I was talking with a friend the other day about chickens. She wants to get some, but not as many as a typical minimum order of 25. We want to get some more, so we thought we'd do an order together.
She's never had chicks before so I was giving her advice about equipment (a waterer, a container for food, a heat lamp, and most importantly a predator-proof brooder box for
keeping the chicks safe and contained).
She asked if there was anything special to do, and I told her that chickens are super easy to raise, and the only trouble we'd ever had was with predators. And then I told her that we've been lucky for the past few years and we've gotten kind of lax, not always closing in our chickens at night, just out of shear laziness.
Later that night, instead of going straight to bed, I went out to close the chickens. It wasn't a minute too soon. There was a big raccoon, who had gone right up to the edge of the coop, but luckily not inside, despite the fact that the little chicken door was wide open. It wouldn't have had any trouble eating them.
I got freaked out when it started walking toward me (and it was big). I'd heard a Halloween episode of This American Life about rabid raccoons, and it was really scary! But I yelled at it and waved my arms, and then went in to get my camera and my big dog.
The tracks were really neat. It had explored the compost pile, and walked all around the back yard, leaving perfect prints in several places. Their front and back paws are really different... I think the front ones are the elongated ones that look almost like little hands. The back ones are almost like cat prints (though we have lots of those too, so I should check my book to be sure).
We haven't seen it again. But we've been closing the coop every night.