Yes, it is 4:30am. No, that is not my usual time to be awake and sitting in front of the computer. I was (once again) awoken by the sounds of squawking from the chickens. This is always a bad thing after dark. I nudged Steve, and he "discussed" with me the value of checking on the chickens. I "discussed" back and we came to the agreement that if he wanted to have chickens he needed to get out there and see what he could see. So, he fumbled around for his glasses and threw on the his robe while I got dressed (my robe is in the wash). As I was grabbing the 30-30 (22's are not lethal enough), I heard the shotgun discharge twice. I headed out, and Steve informed me he had missed. Since I wanted more details, I asked him to tell me what had happened.
He went out last night to lock up the chickens, and had indeed latched the door on the coop proper - a good thing, as it turns out. What he found in the coop yard was a fairly large raccoon trying to open the sliding door to get into the chicken house. Now, this raccoon had apparently climbed over the (not currently electrified) chicken wire to get into the chicken yard and knew there were chickens behind that closed door. In truly annoying raccoon fashion, he set about trying to get into the buffet. Luckily, they are not quite advanced enough to be able to unhook the hook-and-eye latch. When he (generic he - gender is actually unknown) saw Steve, he ran around the back of the coop and climbed up onto one of the upper supports for the baby fort knox. Steve adjusted his angle so he wasn't shooting at the house and took his shot. He missed. He claims he missed by only eight inches, but he is the only witness. Besides, the critter is still mobile, so how much he missed by is only a matter of his pride.
The good thing is that we now know what is killing our chickens. The bad thing is that we detest raccoons. They are too clever and are difficult to catch. We'll do all the things we should. We'll set out traps, and electrify the fence, and keep locking the door on the chicken house rather than just the much more convenient outer door on the yard. Hopefully the chickens will get smarter and stop sleeping out in the yard and we'll either rid this earth of one more raccoon or he'll move on to easier pickings. We did loose one more yard-sleeping chicken tonight. But we interrupted the critters dining, so maybe he won't try again. Hope does spring eternal, after all.