken wire part of the door to ease himself to the floor. (See what I did there? Snaked his way to….never mind.) The bullet hole swelled his wound enough that he was stuck.
My boys ran outside. “Mom! What did you shoot?!”
TV programs show people shooting indoors, but they do a serious disservice by not showing the inhabitants of the room going deaf. I instantly lost half of my hearing. Except for the ringing. It was like wearing earplugs and plunging my ringing head underwater.
I pointed to the snake. “Stay here,” I probably yelled at them. “Don’t go in. I have to get my earplugs and finish the job.”
I’m not a long-distance runner, definitely more of a sprinter. If ever chased by zombies, I’d have to sprint from cover to cover to stay alive. A former-marathon-running walker would get me in a quarter mile. Or less.
Ears plugged, I ran back. “Cover your ears, boys!”
I stepped in the coop and delivered a head shot. My baby girls were saved! Now to remove the body.
I grabbed the creep by the tail, its muscles still moving under my hand. I pulled. He really was stuck. I pulled harder, ripping scales. My dad later told me the old saying that you don’t handle a dead snake until the sun goes down. That’s because their reflexes remain for about 12 hours. They can still bite when they’re dead. Creeps.
I threw the snake into the yard for the buzzards and called the game warden. Here’s the theory: The snake entered through the ceiling and hid in the nesting shelf until I found it. He was probably inches from our heads when we investigated. *shudder*
But its behavior doesn’t make sense. We still can’t figure out why the snake would kill six without eating them. Snakes normally just catch one and eat it, right? Then get another if it’s still hungry? I’ve been told snakes this size can eat a full-grown chicken. Everyone I ask is baffled.
The boys and I had a nice little ceremony in our new pet cemetery.
And I fixed the roof.
But don’t get me started on the copperhead stories. Those will come later.