One day a few weeks ago Kim heard a kerfluffle in Coop #1 and popped her head in to see what was going on, only to have a rat run right over her foot as it escaped out the door.
It wasn't until later that evening, after a few hours of researching and planning how to rid the coop of its resident rat that Kim mentioned it was a strange looking rat, a rat with a furry tail.
"You mean a squirrel?" I asked.
"No, not a squirrel," said Kim indignantly. After all, we are ex-Torontonians, and should know a squirrel when we see one. A few minutes of Google image searching later and Kim had it. It was a mink.
Mink are bad news. One mink in a closed coop can kill an entire flock in one night. We tried explaining that to our city friends, but they just wanted to know how many mink we would need to make a mink coat. Or at least a stole. We didn't find that very funny...
The good news is that mink are very territorial, and their territory is quite large. So we probably just have a mink, rather than a whole population of them. The bad news is that mink are really difficult to trap. Kim set our live trap anyway, after watching some videos on youtube about proper trap placement for catching mink (which has further convinced me that you can learn anything on youtube). She even baited it with some nice smelly salmon. Something enjoyed the salmon (on three separate occasions, no less) but it managed to do so without triggering the trap. Stupid trap.
Given all this, Kim was concerned about coop security, especially at night. During the day the chickens have a chance of running away from a predator because they're free ranging, but during the night, if a mink got into the coop, they're sitting ducks. Er, chickens. Coop #1 has a sturdy wooden door, but Kim had been leaving the door of Coop #2 open at night for ventilation, using only a screen door to keep the chickens in and other critters out. So she modified the screen door with a wooden panel at the bottom and an extra layer of hardware cloth.
But that reduced the amount of ventilation Coop #2 was getting, and too little ventilation is really bad for chickens. They need lots of fresh air to stay healthy. So Kim installed two new gable vents in Coop #2, and while she was at it, a whole row of under-the-eaves ventilation holes along the front and back of Coop #1.
That takes care of fresh air and a visit from a mink. You're just waiting to hear about someone getting stuck in the coop, aren't you? That would be Kim. While I was out of town, no less. The first I heard about it was that evening when I called home to check in and Kim told me the door to Coop #2 had been blown shut behind her when she was checking for eggs. I can only imagine the thoughts racing through her mind as she heard the door thunk shut. (And the words on her lips, but this is a PG blog so we won't go there.) Apparently she thought for a minute of two about kicking the door open like they do on TV, or shouting and shouting until someone heard her. But in the end she just set aside her dignity and crawled on her hands and knees out the chicken door.
That would be this door.
All of which lead to the last improvement to the coops: a string threaded from the latch to the inside of the coop, so nobody has to ever crawl through the chicken door again.