04 October 2006

Things that go Bump in the Night


Around here Honey Badgers are a protected species.  My beehives are strapped onto metre-high posts to avoid the risk... well... the certainty of having them ripped to shreds by a Honey Badger.  Nevertheless, Honey Badgers, or Ratels, are quite common in the area, and a bloody nuisance when it comes to Chickens and other small livestock.

When we first got Chickens, we made several mistakes in our Chicken housing, resulting in a couple of near-total losses of our flock.  So Chicken House Design has eventually evolved to a Badger-Proof plan.  With oneFatal Weakness.

We humans have to close the door to the Chicken House every evening once the Chooks have gone to bed, and we have to remove the ramp that leads up to the entrance.  And every morning, we have to let the Chooks out (and feed the breakfast) and put up the entrance-ramp.

Last night we forgot.

Sometime around a quarter-to-midnight, a massive, panic-stricken squawking woke me from my deepest slumber.  Realisation of my folly hit me immediately.  Both J and I had forgotten to shut the Chickens in.  For the first time in 5 or 7 years.

Leapt out of bed, grabbed to torch ("flashlight" to speakers of American,) down the stairs as fast as sleepy legs allow.  OB the Very Clever Doggie and I to the rescue  (salvage!)  Left to their own devices, a Ratel will (and I speak from experience) run amok and kill every chicken in sight.  At the Chicken Run, several chickens running around helplessly in the semi-dark (half-moon behind the clouds.) Chickens are virtually blind in anything darker than dusklight.  I managed to catch a couple of them and put them back in their Safehouse.  Unfortunately one hen, recently gone broody, was one of those closest to the door, and I missed her, so she spent the night out, off her clutch of eggs.  Anybody care to bet whether any of those chicks survive?

Mid-morning this morning, OB the Dog (did I mention that she really is veryclever?) came to call us; she had found one of the young roosters, fatally damaged by the Ratel.  His neck was clearly broken, but not all the way through, and he was still barely alive.  Poor bugger.  I quickly and painlessly put him out of his misery, and that pretty-much determined the remainder of my morning: Plucking and Cleaning Chicken.

OB, PhD, got her favourite treat: chicken head and feet.  And we have a delicious chicken tenderising in the freezer.  I've been meaning to cull those roosters anyway!

A Job Title

In other news: Dug up the Winter Garlic - around 200 bulbs, which should see us through the year.  Some are disappointingly small. :-O  I am planning to try a Spring planting of Garlic for harvest in May/June.  I see no reason it should fail, and, if successful, means that we can easily do two Garlic plantings a year.  Yay!

Which brings me to a final point: I have recently had several people ask me "So what do you DO?"  A question I face with the utmost trepidation and hesitation, being entirely unsure how to answer it.  Why all this focus on what we DO?  Why no interest in what we ARE?

Anyway, I now have an answer to "What do you do?": "Research Gardener".

Update 5/10/06:I just tripped across a very similar story to our Honey Badger incident on one of my favourite sites - Pocket Farm: A Bump in the Night

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