|Caught red-handed: This sleazy possum wrought havoc among our chicken family and was forced to relocate.|
We abide at Better Farm by the words of Edward Abbey, who puts it like this: "Freedom, not safety, is the highest good." With that tenet in mind, we encourage the animals (and humans) here to create their own destinies. For the dogs, that means unlimited space to run around and do dog things. For the chickens, that means 65 acres of land to scratch, peck, and turn over. For the people, that means designing their own curriculum, solving many of their own problems, and taking on individual projects that inspire them without the Big Brotherliness of being micromanaged or corrected all the time like they might be in a traditional classroom.
Sounds dreamy, but remember: There's a price one pays for all things.
Freedom to do largely as you wish means you're susceptible to all the things freedom brings: the ability to fail, the very real threat of putting yourself in harm's way, and the possibility of the Great Unknown; which may be wonderful or tragic. So although we subscribe to the "freedom over safety" rule, it's not always the easiest perspective to live with. This is where the Better Theory comes in; reminding us that each tragedy offers space for growth and understanding.
By choosing to allow our dogs endless space to run, we're always worried they might hang out in the road at the wrong time or run into a herd of porcupines or some other such thing. Allowing chickens to roam freely around the property, we face many potential hardships. Our birds weather the harshest of winters, coming inside only for medical care and R-and-R should they sustain an injury or frostbite—like Penelope here (pictured with her brave guard dog Han Solo), who's almost fully recovered since coming in out of the winter chill to defrost her feet:
My heart sank Monday night when I went outside to tuck the birds in and found absolutely none of them in their coops. Zilch. Zero. Nada. After a quick search around the yard I found them, huddled under the back deck and on top of it, letting out nervous coo sounds. I knew a predator was afoot; but couldn't determine in the waning sunlight what had happened. Then, I found our most prized rooster, Big Mama, very well near decapitated and lying in a pool of his own blood. Seems I (or the dogs) scared the predator away when we came outside. The evildoer wasn't able to finish the job.
|RIP Big Mama. 2012-2014|
I let the dogs outside to sniff around and see what they could find. Their trail turned up cold.
Havahart trap from the basement. I set the trap up before sunset, and by midnight we had him:
So we all breathed a sigh of relief—until yesterday afternoon, when another possum was found lumbering across the back deck directly in front of the sliding glass doors. Kobayashi Maru dog was all over this, grabbing the possum like a chew toy until she went limp. Again, she was faking.
If you've got an animal you'd like to relocate, please be mindful of relocation laws in your state. Many states insist you call in animal control or gain a permit in order to relocate on your own. Got a predator issue? Click here to determine what's going after your flock.