Coonie! Coonie! Coonie! Alert!

If you ever want to test your mettle as a chicken owner, see what happens when a full-grown raccoon saunters into your backyard while your hens are out grazing. This mother hen? She passed the test.

It all started on another rainy St. Pete day. Gone all day working at a client site, home at dinner time–just early enough to let the hens out for some rain-soaked grazing time in the lush (er–unmowed) backyard grasses. Inside making a delicious pan of garlic smashed redskin potatoes and sautéed asparagus dinner, glass of Chardonnay while I chop away on the cutting board and peer outside with pride at my feathered little harem fluffing it up outside the window, when WHAT to my wandering eyes should see, but a big ole’ coonie comin’ around the corner! Panic! Alert! Sound the chicken alarm! Wait–I don’t have a chicken alarm, I realize, spoonful of potatoes in my mouth, eyes frozen wide in horror, hands on the window pane in clenched, useless emptiness. Wake up out of my heavenly potato-induced reverie, unclench spoon-inhabited mouth and barely hear spoon clatter on counter, and RUN to back door with “no-way-will-you-get-MY-chickens!” jaw set, fling open the back door, trip down the stairs, and run to the garage for the broom.

Meantime, the coonie sees me, takes a detour around the back of the garage, and jets to the side yard in a mad rush. All the while, my four spectacular huntresses stand at raised-giraffe-alert neck and line up in a ready-to-rush-him formation (they probably think it’s a harmless neighbor cat–“Arghh, we’ve seen ‘er kind before!”). I could see Henrietta getting a curious set to her beak (yes, you learn to see things like this)–it was almost a sort of “I can take him” expression–and right before she gathered up her wings to hightail it around the corner after the coon (much like old Gram-mama hiking up her britches for an open-the-can-o-whoopass on the trespassing neighbor’s dog), I reached them and, broom waving wildly over my head, hissed like I’ve never hissed before, driving my now-frenzied flock in a crazy zigzag gallop back to the safety of the run. I don’t think Henrietta or Mabelene have ever seen me like that. The sounds that erupted from my gaping maw were unlike any they’ve ever heard. (Sometimes the unknown works to your advantage.) All four hens flitted and fluttered in a weaving pattern across the lawn and back to the coop, whereupon I slammed the door shut and stood proudly (and a bit out of breath), hand on hip.

By now, the girls were so freaked out (it’s not often that you see a wild bra-less woman with garlic-smashed potatoes on her chin chasing you with a broom) that they hopped around in aimless little circles in their fenced-in run, jumping up on their roosts and talking all about their close call in animated squawks and chirps and clicks. “My gosh, did you SEE her?” “Was that our human caretaker?” “Heavens to Mergatroid, I’ve never been witness to such a spectacle!”

But. They are safe. And as long as I’m in charge and not sleeping at the wheel, they will continue to be so.

Ahh. Perhaps another glass of wine is in order.

Postscript: For the record, I love raccoons. I cherish any sort of wildlife–especially those unfortunate creatures who have managed to carve out a meager lifestyle along with us greedy land-stealing humans. So I wish no harm to raccoons. (Ask anyone who knows me.) But I also have protective priorities, and my pets are at the top of that list. I think the coonie won’t be back for awhile. If the aforementioned image of me with broom held high isn’t tragically seared into its little brain forevermore, I would be surprised.