Bonafide Farm

Tucker’s first varmit (that I know of!)

November 12th, 2012 § 0

I spent five hours outside today cleaning out the garden for winter. I chopped down freeze-blackened plants, dug dahlia tubers for storage, pulled out tomato stakes, transplanted tender plants into pots for winter storage, and rewound chicken wire pea supports. I had all nine chickens penned in with me, and I believe they all thought they’d died and gone to heaven as they enjoyed a veritable banquet of bruised greens, displaced worms, slugs and the occasional black widow spider.

All day long Tucker had been worrying a pile of brush in the woods. It’s a spot that’s always fascinated him for some reason. It’s not large enough to shelter a fox, so I figured it must be home to some smaller critter. Whatever it was captured Tucker’s complete attention, and he spent three hours snuffling and digging in that pile with almost unbroken concentration.

I left the garden to grab something out of the garage and as I did, Tucker trotted out of the woods, head high, holding something in his mouth. Without me saying a word, he came right up to me, flung a creature at my feet, and collapsed into a happily panting pile next to it.


A rat! Tucker got a rat! And boy was he proud.

Turns out the rat wasn’t dead, just partially paralyzed. I tried to get Tucker to finish it off, but he just wanted to play.



He was surprisingly gentle with this creature, just batting it and lightly mouthing it. I am a little surprised he didn’t try to kill it immediately. Maybe he is inexperienced or just wanted a toy, or perhaps he saw the rat as a creature to be protected, as English Shepherds are wont to do? Maybe the countless hours we spent learning that baby chickens are to be guarded and not eaten translated to this rat? Who knows? Perhaps with this and his love of water, he really is a retriever in a sheepdog’s clothing?

Regardless, I forgot the first lesson of rodent handling, which I learned as a child keeping mice: don’t try to pick them up by the end of their tails! I tried to pull this little guy out of the grass and his tail skin came away in my hand with a rip. Gross, I know. Sorry. Just reporting the facts. It gets worse so if you are squeamish stop reading now.

I had heard of chickens eating mice, so I picked up the rat and threw it into the garden thinking my birds could use the protein. It got quite a lot of interest from the gang before Lilac commandeered it. She spent about ten minutes tossing it too and fro, nibbling its toes and divesting it of its eyes before she gave up and went on to munch less-challenging bugs. I think it was too big for her to find an easy way in. photo(77)Web

At this point the poor rat was still alive and had been tortured enough, so I dealt it a quick blow to the neck with a garden hoe and took it into the woods for the foxes to find. I did feel sad for it—a rat!—but this is pretty close to the way nature works. Proud Tuck, meanwhile, took up his post right outside of the garden door with a keen ear and eye on the woods.


In fact, not a second after I took this photo he was off like a shot to investigate some scurrying action in the leaves. What a good farmdog—in my book he earned his hunting merit badge today!

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