Monday, June 6, 2011

Food Chain

The upsides of backyard chickens are multiple:  really fresh eggs, cute clucking and squawking background noises, vast quantities of free and effective fertilizer. Which, with lots of ventilation and fairly regular rake-outs, do not smell in any major way....

However they do attract, how shall I say this?  vermin.  Mice and rats, to be specific.  If it were limited to mice I could handle it.  Mice have a certain charm.  I don't want them in my cupboards, but a few mices scampering around in the shrubbery brings Beatrix Potter books to mind.

Rats on the other hand, are just nasty.  We had enormous rats in our alley in Baltimore.  When it snowed their tracks crossed out back yard--we were the rat superhighway, which was preferable to being a rat rest stop.  One time I was weeding in our tiny postage stamp garden, and a rat scuttled (rats do not scamper) across my bare foot.  My scream was such that The Man Who Lives In My House thought I was being assaulted.  I maintain that I was.

So, we have rats...who cannot get into the chicken run, as it is encased in rat-proof metal mesh.  They have to settle for the compost bin.  I guess I could stop composting, but the dirt is so good for the garden.  Plus it's handy--it saves me trips to the True Value at least once a week.  Of course I end up going there for lightbulbs or something anyway.  Come to think of it, I went yesterday and bought four rat traps.

It is possible that I won't need the traps, though.  Here is why:

You are looking at an Owl Pellet.  All the undigestible bits (fur, bones, nasty yellow teeth) that the Owl upchucks after devouring a rat. The Z-shaped thing is a femur/shin/foot segment.  They are all over the walkway beneath the big Douglas Fir.

Having a resident Owl is so cool, it is almost worth having resident vermin.

My new band:  Resident Vermin.

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