Warning: this post may not be for the faint of heart or stomach but nothing bad happens to the chickens (how's that for a spoiler?).
Last night, around 10:00, Maddy paid her usual pre-bed visit to the backyard. Unusually, she was out there for a rather long time. When Hank finally called her in she seemed a little sluggish to me, like she had been snoozing outside. He read something different in her demeanor: guilt. (turns out we were both wrong) I was instantly on high alert. The girls had been settled in their coop for a couple of hours. In my rational brain I know that the chance is vanishingly small of anything, let alone our sweet beta dog, getting to them there. But I've been nervous all week with them freshly installed in the coop and today is, after all, the one year anniversary of the massacre. So I yanked on my sandals, grabbed the flashlight and forged out into the yard, Hank not far behind.
Sure enough, they were clustered, peacefully peeping and dozing under the heat lamp I'm still using in these mid-60-degree nights. Relieved, I wheeled around to go back inside. But as I did, the flashlight caught something on top of the fence next to the driveway: a possum!
I've never been a great fan of possums. They mostly look like giant rats to me. When we lived in Ft. Lauderdale at the house we just call 3371 (for the house number), a possum took up residence in the crawl space under the house. Under the bathtub in the master bath, actually. We'd hear it scuffling around under there and christened it the Tub Monster. All of which was sort of charming and humorous and fine until it died. Under the tub. I won't go into details, but it necessitated professional assistance to rid the property of the ill effects of the Tub Monster's demise.
But last night, my response to the possum was on a whole new order of disgust and loathing. Possums are notorious chicken predators, you see. And although I know, in my rational brain, that the coop and run I've built are likely to be impervious to all perils short of nuclear holocaust, I am still just a mama hen and I'm taking no chances with these babies.
Hank suggested he could wave it away with a stick and picked up a 6-foot, inch wide piece of 1-inch board I had ripped off a floorboard to make it fit. I had been saving it to make a perch for the girls and I didn't want him snapping it off waving it at a possum. So I handed him instead a 2x4. I was thinking of doing more than waving it away, although exactly what more had not crystallized in my mind. But when Hank grabbed the baseball bat, which was nearby, I suddenly realized where this was likely to end up.
I won't elaborate on what happened next. I couldn't even if I wanted to because, having declared I couldn't watch, I retreated inside like the absolute lightweight I am.
Until last night, I would not have thought either of us was capable of dispatching a possum to the great beyond. But if the choice was between dispatching the possum and risking harm to the chicks--even a little, speculative harm--well, that was no choice at all.