How the Hen House Turns: Wild Neighbors (Number Four) Skunks

How the Hen House Turns:
Wild Neighbors (Number Four) Skunks
Column by Carolyn A. (Cary) Neeper, Ph. D.

Our daughter’s pet skunk Streak lived from 1974 until 1981. In those years, wild skunks often dug under the Hen House. They lived there quietly, only occasionally stealing an egg. They probably helped themselves to leftover lay pellets in the birds’ open dishes.

We took kindly to them, and they returned the favor, if they sensed no danger coming from our direction. After our children’s dog Poncho died, they had free run of our three-fourths acre.

Our only defense was moth balls, which we used to effectively evict a skunk who lived under the front porch. He was not welcome there because we startled him too often when we rushed into the house or slammed the front door. You don’t want to startle a wild skunk, ever.

In those days we had a large metal garbage can. After dark, when you heard a great crash in the driveway, you knew it was either a skunk or a raccoon. Bears were scarce.

Sure enough, when the crash sounded one evening, we quietly approached the can with a flashlight and watched a young skunk sorting through the garbage and snarfing down goodies. He didn’t pay much attention to us, so we watched him for a while, and decided he was welcome to his feast. Cleanup would be much safer in the morning.

A couple of years later, I went out the back door of the garage and met a wild skunk entering the yard. “Oh, hi Streak,” says I.

My mindless reaction must have had a friendly tone to it, for the skunk didn’t startle. He just glanced up at me and went on his way, down to the Hen House for a dinner of lay pellets. There are always some scattered in the Hen House outdoor pen, courtesy of messy hens, who love to scratch for their supper, scattering at least one-fifth of it.

Another evening I met the same skunk (probably) in the Hen House food closet, where the hens had several choices of nest—one on the ground and two on the wall near their roost. The skunk was in the lower nest, an egg in his paws.

I had him cornered, but luckily he didn’t mind, or else I backed off before he decided to be offended. “Help yourself, Dearie,” I said, giving him a clear path of escape.

He waddled slowly off, and so did I, quickly. Skunks are proof positive of the saying, “The best defense is to walk softly, but carry a powerful smelling spray gun.”


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