This means war.
I keep meat birds in moveable A-frame coops in my pasture. These chickens are lovingly brooded, fed cultured milk and organic grain, and moved daily onto fresh pasture. This year’s first batch of birds is approaching seven weeks of age — and market weight.
Night 1: I sleep peacefully, unaware that I am at war. In the morning, I discover two headless chickens in the coop. Farmer Dave may have slumbered… but now, the behemoth is awakened. This is a day that will live in infamy.
Night 2: I put out an electric fence. Wound around the coops in concentric circles, tipped inward and outward, just in case the weasel is really a fox*. My fence looked like Robert Smithson’s “Spiral Jetty” out there — minus the water. While it was kind of fun to look at, and it gave me a small dose of hope, it also made it difficult for me to get to the chickens. I stepped on the fence to hold it down, and the voltage was high enough that I felt it through my rubber boot. Zingy!
But my artfully-constructed fence didn’t impress the weasel — or really even slow it down. Two more headless chickens were waiting for me the next morning. I take some small consolation that the pigs are enjoying the remains of the weasel’s repast. Everybody loves chicken.
Night 3: Fences still up. I have also baited a live-catch trap with a big hunk of beef fat, hoping that the cholesterol will be too much of a temptation to pass up. Weasels are after the brains of the chickens, which are rich in all that yummy cholesterol. Why not beef fat?
No luck. Another headless chicken greets me in the morning. Apparently, the notion of tackling a cow was too much for the weasel to contemplate. It settled for more chicken.
Night 4: After whining to my friend, Farmer S: “Oh, all is lost. There’s nothing we can do. A weasel can be as small as five inches long and can fit easily through a two-inch hole. What possible thing can I do to save my chickens? Oh woe, oh woe (wringing hands, gnashing teeth).” He said that he was similarly occupied, having lost 20 chickens in one evening alone. He deadpanned that perhaps this was the “Year of the Weasel.” I am left with Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat” running through my head, having been turned into “Year of the Weasel.” Which actually was only marginally less horrible than the original. (I do apologize for bringing that up. It had probably been long enough that anyone old enough to remember the tune had gratefully forgotten it. Sorry.) Farmer S’s latest attempt at weasel-proofing was to take an electric fence and coil it up around the perimeter of his chicken field houses, thereby creating a razorwire-ish effect at weasel level. Despite the grounding-out opportunities — whereby the electric shock is transmitted to the ground instead of the weasel– it appeared to work. Brilliant. Tonight, modifying S’s idea, I have laid an electric fence on the ground — flat, instead of upright. The weasel will either have to scoot under or fly across four feet of electrified fence. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.
If this doesn’t work, I’m calling in Christo. We’re gonna wrap the coops like the Reichstag. They’ll look like electrified Kevlar Christmas presents. The whole coop is going to glow with the crackle and pop of pulsating electrical energy.
After that, no more Mr. Nice Farmer. Next, it’s night-vision goggles, a shotgun and a lawn chair. And you thought all-nighters were tough in college.
I’ll have to warn the neighbors.
* One night I came home late. Turning into the driveway by the barn, my headlights panned across the barn, then the fence and then the field in which my chickens reside. Stopped now, my headlights illuminated a beautiful, full grown red fox. Furry and fine with a bushy tail to match, this was the picture of foxy health. The fox turned its head and calmly regarded me. We sat looking at each other for a moment and then it turned and jumped, in a perfect arc that I can still see in my mind’s eye, over my 4′ electric fence, landing lightly on the other side before trotting off toward the barn. I was merely an blip in its nightly rounds and the fence didn’t even register.
P.S. A group of weasels is called a boogle. I love that. A boogle of weasels. Collective nouns are the best; pods, parliaments, murders and confusions, among others.
P.P.S. There will be more on this topic, I am certain.